Legal IT and Change Management: Little Wins Add Up to a Big Difference

Business of Law

Legal IT and Change Management: Little Wins Add Up to a Big Difference

Q&A with Jerry Justice, CIO for Benesch

by Stephanie Erbesfield, Marketing Content and Research Manager

Law firm technologists need to achieve incremental “wins” every day as part of their overall strategy, according to Jerry Justice, the CIO for Benesch Law. He states making small impacts every day creates momentum, makes changes more digestible and leads to longer term shifts in tech leverage over time. These also provide the engagement opportunities necessary to move the ship continually forward. It’s one idea that drives his philosophy on change management, especially in an agile legal IT environment.

Since Benesch recently selected Aderant Expert as its legal practice and financial management software solution, we asked him to sit down with us and discuss change management. He graciously obliged and his interview follows below.

1) From your perspective how is the legal industry changing?

JJ: I’d say drastically – and technology is a core driver. It started with e-discovery and quickly spilled over into other areas like legal process management and enabling client engagements. This then attracted attention from the bellwether Legal tech companies and venture capitalists alike.

When I came into this market almost four years ago (from an accounting firm), the state of technology was pretty static. Within a year, I started seeing an uptick of new technology, vendors and industry acceptance of cloud provisioning. Today, things are moving faster, expectation have risen. I see the legal community catching up – adopting modern digital data and process models. The Legal community tends to be insular by nature, so this is a positive step.

2) New innovation causes change. What’s been the impact of technological change in legal?

JJ: Chaos and Opportunity. The are just so many moving targets, product maturity levels, and paths that you really have to establish a solid strategy to work from first. You need listen and learn quickly and approach projects in a more malleable and opportunistic manner. Where you start may not look anything like where you finish but the focus is on driving client/attorney value. Oh, and at the same time, layer in governance and security. We are all still shedding a lot of antiquated bagged around process design and data use.

3) If we asked ten different people ‘what is change management?’, we’d get ten different answers. What does change management mean to you?

JJ:  Change management is the controlled discipline of managing the points between the idea and the resulting value. It’s involves anticipating impacts, gathering insights, setting expectations, cost control, evaluating risk and measuring your success.

4) In the context of law firm technology, why is managing change important?

JJ:  To survive and to thrive. Traditionally in the Legal, law firms had specific technology and they tried to fit it to their business. Change was hard and expensive due to a siloed, monolithic design model. The “refresh” cycle was long, and so was the change management process.

Today, technology is digitally-driven, market derived and always evolving. When you implement any technology, you need to adapt from implementation on, adapting to ecosystem changes as they occur (vendors, client demands, security/compliance, process reinvention, firm priorities, etc..). This higher change frequency is valuable to users because you can provide smaller, high value changes now your change management model compresses and you must manage more often and with agility.

5) Do you think that’s made change management harder or easier?

JJ: Easier in the end, but the Legal market is still in a paradigm shift. It is also harder to apply change management to products that were not designed for it and for people not exposed to it.

Change is not hard, getting people to accept, plan and understand the value of change is. To do that, you have to get accurate (and honest) feedback from the people using the tech. Then combine that with understanding the full journey to be effective at managing the changes (else you just push bottlenecks somewhere else).

6) A key element of any change management process is obtaining leadership buy-in. How do you go about getting leadership buy-in?

JJ:  Well, it is a multi-dimensional effort. Here’s a few key ones:

– Sell what leadership is willing to buy. You can’t just say we need X for better security. You must communicate how it can impact dollars or risk to their bottom line.

– Strip down technology targets for better consumption. Identify the top five that translate well on the business side and that feed into your Firm’s strategy. The rest of your targets should roll up into these five in various ways anyway.

– Understand your audience’s perspective. What is tech level? What is their experience with X? What excites them to participate in something?

– Share success. Use testimonials from attorneys. these speak directly to colleagues on value.

– Use FMO, Jedi Mind Tricks…)

7) Anything you’d like to add?

JJ:  Yes, I think there are two important drivers to facilitating change.

First, challenge your assumptions daily and push others to do so. Simply put, technology is complex and always evolving. Your experiences should help you learn quicker, not be a barrier to prevent change. If you don’t, you’re going to get surprised sooner or later.

Second, require feedback. The user’s perspective is the key to what we do. Good or bad, we need to know. This is how you keep your technology delivery focused on the right outcomes.

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You can find more from Jerry Justice on LinkedIn and check out his employer at www.beneschlaw.com. In addition, Aderant Expert users might find the dedicated user community to be a helpful resource.

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