If your law firm has attempted to adopt a new software program and failed, you’re not alone. Implementing new processes is never easy, since people naturally gravitate toward doing things the same, familiar way. But failing to update your processes can be risky in today’s fast moving business environment. Today’s law firms face a changing landscape and an unclear future. Adopting new technologies is becoming critical to maintain a competitive edge. But getting everyone onboard with the changes can present challenges. In this post, we’ll explain the three main reasons that many law firms fail at software implementation, along with some helpful tips to overcome these hurdles and succeed.
Why software implementation fails
Before we dive into the details about how to get your staff to actually adopt software, let’s look at the most common reasons many law firms fail.
1. Unrealistic expectations
Perhaps the biggest reason why many law firms struggle to adopt software is that they have unrealistic expectations going into it.
They may have an unclear understanding of what the software can do, or they may underestimate how much work is required to learn the software, or how difficult it will be to change their current process.
Many firms expect that they can just buy some software, turn it on, and it will magically solve their problems. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works.
Software takes time to learn, it often takes considerable effort to set up properly, and it requires an open and flexible mindset when the inevitable limitations arise.
No software is absolutely perfect for any business’ needs, and there will always be workarounds needed to solve specific business challenges. But, even if software can’t get you 100% of the way to where you want to be, getting 90% of the way is still far better than staying where you are now, at 0%.
You must understand these things going into the implementation process. If you have unrealistic expectations about what the software can do, or how much time and effort will be necessary to properly implement it, you will be more likely to give up when challenges arise or when you get busy with other work.
2. Insufficient planning
Another common reason why software implementation fails is lack of planning. When adopting software, you must be prepared to completely overhaul your current processes and rebuild new ones around the software’s functionalities and constraints.
It’s likely that your current processes are already broken in some ways if you are looking for a software solution. Software can certainly help you solve problems, but just adding software to an already broken process will not fix anything.
You have to design a new process around the software. You should plan to spend significant time learning the software and planning how you will utilize the software to create a new, more streamlined process.
You should go through this planning period before actual implementation. If you jump right in and start trying to use the software without a plan, your data will be a mess, your staff will struggle, your process will still be broken, and you will end up failing, wasting time and money in the process.
3. Poor communication of value
The third most common reason why law firms fail with software implementation is that the firm leadership does a poor job communicating to the rest of the staff about the value of the software, the reasons why they are implementing it, and the goals they are hoping to achieve.
For an average staff member of a law firm, there may not be a compelling reason to use software at all. They may be perfectly content to do things manually on paper, regardless of any negative impacts this may have on the firm.
At the end of the day, most staff members don’t truly care about the success of the firm. Whether they are being efficient with their time, minimizing the firm’s liability, or improving the experience for the clients doesn’t make much of a difference to them. They just show up to get a paycheck and go home.
Unless there is a compelling reason to change, they are likely to keep doing things the same way they’ve always done them. The firm leadership must take it upon themselves to create that compelling reason to use software.
They can do this by very clearly communicating to the staff the reasons why they are using the software, what problems they are solving, and what goals they plan to achieve.
5 tips to help your law firm adopt software successfully
Now that we know why software implementation fails, let’s look at some things you can do to make the implementation process easier and increase your likelihood of success.
1. Learn the software before you design your process
The more in-depth understanding you have about the software’s functionality, the easier it will be to implement. Learning the software should always be step one.
After you understand it thoroughly and are aware of any limitations, then you should start designing your new process around the software.
2. Keep it simple
It’s easy to get carried away with a powerful software program that has a ton of features. You can end up overthinking it and trying to do too much, which just causes confusion and makes it more difficult for people to use.
At the beginning, just focus on the core value proposition the software can provide your firm, and implement those features first. You can always layer on new use-cases and additional functionality later on once people get comfortable with the basics.
3. Identify a champion
It’s helpful to have one person designated as the “champion” or in other words, the leader of the implementation process. This person should be the most well-versed in the software’s capabilities, and they should be passionate about the implementation process.
Ideally, this would be someone high up in the firm in a leadership role. It’s best for the communication to come from the top down so that the message of how and why the software should be used is clearly delivered to all the staff.
4. Set goals
Setting goals will help you evaluate how well you are making use of the software, and also give your staff a clear understanding of why they need to use the software to do their job instead of just doing it the old familiar way.
Whether it’s growing your revenue, being more organized, saving time on admin tasks, or anything else, make sure you clearly define what it is you hope to achieve by using software before you start.
5. Review usage and adjust your process with time
Once you have started getting into the swing of things and the software has become part of your regular workflow, you should sit down and meet with everyone at the firm to review your usage and make any adjustments to your process.
Modern cloud software is constantly evolving and adding new features. Chances are, there is always more to learn and more value you can get out of any product.
You should continually evaluate how you are using it, how well it’s meeting your goals, and look into some new features you may not have implemented yet. This will help ensure that you are getting the maximum possible value out of the software.