Ideas for improving legal tech adoption as investment in training lags behind tools
A study by Bloomberg found law firms and in-house legal teams are investing more money in tools but are neglecting training. This is affecting legal tech adoption; here are ideas for addressing the problem.
Lawyers have many good reasons for adopting legal technology, according to the 2022 Bloomberg Law Legal Operations and Technology Survey. Among the top motivations are improving productivity (86%), improving workflow (71%) and responding to clients or organizational demands (66%).
The survey polled 190 lawyers working for both law firms and in-house legal teams. It found the amount of effort respondents say their organizations had put into procuring technology had increased over the last 12 months.
More specifically, almost half (48%) said the amount of money their firm or department had spent on legal tech grew. That budget has been poured into both new software applications (45%) and additional software licenses (38%).
Investment in tech training lags behind tools
That all sounds good on the surface, but the survey results revealed some challenges too. Despite the increased investment in tools, training to use those tools lagged noticeably. In their assessment of the survey results, Bloomberg analysts Rachael Pikulski, Princess Onyiri and Linda Ouyang summed it up this way:
“Over the past year, almost half of respondents saw an increase in spend. However, only less than a quarter [23%] of attorneys reported that they've received more time dedicated to training for legal technologies.”
“More than 70% of respondents said they received fewer than three hours of legal technology training on new or existing technology in the last 12 months.”
Respondents were nearly evenly split on whether they had personally received “sufficient” training: 53% said they had while 47% said they had not.
Top barriers to legal tech adoption center around training
That about half of respondents found legal tech training insufficient should be signal enough the issue merits attention, but the study offers another reason: the primary barriers to using legal tech center around training.
According to respondents the top three barriers to using legal tech are:
- 53% “lack of tech savvy among users”;
- 48% “lack of familiarity with available technologies”; and
- 39% “not enough time to learn the technology.”
There’s a lot of effort that goes into identifying a clear problem, evaluating solutions, building the business case, and lobbying for budget to buy a legal technology tool. So, it seems illogical to neglect the time and resources it takes to ensure any given tool is properly adopted and driving that increased productivity.
The survey suggests there’s a strong correlation between training and adoption. As one Bloomberg analyst puts it:
“those who have logged more training time were three times more likely to report having no barriers than those with less than one hour of training.”
The legal tech training remedy
The question that remains, is what can leaders in the legal function do about it?
Bloomberg offered a half dozen recommendations including, developing a “a well-defined legal technology-based training schedule and strategy” and providing “lawyers with a dedicated number of hours creditable to their billable hour requirements that can be used toward legal technology training.”
Laura Collins Scott, a legal tech consultant started a discussion on LinkedIn with some ideas. She suggests changing the inventive structures and allocating an adequate budget to develop a training strategy. She also suggests carving out "meaningful time for training every single week” and like Bloomberg recommends, says law firms should consider this billable time.
We’d hasten to add a few suggestions of our own:
First, user experience should be a standard consideration in evaluating legal tech products. Simply stated, employees will resist using a software solution that is difficult to learn and use.
Second, the quality and level of training and support a solution provider offers are arguably as important as the software they sell. Don’t just take the vendor’s word for it – ask around to see what your peers in the legal community have to say.
Finally, don’t think of a legal tech tool as a project to complete, but rather as an instrument for continuous improvement. As Phil Warren, the head of legal and compliance at Cornerstone and Apperio CEO Nicholas d’Adhemar, co-wrote in a piece for Legal IT Insider:
“After putting all this time, effort and company treasure into a legal tech solution, you want to be sure you are getting the most value out of it. One proven way to do this is to designate someone with responsibility for continuous improvement.”
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