Early this week, Richard Tromans at Artificial Lawyer reported on a Survey done by the ContractWorks group of Onit. Onit is an enterprise workflow solutions provider. Onit acquired ContractWorks earlier this year.
ContractWorks surveyed some 350 general counsel, in-house lawyers, and other legal department members in the United States and the United Kingdom. The purpose of the Survey was to determine their satisfaction (or lack thereof) with tech implementation within their departments.
77% of in-house counsel surveyed said they had experienced a failure in tech implementation
The headline from the story: an eye-dropping 77% of those surveyed said they had experienced a failure in tech implementation. The Survey shows that frustration leads employees to lose confidence in their employer, poor morale, and even some departures.
According to the Survey, the primary reasons for the failure of implementation identified by the in-house counsel were that implementation took too long, the tech was too complicated, or it was not the right fit, among other things. According to the Survey Report, the frustration is caused by “A combination of limited budgets, a lack of time to dedicate to evaluating, selecting, and implementing software, and concerns around managing change can cause speedbumps for teams early in the adoption process.”
77% is a staggering statistic. I wonder if a similar result would be obtained if lawyers in law firms were surveyed. I suspect we see the same dissatisfaction.
Legal tech providers often don’t understand their market too well
I have thought that legal tech providers often don’t understand their market too well for a long time. For lawyers, time is money. Most are incredibly busy. Most use tech in their personal lives and are familiar with technology that just works, as they used to say about Apple products.
But when it comes to legal tech, you often get products that are complicated to work. They require multiple clicks to get to the desired result. They aren’t intuitive for non-tech users like most lawyers. They have features that are seldom needed, and when you do need them, you have to get the Manual out to relearn how to use them. They are often purchased not by lawyer users but by IT departments or on IT recommendations. According to the Survey Report, involving users in the purchase and implementation decisions is a prototype. Too often, though, the users—the lawyers—don’t want to take the time to get involved.
The result is just what the Survey shows. Tech that takes too long to implement, is complicated, or is not a fit for the jobs which the lawyers need it to do.
Contrast this to many consumer tech products. They work. They don’t take hours of training or bulky manuals to figure out. As one of my partners said one time when he was frustrated with a legal tech product we were trying to use: why can’t they just make something like Google that is easy to use and gets the job done.
Why can’t they just make something like Google that is easy to use and gets the job done?
Certainly, lawyers share in the blame. Back when we had in-person legal tech shows, I always marveled at how few lawyers, especially from big firms, attended. Instead, they were back home billing hours and leaving decisions to IT people. Certainly, many IT folks are savvy and understand lawyers’ needs. But many don’t, at least as well as the lawyers themselves.
I also don’t buy that legal tech can’t be made simple to use due to its very nature and what it is designed to do. One only needs to look at the LitSoftware products. They are easy to use. They are intuitive. You can figure out how to work them by just using them. And most importantly, they do jobs that lawyers need to have done. That helps them get a better result.
So yes, lawyers may be Luddites. Yes, they aren’t quick to embrace time-saving tools that take replace billable hours. But legal tech problems, too often than not, stem from a misunderstanding between legal tech providers and legal tech users.
The Report does provide some reason for optimism. The Report notes, “More vendors are developing user-friendly, quick-to-implement, and purpose-built solutions that enhance operational efficiency, making legal tech adoption blunders less frequent.”
But until tech providers and end users talk to each other more than they have been, we may continue to see the kind of significant frustration that the ContractWorks study shows.