Managing and communicating IT change for in-house legal teams
In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, information technology plays a pivotal role in shaping the operations and efficiency of legal teams. From case management systems to legal document storage, in-house legal teams rely on technology to streamline processes, enhance collaboration and deliver high-quality outcomes.
While extensive benefits can be realized from implementing new platforms and software, IT changes within legal teams bring their own challenges.
In a 2021 study by Deloitte, 57% of general counsel cited “lack of adoption and change management as the biggest concerns related to technology”.
Corporate legal leaders and their IT department partners can ensure the successful transition and adoption of new technology with a well-thought-out strategy, clear communication and effective change management practices.
Understanding IT change management
IT change management refers to the systematic approach of planning, implementing and controlling changes to the organization’s IT infrastructure, systems and processes.
For legal teams, an effective IT change management strategy has become crucial due to the increasing reliance on technology and the need to adapt to evolving legal requirements. Change management processes encompass the practices and methodologies employed to effectively introduce and manage software, hardware, infrastructure and workflow changes.
Successful IT change management in a legal context requires collaboration among various stakeholders, including:
By implementing robust IT change management practices, legal teams can ensure the smooth integration of new technologies, mitigate risks, minimise disruptions, enhance efficiency, maintain data security and support compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks.
Key challenges for in-house legal teams
Obstacles to IT change management can arise from various factors, often unique to the legal profession. One significant challenge is resistance to change within the legal culture itself.
Legal professionals tend to be cautious when adopting new technologies or processes, prioritizing confidentiality, data security and the integrity of legal proceedings.
However, studies show that while law firm lawyers tend to have a low-risk tolerance, in-house lawyers are more inclined to trust and collaborate, suggesting greater receptivity to innovation.
“In-house legal roles entail proximity to business operations and the innovation that drives business success. It makes sense that the subset of lawyers displaying relative openness to innovation would be drawn to working in an in-house setting,” reports Deloitte.
Fear of job displacement
With the speed of adoption of Artificial intelligence and automation, there is concern among some legal professionals that certain tasks traditionally performed by lawyers could be automated, potentially leading to reduced job opportunities. The fear of losing job security and the perception that technology may replace their expertise and legal knowledge can create resistance to IT change.
Different workflows and processes within teams
The legal profession often operates within a highly specialised environment where each team or individual has established unique working methods.
Introducing IT changes can disrupt these familiar workflows and require adjustments in processes. Lawyers may be concerned about potential disruptions to work methods, learning new technologies or the efficiency implications of adapting to unfamiliar systems.
Implementing new technologies and upgrading existing systems requires financial investments, infrastructure enhancements and training costs. Legal teams, especially those in smaller firms or with limited resources, may face budget limitations while tech investment is focused on other departments.
Even with the funding, uncertainty about the return on investment can make legal teams resistant to major changes in the technology they use.
A 2022 unpublished survey by Deloitte revealed that the most common concerns CLOs raised were the “inability to generate value from technology solutions (65%) and the difficulty of demonstrating return on investment (ROI) for new technology (63%).”
Level of risk
Lawyers may be hesitant to adopt new technologies due to concerns about the level of risk associated. Ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and security of information is paramount. Introducing IT changes can disrupt established processes and expose legal teams to unforeseen risks, such as data breaches, system failures or compatibility issues. New systems can provoke concerns about the risks of data or information being incorrectly captured or filed.
Lack of technical expertise
Technological change is occurring rapidly, which can make it challenging for lawyers to keep up with the latest advancements. And they’re not alone! The uncertainty around being unable to navigate new software, systems or tools effectively can create unease.
However, doubt can often be overcome by demonstrating the benefits, involving team members in configuration and ongoing training and learning progress post-implementation.
The benefits of a change management process in IT change implementation
Organizational change can be challenging for any team but a well-executed change management process and organizational structure can be the difference between success and failure.
