Takeaways from CodeX FutureLaw 2018
Conquering Innovation Inertia
Last week, Nextlaw Labs attended the CodeX FutureLaw conference at Stanford Law School. The event always promises a thought-provoking agenda, and this year’s sixth FutureLaw focused on promoting progress in legal technology to a room full of first movers in legal industry innovation. One highlight was the “Using AI to Power ‘Push’ Legal Research” session moderated by the CEO of CaseText, with a panel including Big Law Knowledge and IT executives.
The session initially focused on the successes and pitfalls of a CaseText use case which deployed a new model for technology awareness: following initial automated analysis, relevant case law was automatically sent directly to attorneys’ inboxes. The discussion then turned to a fascinating broader discussion of solving “the engagement problem.” Though the array of legal tech solutions seems to be increasing exponentially, the true challenge facing legal innovation lies in adoption. Even in the best case scenario – a product with obvious value that’s easy to use and works exactly as advertised; a forward thinking firm dedicated to reinvention with champions at the leadership level; and multiple pathways to learn about the product – you may still never achieve successful implementation.
Attention is an attorney’s most valuable commodity, and it’s becoming ever more scarce. Attorneys are deluged with information and promises, and it’s not their job to keep up with technology – on their triage list, any non-client work will always be pushed to the bottom. Even if they’re enthusiastic about a tool in theory and go so far as to accept the calendar invitation and attend a training webinar, by the time the need arises, they’ve often forgotten about it. Further, there are a range of structural impediments to meaningful change in the legal industry: the billable hour, which can disincentivize efficiency; organizational structures which do not encourage an ongoing awareness of recent developments in technology; or just enough room for “random acts of innovation,” which follow no cohesive strategy.
Attorney personalities also play a big role in the challenge of tech adoption in firms. Dr. Larry Richard found that lawyers are up to two standard deviations from the norm on traits including skepticism, autonomy and sociability – meaning they think they know everything, don’t need help or fancy tools, and are disinclined to follow process or seek out opportunities to interact with others. Tethering them to any staged process is close to impossible. Thus, engaging with lawyers can be very difficult, even when the benefit to them is (or should be) obvious.
An excellent product is just the beginning
The “build it and they will come” approach has been the death of many a startup — so how do legal tech solutions become adopted given these considerable impediments? According to the panelists, it’s crucial to not only demonstrate actual value for attorneys and clients, but also keep the product top of mind. Some examples of successful tactics to increase engagement included:
- Gamification – friendly competition pitting groups against each other, with fabulous prizes
- Fear Of Missing Out – emphasizing client expectations and competition awareness/usage of the same tools
- Integration – inserting a tech solution directly into an existing work process and consolidating point solutions in a single approachable framework
- Tailored push notifications – ramped up slowly to get buy-in and avoid oversaturation
- Scarcity – limited invitations to keep a test group small and exclusive
- Challenge-focused messaging – rather than “come learn this product,” invite attorneys to “come learn how to solve this problem”
- Leadership champions – getting the partners involved in driving adoption, doing it themselves, and demonstrably aligning it with attorneys’ day to day
No single technique fits all, so trying multiple avenues is essential to success. Obviously, a firm culture of innovation will go a long way to supporting long-term adoption, as will compensating attorneys for hours spent on innovation adoption, but conquering the engagement challenge requires vendors to identify and build buy-in around a superlative tool that fits naturally into a team’s existing culture and processes and enables firms to work ever faster, better and cheaper. Junior associates want to leapfrog the tedium. Senior partners want to be able to pitch it to win more work. Compelling reasons already exist for lawyers to be efficient at every level.
Lawyers know that if they’re not demonstrably increasing efficiency, their competitors will do so, and will gain market share at their expense. As an internal consultancy, Nextlaw Labs is intimately familiar with firm culture and works to strategically pair technology with adoption techniques tailored to maximize stickiness – because supporting lawyers in their innovation journey is our business.