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New software training hurdles
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Legal Technology

New Software? Facing Up to Training Hurdles

Change is so damn hard.

By Josh Taylor

Throughout my career, I’ve held several positions where learning and training on software was integral to success. In my practice days, learning software was crucial to performing efficient and affordable research for clients. In my software company days, training on practice management software was essential to running a profitable business. However, I watch many clients come through our company’s doors unready and, worse, unwilling to overcome training or implementation hurdles.

Legal software takes time and effort to learn. Software is simply not the magic bullet some managing partners think it is. Buy-in is essential from all parts of a law firm if new technology is to successfully bolster the business. That’s why this series is intended to demystify the software implementation and training process while challenging lawyers and staff alike to take on a software change with full effort and energy. Throughout, we will tackle the various software hurdles that trip up law firms each day as they try to better their business practices.

Because the right mindset is essential, we begin with some hurdles that might appear during the software shopping process. Your success, in the long run, will depend on overcoming these first hurdles.

Software Hurdle 1: Price Is Problematic

Price is a huge software hurdle, especially for smaller firms. But price should never prevent a firm from choosing the right software for its business needs. Just like any other product, the least expensive software options are priced like that for a reason, and your firm deserves better than figuring out why the price is so low well into the changeover process, to the detriment of your files and clients. Here are a few ways to overcome pricing hurdles so that your firm gets the software it deserves.

Review Pricing Options in Terms of “Value”

Return on investment, or ROI, is the essential analysis when reviewing software pricing. Software that confers value above and beyond its price is by definition not “too expensive” for any law firm. Critically analyze what certain software can provide in terms of saved billable hours to confer elsewhere, i.e., to paying clients. Lawyers and their billing staff, whether flat-fee or time-based, have one commodity to provide to the world for payment, and that’s time. Be critical of what “value” software confers to justify price.

Software is difficult to implement, so be highly critical of what types of training, support and other hand-holding are included in the price. Being mindful of these wrinkles in software pricing and educating your team on what options exist will make you an eminently better software consumer.

Shop for Legal Software With a Plan

Relatedly, head into the software shopping process with a clear plan. Firms that come into the consultation and demonstration situation with clear questions and desired answers prove to be much better equipped to truly commit and implement. Looking for firm software without a clear plan and without urgency inevitably leads to complacency.

Software Hurdle 2: People Push Back

Believe it or not, people are usually the biggest hurdle during software changes. It’s extremely important to understand the various personality types and attitudes toward change at your firm to properly work with all colleagues to prevent disruption.

Know Who Is Most Change-Averse

Every firm has them. Identify and plan for discussions with your most change-averse lawyers and employees. Explain the “why” of the change so that people don’t feel they are in danger of becoming irrelevant or that they are along for an arbitrary software “test.”

Meet With Employees Regularly

Ensure that you prove to your employees you care about the change to be undertaken. Meet as a group and individually to check in on new pain points or struggles during a software transition. If they know you have their back and the change is not some arbitrary whim, the firm’s chances of success grow exponentially. You are not too busy to be a good boss and leader.

Meet With Lawyers Separately

I hate to say it, but lawyers often set the wrong tone and do not lead by example when it comes to new software adoption. Whether due to age, attitude or “busyness,” lawyers are their firms’ worst enemies when implementing new systems to increase their profit and production. This is consistent across all types of firms. If you’ve committed to new software, make sure you are in constant discussion with your partners to explain that they must be present and accounted for when learning the new system. They are the leaders of the firm not just in driving business, but modernizing the entire firm to keep that business happy and healthy.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Josh Taylor Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor is an attorney and the head of legal content strategy at the legal software company Smokeball. A former large firm litigator, Josh also serves on the staff of The John Marshall Law School’s Writing Resource Center. He speaks around the country on practice management and legal writing topics and curates the Smokeball blog, Law in Order.  Josh sits on the board of directors of the Community Activism Law Alliance. He holds a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as Thompson Coburn Research Fellow and a senior editor of the law review. Josh writes the legal writing reminders series for Attorney at Work.

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