Minimizes resistance: A change management model helps to address resistance by providing clear communication, engaging stakeholders and involving them in the process. This fosters a sense of ownership and increases buy-in.
Increases adoption and engagement: A well-executed change management process ensures that employees understand the purpose and benefits of the IT change. It provides them with the necessary training and support to adapt to new systems and processes. This leads to increased adoption rates and higher engagement levels.
Enhances efficiency and productivity: IT changes are often implemented to streamline workflows and improve efficiency. Deploying a change management process provide a framework for identifying bottlenecks, redesigning systems and optimizing workflows. This results in enhanced efficiency and increased productivity as employees leverage new tools to perform their tasks more effectively.
Mitigates risks: Effective change management identifies and assesses risks in advance, allowing appropriate risk mitigation strategies to be implemented for a smoother transition.
Alignment with business objectives: Ensures IT changes align with the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. A change manager can help assess the impact of the IT change on business processes, cost, time and resources to ensure the change initiative contributes to the success of the organization.
Best practices for organizational change management of technology in the legal workplace
IT change management typically involves several stages to ensure a structured and controlled approach to systems and infrastructure development. And it’s no different for managing tech changes for in-house legal teams.
Assessment and evaluation
The change management process begins with a formal evaluation to determine whether there’s a need for change and if the team is ready. At this stage, change managers should identify the reasons for the proposed change and whether it’s driven by technological advancements, evolving client expectations or regulatory requirements.
Building a solid business case that outlines the benefits, costs and anticipated outcomes of the IT change is essential to gain support and secure necessary resources. Additionally, defining goals and objectives for the entire change process project will help align efforts. By preparing and proactively addressing potential obstacles, legal teams can set the stage for a successful IT change implementation.
Conducting a risk assessment before implementation is crucial, considering factors such as data security, system compatibility, training requirements and potential disruptions to ongoing legal operations.
This assessment should include identifying any specific challenges or inefficiencies within current systems and processes that can be addressed through IT and organizational change management.
Change management planning
Establishing a change manager and dedicated release management team is crucial to oversee the change management processes and implementation. The change manager is responsible for coordinating activities, tracking progress, resolving issues and ensuring the change plan is followed.
A detailed plan is created once the change is deemed feasible and approved. The plan defines the scope of the change, determines the timeline, allocates resources and identifies dependencies or constraints. Consider which legacy systems need to remain and how they may integrate with new systems.
Quantifying the expected business outcomes, such as improved efficiencies, communication, compliance management or reporting, is also a good idea.
At this stage, it’s important to confirm key stakeholders and communication channels to provide initial information about the transformation process, purpose, benefits and expectations.
Documentation of the entire project is vital, including the scope, objectives, timeline, resource allocation and risk mitigation strategies. Documentation serves as a reference point and guides implementation.
The change approval stage is critical for ensuring that proposed changes undergo a rigorous evaluation and approval process and are aligned with organizational objectives, policies and risk management practices. This stage helps ensure changes are authorized and ready for the subsequent stages.
In some organizations, a change advisory board is established to review and approve proposed changes. The change advisory board (CAB) comprises representatives from different areas of the business, such as legal team leaders, the IT organization, business units and other relevant stakeholders. The role of the CAB is to ensure changes are evaluated from multiple perspectives and address any potential conflicts or dependencies.
Following approval, the change implementation process begins. This may involve configuring systems, deploying new hardware or corporate legal software, migrating data and training teams.
Effective communication and coordination are vital during this stage, including notifying stakeholders about the upcoming changes, their purpose and the expected timeline.
Providing adequate training to end-users and IT staff helps ensure early adoption. Establish ongoing support channels such as help desks or knowledge bases to address any issues or questions that arise during the transition.
Change review and testing
The next step after implementation is review and testing to ensure the change functions as intended and meets the desired objectives. Testing may include functional testing, integration testing and user acceptance testing to validate the change and identify opportunities for improvement.
