Leading Change Management

Leading Change – What It Means to Be a Transformational Law Firm

Leading Change – What It Means to Be a Transformational Law

In my experience, law firms and lawyers themselves only initiate change
after eons of long deliberation and consideration. It is, after all,
their reputation — and often their names — on the
shingle. In some cases, it takes so long to make a change that the
matter is shelved an d forgotten, collecting dust. Never mind being

Over the years, this consistently slow approach to accepting change,
capitalize on new technology or be transformational continues to
entrench firms with mediocre solutions and a host of workarounds. These
firms tend to use complicated system configurations and a plethora of
integrations (i.e. other software developed to work in conjunction with
your current software).

What Worked in the Past May Not Work As Well in the Future

Previous generations of law firms could get away with slower
adaptation. However, the vast changes that have occurred in the last 10
years in terms of technology, efficiency, and marketing does not allow
this generation the luxury of lengthy time to learn and adopt. They
must rethink what it means to be a transformational law firm.

Don’t get me wrong, law firms have changed drastically over
the last several decades. Looking back to my first job in the legal
industry, as a college student working in a law firm’s file
management department, the lawyers were not happy giving up their
paper-based, red-rope operations to move to anned, electronic
documents. The massive computer terminals and green screens went to
PC’s, word processing and file management. Even when faxes
were hot, it was not easily accepted to receive faxes as electronic
documents in the form of emails and scanned documents.

Ten Years is an Eternity for Technology and Marketing

In the past ten years, with the recession and downturn, a valued
reputation does not carry as far as it once would. Now, if you do not
meet the client where they are (i.e., the right media channel), you
might not get their business. Reputation is critical, but so is being
found by your target audience, driving your firm’s efficiency
forward, and maximizing your resources.

I often hear the same or similar issues in law firms, even if their
practice areas or firm sizes differ. Patterns emerged, and so
I’ve put together a chart to shed light on some of the
reasons why firms are seeking GrowPath’s case management solution and wanting to
transform their practices.

Indicators that point to your firm needing to change and be transformative

If your firm is experiencing
any of these:
 It might really mean:
Declining net profit
over a period of time
  • You’re not getting enough of the available cases in
    your geographical area
  • No strategy or direction
  • You lack visibility into resource load balancing or
    have siloed teams which  are not driving operational consistency
  • You’re not operating the firm as a business
  • Poor partner meetings – lacking the insight to help
    inform decisions
  • Lack of consistent recurring partner meetings
Declining returns on
partner equity
  • Operations have increased while the firm is closing
    fewer cases
  • Your outdated software is costing more to maintain
    and upgrade, and it lacks current functionality found commonly in
    businesses today
  • It is not efficient to process clients
  • Lack of operational processes and controls
  • Your leadership team and management are reactive vs.
High staff turnover
  • Your team is frustrated because workflows and
    workarounds prevent them from being successful
  • You have a team of clock-watchers
  • They feel hopeless, frustrated, and not heard
  • Low pay
  • Poor culture
Higher Client
  • Your systems and process cannot keep up with the
    level of interaction your clients want or expect from your firm
  • Your response is slow due to process inefficiencies
  • You have no way to clearly separate high-value cases
Lack of visibility
of caseloads
  • You do not have data reporting to indicate how
    quickly you are resolving cases
  • At any given time, you do not know what the statuses
    are of the cases you are actively working (A good read -What is Case Management Software?)
Lack of insight into
media channel success
  • You cannot really see how marketing results in
    changes in intake or case quality
  • You cannot pinpoint where your clients are coming from
  • It is difficult to measure the ROI of your marketing

How Good Leaders Impact Change

Partners often fall back to the “professional partnership
culture,” or a “don’t rock the boat”
mentality. The problems pile on slowly, and often without notice.
I’ve found that this is often driven by the “I am
not a spreadsheet kind of firm; I practice law” kind of
mentality. This often further perpetuates the resistance to change.

The truth is, even good firms sometimes fail. Often times, what is
hindering the growth is perpetuating the decline. More than likely,
decisions are limited by the pocketbook. That is a band-aid approach to
moving the firm’s technology forward.

And, let’s face it: leading change is hard. Regardless of who you are,
or what you are changing, without the right approach, leading
transformational change can often fail before you start. This is
especially true for law firm executive leadership who have the shared
burden of managing their cases along with driving the necessary change.

As a good leader, your actions, decisions, and influence provide cues
to your team about what matters most. To help initiate legal change
management in your law firm, I recommend adhering to these three

Be the Change

Leading change starts first with the executive leadership buy-in. Coach
and inform your existing leaders of the reason for the change and the
expected outcomes. Be clear that leading change starts with at the top.
Try to connect the story for the change into something that you have
found limiting with the current method.

Make it Meaningful

Check the ego at the door. Each leader should share stories of how the
previous method hindered them… how hard it was to do
something manually, all the workarounds they had to manage, or the
errors they had to fix. Connect the story to the initiated change, and
then once again connect it back to the reason for the change and why it
is needed now. GAIN TRUST!

Empower the Team

The key to any change is to make it personal. Any change must relate
back to your team in a personal way. By engaging them in this personal
way, you draw your team in. You make it personal not only for the
reason you want but you also make it what they want. This increases the
motivation of the entire team to embrace the change and ensure a
successful transformation.

If you don’t work to make a connection to the need, then the
credibility is lost — and that is when fear creeps in.

Some of the reasons I have heard about why lawyers resist change are
listed below with some interesting insight gained from Dean
Sonderegger’s article Lawyers and Transformational Tech:
Overcoming the Knowledge gap on Above the Law:

  • Low trust
  • Change in status quo — lack rank, seniority, not
    being consulted
  • Change in workflows process
  • Lack of competence — IT, staff, technical skills
  • Lack of communications — culture does not reward
  • Lack of technology strategy
  • Costs, lack of ability to measure ROI, and justify
  • Misunderstandings about the need for change, lack of
    awareness and understanding of the competitive landscape, and what
    technology is available
  • Lack of bandwidth — exhaustion, feel currently
    overworked and pervasive mentality of “how will this make
    things better” (A good article to reference might be how to measure productivity in your law firm)

In order to be a transformational law firm, you need to start thinking
about the reasons behind the resistance to technology in the first
place and develop an approach to bridge the gap. Instead of resisting
change, be a resource of transformative change, make a connection to
the reason you need the change, and empower your team to understand why
it’s important.

The results of being a transformational law firm might just surprise you
in terms of profits, improved culture, and best of all, satisfied
clients who will refer business to you. Looking for other supporting
insight related to choosing legal software consider this article on six
questions to ask before buying case management software.