In this blog we explore five probable reasons and tips to overcome them
In terms of law firm software, if your fee earners are unwilling to embrace the software the Partners have provided to help them manage their caseloads, it’s almost certainly about buy-in. Your fee earners are probably so focused on the day-to-day pressures of earning fees, they are simply struggling to see the wood for the trees. In other words, they may not be able to clearly see the true value of the legal case management software available to them. In this blog we explore 5 probable reasons for this, as well as some practical tips to overcome them. But first some context.
The 80/20 rule
Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto made the 80/20 rule famous way back in 1896 when he noticed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by only 20% of the population. His well-known principle has passed the test of time and is still used today as a rough rule-of-thumb for analysing distribution across many situations. The rule suggests that roughly 80% of the effects for a given scenario come from 20% of the causes. For example:
- In business, it is often said that 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the clients.
- Criminal defence teams may believe 20% of criminals commit 80% of crimes.
- Personal Injury lawyers may anticipate that 20% of drivers will cause 80% of road traffic accidents.
- With software, some say 80% of users only use 20% of the functionality available to them.
The 80/20 rules is useful when reviewing the firm’s software buy-in and utilisation. If it is true that 80% of your firm’s fee earners are only using 20% of the case management software functionality available to them – imagine the what the firm’s success would look like if you could increase buy-in and fee earner utilisation to 50%, or even 75-100%?
Amongst other things, good case management software is designed to enable fee earners to:
- improve productivity by automating mundane and repetitive tasks
- improve client satisfaction by putting all relevant case files, notes and correspondence at the fee earners’ fingertips,
- enable them to capture all of their billable time accurately and efficiently.
If all of this is only happening 20% of the time, it becomes really clear that the potential gains from increasing fee earner buy-in are significant.
The good news this this is highly achievable, and here’s why.
Most fee earners believe that legal case management software is a great idea in principle
This is a great starting point upon which the law firm can build. However, although many fee earners agree that in theory case management software is a really, great idea – some believe they can get by without it, or that it is something they will get to grips with later. Sometimes, later never comes. If they are not convinced that they ought to fully immerse themselves in exploring the benefits the software available it’s time for the law firm to act. Encouraging employees to use new software, or make better use of existing software, requires the use of focused change management principles.
There are three main scenarios your firm could be facing:
- The firm has had existing case management software for a while, and it is under-utilised.
- The firm has recently invested in case management software and you are not convinced your fee earners are making the most of it in terms of maximising its return-on-investment.
- The firm is about to search for new software and wants its fee earners onboard from day one.
The change management principles can be applied to all three scenarios, however, the reasons why your most valuable talent chooses not to use the software the firm has provided need to be understood first.
Five probable reasons why your fee earners are not using software for case management
If your fee earners are not embracing the software your firm has invested in, or they kicking-back and refusing to use it all together, here are the five most probable reasons that we believe explain why. We also give our thoughts on practical tips for changing this behaviour:
- There could be a lack of senior stakeholder sponsorship & vision
Without full sponsorship from your firm’s leaders, fee earner resistance will probably spread. Law firm leaders need to sell the vision of what fee earning life will be like once the software is being used to its full potential, and their vision must be aligned. If the senior execs at the firm all have a different idea of what success looks like, you’re not off to the best start. It’s worth spending some time at leadership level discussing, aligning and documenting the vision for the important change you want to achieve re software utilisation. Communication of the vision is key. What your leaders say and do by example will have a massive impact on your fee earners’ attitude towards using the software.
Practical tips: The vision for software utilisation needs to be talked about frequently at all levels of the business. Make sure all leaders within the business are clear on the vision for software utilisation, and are in agreement about it. If you try to achieve a vision based on assumptions, your fee earners will veer off course. Then, as a leadership team, it’s time to question – is the path of your vision is aligned with the culture and behaviour within the Practice. Is the vision for maximising the return on investment on your main business software reflected via the firm’s business goals and communicated clearly to all?
If it’s existing software that the firm has had in place for a while, and it is under-utilised – revisit all the reasons why the firm bought the software in the first place and make sure they are still valid. If yes, re-align your vision amongst the leadership team for maximising its use. If the reasons for buying it original are no longer valid, it could be time to build a business case for investing in new software. If it’s new software you have only very recently implemented, the drivers for investing in it will be much fresher in your minds. If you are about to start your search, you have the perfect opportunity for gaining fee earner buy-in very early on.
- Your fee earners may not be privy to evidence of the software’s proven benefits
When the benefits that the software aren’t clear your team will be living in a world of ambivalence. It is so important to identify the benefits and communicate them. There are many ways to achieve better communication of benefits.
