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
|Declining returns on
|High staff turnover||
|Lack of visibility
|Lack of insight into
media channel success
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
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
- 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
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.
Ted Seward is GrowPath’s Vice President of Marketing, joining its executive leadership team in 2019. Ted is responsible for all marketing and initiatives at GrowPath including growth through the development and execution of the marketing/sales strategy, brand awareness, lead generation, and business development.