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Getting innovation through the door of a law firm is easier said than done. The “Overcoming Structural Impediments to Adoption of Tech Solutions” panel held Tuesday during the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) 2019 institute dove into some of the challenges firms face in adopting new tech solutions.

Two of the main problems identified were intertwined: managers need greater exposure to some of the tech solutions on the marketplace, but “gatekeepers” within the firm empowered to limit spending on tech can block access to vendors and key partners.

“I think in general law firms look at technology as a expense,” Pat Archbold, vice president of the leaders and partners practice at Intapp, said.

There are other practical obstacles to consider as well. Alan Bryan, senior associate general counsel for Walmart Inc., pointed out that clients can be a significant force behind the adoption of new technology, but there is a hurdle in getting them comfortable with how new solutions will work and the reliability of the results delivered.

He also argued for finding ways to use or implement a new piece of technology that doesn’t require broad, systemic changes within an organization.

“The more you can break down the buy-in and the cost, the more legal innovation you’re going to see,” Bryan said.

A willingness to embrace innovation is crucial not only for the law firms, but tech companies as well. While he acknowledged that the “gatekeeper” role within firms is a necessary one, Josh Becker, chairman of Lex Machina, has experienced some of the frustrations emanating from the other side of the fence.

He recalled a period from earlier in his career where it took years to get a product in front of a law firm’s managing partner. Once partners had the opportunity to evaluate the solution and cast their vote, the solution was adopted within five days. Becker argued that if a new technology can’t find an adopter, it will eventually die.

“We need people who are going to try things out and give them a shot within firms,” Becker said.

Tessa Schwartz, a managing partner at Morrison & Foerster, posited that the work done by law firms and their chief information officers wasn’t so much about keeping all vendors out, but rather letting the right ones inside the gates.

She said that firms are focused on leveraging innovation to meet increasing client demands. However, a point in the right direction would be helpful.

“What we really need help with is finding the right partners so that we can really invest,” Schwartz said.