5 min read

Building a Culture for Innovation Mavericks

Winning legal tech adoption means understanding incentives and constraints. Start small to prove value, then scale impact through data insights and peer sharing. Patient partners earn trust to permeate skepticism with productivity.
Building a Culture for Innovation Mavericks
Are you a innovation maverick? Or, do you have organization culture to support them?

During our discussion, we spoke about the concept of innovation mavericks within law firms (those who champion innovation, change, and a better way to solve problems/deliver value). I have been thinking about it ever since.
I believe that these mavericks are needed for asymmetric gains, but they only thrive in organizations where there is trust. The question then becomes how do you establish and demonstrate this trust?

Adopting new legal technologies in law firms requires overcoming deeply ingrained workflows and mindsets.

Lawyers pride themselves on expertise developed over years of training. Their billing quotas leave little room for experimenting with unproven tools. So, how can innovators drive the adoption of solutions that enhance productivity and insight?

As Conan Hines, recently appointed Director of Legal Technology at law firm Fried Frank, explains from experience - it starts with trust. Speaking on the Fringe Legal podcast, Conan emphasizes understanding user psychology and constraints:

"You gotta be really nosy... So you find those that are curious enough and you start very small and with bite-sized engagements that start to build over time."

Conan suggests trust grows through positive engagements, proving technology’s value. This seeds further adoption until demand outstrips resource capacity.

However, significant obstacles impede driving that initial adoption. While lawyers get intensive training on developing legal skills and knowledge, required billing targets leave minimal time for trying unproven innovations.

As Conan highlights, technology training occupies lower priority compared to revenue-generating legal work:

"Technology is typically trained in a different channel, right? I'm coming in, I'm an associate, I have legal training I need to attend. So that means one thing to me. I also have to do these other trainings. Like how to do expenses and technology training. These are separate trainings. They're viewed differently."

With no direct incentives and an overwhelming workload, lawyers often resist allocating precious time to adopting new tools. Their existing workflows feel optimized to deliver client value.

Trust Emerges from Demonstrating Value

Where can innovators begin to resolve this deadlock? As Conan suggests, identifying curious early adopters open to trying different approaches:

"Once you've proven yourself, I've found that you will have repeat customers and you will get more and more time with those repeat customers to really learn the ins and outs of what they do and then be able to deliver ultimately those solutions they want."

Quick pilot projects demonstrate potential value, establishing foundational trust with influential users. Positive word of mouth helps innovations permeate organizations and gain momentum.

Conan also proposes integrating technology training directly into legal training programs:

"One thing that I've done, and we'll do more going forward, is syncing all of that programming into one channel. So the technology training is the legal training. So now the optics are saying this is paramount to you becoming a successful lawyer."

Positioning tools as enablers of legal work makes their importance more tangible. It incentivizes usage by tying technology to career progression.

Vendors Must Become True Partners

In driving adoption, Conan stresses that law firms can’t go it alone. They need vendors as committed partners invested in real working solutions:

"There's a partnership for adoption and you're not absolved from being on the law firm side from being well-versed in the tool you're trying to roll out. I think it's just a requirement for success at this point."

He notes vendors often overlook or deprioritize hands-on adoption support. However, sharing concrete examples of effective strategies vastly accelerates progression along learning curves. Law firms and vendors co-creating tailored adoption roadmaps transform disjointed users into enthusiastic champions.

Tracking Usage Reveals Invisible Value

Partners must also help quantify previously intangible value through tracking usage data trends over time. Metrics capturing efficiency gains, risk reductions, and cost savings make theoretical productivity benefits tangible.

As Conan observes:

"I think you should have something transparent. You should have a framework. We're building that out further right now. There's something in place; we're gonna make it even clearer, simple to understand and welcome for people to engage in."

Objective metrics substantiate subjective enthusiasm to justify broader investment. They pinpoint areas needing reinforcement and highlight successes for replication across organizations.

Specifically, data insights help:

  • Validate ROI - Usage volume, time savings, and expense reductions add up to a data-backed business case proving technology delivers tangible returns.
  • Highlight What's Working- Analyzing behavioral differences between light and heavy users reveals optimal integration opportunities. These best practices expand through sharing prompts and playbooks.
  • Secure Greater Investment - Credible metrics endorse pilot successes to leadership. This facilitates purchasing full enterprise packages and expanding access.

In essence, data provides the proof points converting interest into commitment. It transforms technology from an uncertainty-requiring convincement into a reliable productivity lever that sells itself.

Seeding Innovation Through Small Successes

In order to get lawyers interested in a project, it's important to take into account the limitations they may face and create a plan that minimizes any added burden. As Conan suggests:

"Adoption plans should be simplified, and it's not a one-size-fits-all. I just think it is a critical deliverable that is a partnership between the vendor and the innovation person."

Tailoring integration opportunities to fit unique workflows and incentives can help drive progress. Momentum builds up when people share the positive value they have received from their peers.

Conan notes that transparency remains critical at each step:

"You should have something transparent. You should have a framework. We're building that out further right now. There's something in place; we're gonna make it even clearer, simple to understand and welcome for people to engage in."

Well-defined metrics track incremental progress toward broader strategic goals. Rather than vague aspirations, partners commit to transparent objectives allowing accountability.

Even small wins create a demonstrable impact to validate direction. It is important to take deliberate and incremental steps forward, this helps to sustain the momentum of transformation,

Building Cultures Embracing Innovation

In order to introduce new ideas into traditional cultures, it is necessary to be patient and persistent. This can take time and effort, but it is important to stay committed to the goal. Conan emphasizes maintaining an engaging, inviting posture toward potential users.

Innovation should enhance satisfaction, not represent drudgery:

"It's really difficult to manage all the different initiatives while staying at full capacity but not over capacity. Once you've built some trust with your lawyers, you can move forward with them."

Walking this tightrope relies on accrued credibility from demonstrating value. Trusted advisors earn the right to gradually implement larger changes through compounding small successes.

Conan continues:

"Hey, I am in demand. These services are in demand. First, hopefully, get more investment for what I'm trying to do from the firm, but also flip it on its head when I started at CC. It, there was no demand, right? So we had to build that demand."

By combining understanding, incentive, and fun, legal innovators can cultivate environments where productivity-enhancing technologies thrive. With trust as the foundation, each technology's success sets the stage for larger ones in a virtuous cycle of modernizing legal work.

Take Action Today

As Charlie Munger famously stated, "Wisdom is prevention." The time is now for law firms to embrace partnerships and pathways that overcome inertia through action actively. As Conan concludes highlights:

"It's gonna take years and time to build that network. So you find the right people who are interested in that. Start with the business services, talk to people, learn about who the personalities are, build that social graph within your firm."

Thoughtful innovation strategies realize untapped potential by aligning constraints with incentives and opportunities. The future of successful adoption of new legal technologies hinges on building trust today to transform workflows tomorrow.

Waiting carries grave opportunity costs in an industry where clients increasingly expect holistic digital capabilities as table stakes. Firms proactively upskilling talent and capabilities position themselves to win business rather than playing catch-up.

The generational shift towards integrative legal technology is already underway. Now is the time for leaders to set audacious goals. With pragmatic vendor allies that understand genuine adoption challenges, even the boldest ambitions become possible.

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