Lawyers are known for their resistance to change and innovation, but law practice will continue to evolve. Emerging technologies and a new generation of lawyers will shape the legal market. For a smooth change at your firm, it is essential to understand some of its processes.
Change can be traumatic, painful if you think about it, but it is a part of life and a part of any organization that wants to succeed in business and keep up with its competitors. Change Management is part of the project management toolset. Still, it also requires a great set of leadership skills to persuade people to change, especially lawyers in the traditionally change-averse legal profession.
A study by psychologist Carol Dweck found that many people have a fixed mindset, which means they work toward "performance goals" so they can focus on looking smart. According to Carol Dweck, "For them, each task is a challenge to their self-image, and each setback becomes a personal threat. So, they pursue only activities at which they're sure to shine – and avoid the sorts of experiences necessary to grow and flourish in any endeavor."
For lawyers, this mindset has its origin back in law school, a system that pursues intelligence before any risk-taking. This mentally stops lawyers from trying new options when they need to find the correct answer.
However, legal departments have started to change this mentality to a growth mindset that pushes a continuing learning journey, similar to startups companies - "fail fast- learn faster." GCs may be dubious about breaking the status quo, however, by introducing new technology and legal workflows, these tools are moving the needle in the corporate world.
It is critical to understand the roadmap in change management to implement changes in-house and in law firms successfully. Like project management, the change management roadmap is divided into phases, and each phase contains different events that will help us achieve the change in the organization.
To succeed in your change management journey, you must follow the roadmap and each step in the framework. You need to take the right actions at the right stage and avoid any pitfalls.
• Assess the change • Change assessment
• Create the need for change • Change Assessment
• Identify the change team • Threats & opportunities matrix
• Identify system factors that will enable or prevent change • Team roles matrix
• System factors
• Create the vision for change • Vision
• Analyze Stakeholders’ behavior • Stakeholder analysis
• Decide on a change strategy • Power & influence map
• Create a change plan • Change strategy
• Change & communication plan
• Communicate the plan • Change plan
• Identify and manage resistance • Resistance & influence Strategies
• Produce quick wins • Changes Status on change dashboards
• Sustain the Momentum
• Change behavior • Antecedent Behavior Consequences
• Lock in the new with the old. • Balance Of Consequence
• Identify and manage the system factors. • Change controls checklist
At this stage, you need to establish the necessity of the change. One secret here is to present it as an urgency for the organization. This can be done with research of the market and the competition, so that you can find some gaps. You need to convince at least 75% of your partners that the status quo is more dangerous than the unknown. In this stage you can find some pitfalls, such as a lack of leadership, a fear to take risks, and an underestimation of how hard it can be convincing people to change. At this initial stage, you need to work on forming a team to help you work on change. The team needs to work together and encourage each other to achieve the goal.
At this stage, you and your team need to create a vision to direct the change effort. The vision cannot be too complicated or vague that cannot be explained in five minutes. With the information obtained in the initial stage, the team can develop a strategy to achieve the change. Create a communication plan that will be used to share the vision of the change, and reinforce the vision of change in every type of communication method used in your company, from emails to meetings. Try to communicate the change through your actions, and make sure that the partners embrace the change - “walk the talk”- to get the buy-in from the rest of the firm.
In this stage we need to start implementing the change plan. We need to ensure that the guiding coalition removes any system or structure that goes against the vision. The coalition has to encourage risk taking and discourage traditional ideas, activities, and actions. At this stage, you need to create short-term wins to empower people to adapt to the change. Small improvements in the system need to be celebrated, you need to create a rewarding system to recognize those that contribute with those improvements.
Change behavior is important at this stage, you need to make sure those that are encouraging the change in the firm get recognized, this could be by promotions or professional development opportunities. The team needs to articulate connections between new behaviors and the firm’s success. You need to show how the new behaviors, approaches and attitudes have helped to
improve performance. In this stage, you could find some trouble if you do not create a new social norm and share values consistent with changes.
Change is part of the life cycle in any organization, and law firms and legal departments are no strangers to this event. New technology, the new norm of work-from-home, and the economic downturn are some of the events that are pushing change in the legal space. There is no doubt that these changes are significant, and they are here to stay. Lawyers need to adapt and be proactive to jump so that they can overturn the changes in the market into opportunities.