By David Bruns
Legal technology is a science, but legal tech implementation within your firm is an art. As a strategic marketer, you need to know what to purchase and understand that how to deploy it can make or break the investment.
If your technology investment seems to be faltering, do you switch canoes midstream? Not immediately. Look at who’s paddling and if a course correction is appropriate before you ditch your canoe for a kayak or Jet Ski or decide to build a rope bridge.
In the spirit of this year's LMA Tech West Regional Conference and the programming committee's rallying cry, “Technology is a means to an end,” here are three considerations to improve legal marketing technology deployment and utilization within your firm.
1. Measure Utilization (As Well as Results)
As a strategic marketer, you know that the rate at which your firm’s resources are deployed in a billable fashion is a key performance indicator. You have invested operating costs in people, products and processes — and together they deliver your service. Could a change in utilization improve the bottom line?
Look at your existing technology in the same way. Does it meet benchmarks and goals for utilization, never mind results? What can be done to increase usage, accessibility, utility and outputs? The opportunity cost and cost of change in law firms is incredibly high. Look at existing technology platforms and ask, internally and then with your providers, how could you get more adoption and use of these tools?
Do you need additional training or internal case studies to demonstrate value? Maybe the technology is perfectly sound, but your team's ability to communicate its relevance to key stakeholders is the challenge. If technology is indeed a means to an end, do your internal users understand what the technology does and why it’s important for them to use it routinely? Clear, concise communications are the keys to optimizing utilization.
2. Poor Adoption? Investigate and Understand the Cause
If you deploy a specific type of technology, you have done so after careful cost/benefit evaluation and trouble-shooting product and implementation issues. What if that process falls short of the mark? Your best future investment may be to determine why your initial investment is not working as planned.
Questions you may want to seek answers for include: What needs to be retooled — e.g., elements of the product, internal expectations, training, usability? Are there add-ons that make the product truly functional in your environment?
Talk to the vendor and other users. Ask why things aren't working as predicted. What can you do to increase utility? What can they do? What have other clients done in similar situations? This may be outside the scope of the contract, but contract be damned. Ask the vendor to assist. You have nothing to lose, and they have a tremendous amount to lose if a dissatisfied client finds their voice.
3. Right Question, Wrong Answer? Or Right Answer, Wrong Question?
When you dive into utilization, you may discover that the product you purchased doesn’t solve X — but maybe it solves Y.
We work every day with people who, when faced with a new technology, either adopt, adapt, abandon or completely repurpose for their own use. If you purchased a customer relationship management (CRM) system, for example, and find that your internal stakeholders are using it for something other than the intended purpose, what have you learned? Can your vendor easily customize or redeploy the product, based on how you want your team to use it, to make it more widely adopted for its intended purpose? Go back to your vendor with your findings, and ask them to get into the weeds with you. Creating your business partner's case study makes them earn each legal technology dollar on the service end.
Unless you have made a grievous error, learning to work with what you have is perhaps the most elementary lesson of legal technology — and that understanding will help you make intelligent purchases and deployments in the future.
Editor's Note: The LMA Tech West Regional Conference takes place October 21-22 in San Francisco. Register today to join the conversation with your peers, colleagues and business partners about utilizing technology as a means to an end in the legal landscape.
Dave Bruns is director of client services at San Francisco-based Farella Braun + Martel, an inductee to the LMA Hall of Fame, a fellow in College of Law Practice Management, and treasurer on the LMA West Regional Governing Board.