How To Get Lawyers To Adopt New Tools (Part I)
Originally published on the LegalTech Hub on March 8, 2023.
The past decade has seen a groundswell of enthusiasm for new legal technology – to increase access to justice, improve the client experience, and to help lawyers do their jobs more efficiently.
Yet lack of adoption remains a stubborn reality for most new legal technology projects, especially within law firms.
The good news is, in 2023, there’s a wealth of knowledge about getting knowledge professionals to adopt new technology.
We’ve drawn on our experience onboarding hundreds of lawyers onto our platform, and best practices from other verticals, to suggest some best practices for success.
If you’re in a role that’s responsible for introducing new technology solutions to lawyers, this article is for you.
In Part 1, we’ll explore why it’s so difficult to get lawyers to adopt new technologies.
In Part 2, to be published next week, we’ll outline successful adoption techniques used in other knowledge professions, with attorneys, and in our own rollout efforts as a legal technology company.
Let’s dive in.
WHY IT’S HARD TO GET LAWYERS TO ADOPT NEW SOLUTIONS
Dr. Larry Richard, a scholar of lawyer psychology and behavior, conducted a study of 1000 lawyers on key psychological traits. He then compared the results with those of over one million other knowledge professionals to reveal key, and surprising insights about change management for lawyers.
Participants included lawyers in firms as well as corporate law departments, and covered a wide variety of practices and levels of seniority.
Attorneys are skeptical. No surprise here.
If you’re introducing new technology, attorneys will certainly be skeptical about it. They’re smart and successful, and trained to look for holes in arguments. Lawyers are paid risk assessors, and messing with their workflow is a risk.
Even if you’re able to overcome this hurdle and convince them of the potential benefits of a specific technology, they’ll also likely question its applicability to their unique practice and workflow.
“Lawyers Are Different”
Yes, they are. Or at least they believe they are…
There are common traits and workflows that can and should be leveraged when creating and implementing legal technology, which we’ll cover in Part 2.
Strategy: In the initial stage it’s absolutely key to demonstrate a clear understanding of how that lawyer works. That one lawyer.
As it turns out, lawyers not only need proof about the value of a specific technology, but they need proof about its unique applicability to them.
Lawyers don’t have time for whatever it is you’re introducing.
To break through the noise of urgency, it’s imperative that a message is conveyed clearly and repeatedly.
They may interrupt or jump to conclusions, scattering your message and taking you in tangents.
Strategy: Correct misperceptions and refocus on outcomes. Repeatedly.
Something, anything, needs to capture lawyer’s attention to slow down and absorb a new message. This can be data, quotes from respected colleagues, something to make them laugh, or just repeated hammering of a specific attainable benefit. Whatever your method, it’s crucial to get lawyers to slow down, listen, and hear your message.
Every lawyer has his or her own unique way of working. Discuss with any individual lawyer, and they’ll happily outline their own eccentricities, tips and unique workflows.
Organizational benefits don’t carry nearly as much weight as individual benefits. We all want things to make our lives easier, not carry the baton on some organizational initiative.
Strategy: LISTEN, then adapt your technology to their specific workflow. Get the attorney to identify for themselves how a tool could help with one specific task.
Use specific use cases and language from their practice, instead of a more generalized demo. Once you find “the money shot” – where you take a unique task that they personally have to do, and use the technology to accomplish in a better way – you’ll have their attention. Then let them to be the one to opt in, and you’ll have won.
Lawyers are terrible at accepting feedback. It’s likely why firms and partners shy away from regular feedback or saying anything at all – it’s riskier to lose quality talent to minor criticism, than to try and correct sub-par talent with appropriate feedback.
Innovation teams must be cognizant of this fact, then use it to your advantage.
Lawyers are never told it’s ok to fail. So here’s their opportunity to experiment.
Draw the divide between what’s expected of work product and what’s expected in using a new tool – highlighting that difference can make the process low risk and fun. A welcome break from the usual soul crushing pressure of perfection.
It’s also vital that you have the training and support resources in place and available to support lawyers who agree to come along with you. If they reach out and don’t find the help they need? They’re gone.
IN PART II, TO BE PUBLISHED NEXT WEEK, WE’LL COVER HOW TO STRUCTURE A PILOT THAT SUCCEEDS
 Dr. Richard and his team assessed more than 1,000 lawyers using the Caliper Profile, which scores individuals on 18 common traits, such as skepticism, urgency, and resilience. The Caliper Profile tool has been in use for over 35 years with over 1 million professionals, business managers, sales people and other executive level individuals (the “Richard Study”).
 Cialdini discusses the rule of 7 as a principle of frequency marketing, stating that “people must see a message several times before it can truly sink in”.