Practical tips: A good way is to involve fee earner software champions – and ask them to engage with reluctant fee earners. Identify champions who previously had very real pain points that they have overcome by using the software. Then, either one-to-one, through presentations, or videos invite them to share their experiences as case studies with other fee earners. This approach is particularly successful when the fee earners have hard evidence in numbers demonstrating how the software has helped them. For example:
- An improvement in client satisfaction/retention (with evidence of increases in client satisfaction scores, or a reduced client churn rate).
- An improvement in productivity (an increase in fees achieved)
- A better work-life balance (number of hours worked before/after vs fees earned).
An elevator pitch nailing how the software solves the most critical business pain points may help too. The lengthier the pitch the less compelling it is. So, involve leaders and fee earners and ask them to work together to craft a clear statement for each key pain point that explains the challenge, the goal, and the solution in two sentences or less. These pitches can be used as posters around the office, on email signature blocks and on screensavers to remind people of what the software is capable of.
The leadership team and key stakeholders in the business should be highlighting the efficiency gains as an ongoing basis, by showcasing, and rewarding, best practice and the impact proper use of the software can have (e.g. efficiency gains, cost savings, paper-lite achievements etc.).
- Perhaps there is no official accountability for fee earners in terms of software use
Depending on what software utilisation levels were like before, your firm may need a cultural change to ramp up the adoption of your software. If some people don’t use it, and it isn’t a company rule to use it, you get pockets of indifference, which makes adoption much slower. There is a responsibility on all stakeholders to drive it as an agenda.
Practical tips: The firm needs to communicate a clear plan of what it is aiming to accomplish as a team in terms of software utilisation. Each department of the firm must receive ongoing attention and course correction. Fee earners should be involved, consulted and informed so they know exactly what is expected of them and what they are accountable for.
Through standard operation procedures (SOPs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) a clear direction on who is responsible and accountable in terms of why, when and how your software should be used. If you implement a new format for your monthly fee earner reports that is built around what the fee earner gets out of the software, they will certainly start to sit up and take notice. Especially if they are expected to present it to colleagues at monthly meetings.
- Your fee earners may not have the resources to empower them to use the software more
If the firm does not provide the resources to ensure the software is available and usable fee earners will quickly become frustrated and abandon the software. Training and knowledge sharing is a prime example of the kind of resources a firm needs to provide. Law firms should really think about the kind of training their fee earners need and the kind of training format they will respond to best. Firing a 100-page software user guide at users and hoping for the best probably won’t reap the kind of results you’re hoping for. User training that is bespoke to the law firm’s needs is vital. A good software supplier will have a range of training options, and you can develop a train-the-trainer inhouse for large fee earner teams.
Practical tips: Making good quality, continuous training available is a key enabler. If you can make training on key areas of the system available to fee earners in the form of easily searchable video tutorials that provide bite-sized chunks of information, that they can refer to as and when needed, you’re going to see a huge difference in take-up.
The same can be said for support. Your fee earners need somewhere they can go, when they need help using or configuring the software for greater use.
- Maybe there is a lack of practical methodologies fee earners can use to make a difference
If your fee earners cannot see a clear methodology that gives them practical, actionable steps they can take today – procrastination may very well become the norm across your Practice. Like anything worth having, the more you put in, the more you get out. The fee earners that make time to work with the software to ensure it works for them are the ones reaping the most in terms of rewards. However, the firm can help and encourage by providing methodologies to help make it happen.
Communication without a clear methodology or action plan will cause confusion for fee earners, distracting them from their day-to-day, and quite frankly will just add more pressure to their already busy schedules. Again, involve, consult and communicate with fee earners about the kind of methodologies they need in order to effect real change in the way they embrace the software.
Practical tips: Find out what they need, and the way the prefer to collaborate about software. Do they need workshops, demonstrations, brainstorming sessions to create quality thinking time regarding how they can make the most of the software available. Are train-the-trainer champions available in different areas of the firm, so that fee earners can go to them to discuss ideas for improving utilisation? Is there a clear and easy way to log support queries for fee earners, and a methodology for dealing with those support queries with KPIs on how soon they can expect to hear back? Is there a mechanism for regularly sharing tips on new features or features fee earners may not know about? A good software supplier will help with all of this, but there is much that can be done inside the firm too.
Managing this change in behaviour will be a long-term investment that is well worth the effort for any law firm wishing to achieve the best possible return on its software investment.
At Access Legal we see evidence every day of the kind of significant benefits enjoyed by those law firms with fee earners that fully embrace the software. We have a wide range of case studies highlighting this if you’d like to take a look.
If during this change management exercise you realise that the case management software you have is not fit-for-purpose, or you discover your fee earners and other users have outgrown it, and you decide to look for suitable new software – please feel free to download our BIG software Switching Guide for Law Firms.
Access Legal is a division of the Access Group, a leading software provider of business management software enabling 60,000 SMEs to become more productive and efficient. Access Legal is the software partner of choice for 3,800 UK law firms.
This article was submitted to be published by Access Legal as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Family Lawyer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Family Lawyer.