Rolling the change management initiatives out in small stages can be beneficial for legal teams, offering the opportunity to validate effectiveness and identify potential issues before a full-scale rollout.
Deployment, monitoring and review
Ongoing monitoring tracks performance, stability and user satisfaction. Robust monitoring processes enable the IT team to identify and resolve issues quickly so that the change meets the expected outcomes and positively impacts operational efficiency.
It’s important to get feedback from end-users and stakeholders on their experience with the changes as part of a post-implementation review. Surveys, interviews or feedback sessions can be conducted to gauge user satisfaction, identify issues and log immediate process improvements.
Closure and documentation
Once the change is deemed successful and stable, it is formally closed. At this time, remember to update the documentation to reflect the implemented change, including any configurations, procedures or support documentation necessary for future reference.
Normal changes versus emergency changes
While normal changes are typically planned and follow a standardized process, emergency changes arise unexpectedly and require immediate action.
Emergency changes possess distinct characteristics that set them apart from normal changes. These features include:
Urgency: Emergency changes demand swift action due to the critical nature of the situation. Delays in implementing these changes can lead to severe consequences such as system failures, security breaches or regulatory violations.
Unpredictability: Unlike normal changes, emergency changes are unforeseen and can occur without prior notice. They often arise from unexpected events, such as security incidents, natural disasters or legal compliance issues.
Limited scope: Emergency changes are typically restricted in scope and focused on resolving the immediate problem or mitigating the risk at hand. They aim to restore or maintain business operations and service availability rather than introduce comprehensive improvements.
Examples of emergency IT changes for in-house legal teams
Patching critical security vulnerabilities: When a significant security flaw is discovered in a legal team’s software systems, an emergency change may be required to promptly apply the necessary patches or updates to safeguard sensitive legal information from potential breaches.
Resolving data loss incidents: If an unexpected event leads to the loss or corruption of critical legal data, an emergency change might be necessary to restore the data from backups or implement data recovery measures.
Ensuring legal compliance: In the event of a sudden change in legislation or regulatory requirements, an emergency change may be needed to update systems, policies or procedures to remain compliant and avoid legal consequences.
IT change management processes in a crisis
The change management process for an emergency differs from that of normal changes. While normal changes follow a predefined and structured workflow, emergency changes demand a more flexible and expedited approach.
Having an emergency change advisory board ready to mobilize at short notice can help reduce risk and implement any mitigating actions immediately.
The following steps characterize the emergency change management approach for legal teams.
Identification: Recognize the urgent need for change and understand the potential impact on business operations and legal compliance.
Evaluation: Assess the risks and urgency of the situation to determine the appropriate course of action and the resources required.
Authorization: Gain the necessary approvals and buy-in from relevant stakeholders, such as legal leadership, IT management, or executive decision-makers.
Implementation: Execute the emergency change with a sense of urgency while ensuring proper documentation and communication to all relevant parties.
Review and documentation: Conduct a post-implementation review to evaluate the effectiveness of the emergency change and capture the lessons learned for future reference.
Emergency changes should not become the norm. Organizations should strive to minimize emergency changes through proactive risk management, robust IT infrastructure, and effective contingency planning.
Support your organization’s digital transformation
By embracing change management best practices, in-house legal teams can confidently navigate IT changes, leverage innovative technologies and drive positive outcomes for their organizations.
With the right approach, legal teams can embrace IT and change management adoption and position themselves for greater success in an ever-evolving digital landscape.
Dazychain is “powerful and easy to use”
Dazychain corporate legal software centralizes your legal operations on one intuitive cloud platform. We can create a simple configuration for your in-house legal team or a fully automated experience using your own processes and templates.
John Pease, General Counsel from Power and Water Corporation, chose Dazychain to improve efficiency and revolutionize reporting. “I can find matters quickly now using the search functionality. It is very powerful and easy to use,” he said.
Dazychain simplifies change management by supporting your legal team through platform implementation, configuration and testing. Plus, you get unlimited ongoing access to training. Book a demo today.