What’s in it for me – successful change management in legal transformation projects

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Another software I must use for my daily work routines? Why me and why now? Is this the feedback you get from your Legal colleagues after announcing the launch of the new workflow platform that will ultimately change the user journey of your colleagues and any employee interacting with your Legal and Compliance department? Then you should read further.

Change management (or the lack thereof) could be the missing piece. In short, change management involves guiding and supporting individuals, teams, and organizations through the process of adopting and adapting to new digital technologies, processes, and systems. It is about the “why” and “what’s in it for me”. If carried out professionally and consistently, it focuses on ensuring a smooth transition and maximizing the benefits of the digital transformation while minimizing resistance and disruption amongst all stakeholders.

In transformation projects, change management has its own role and should be regarded as a separate and equally important workstream beside process design, configuration, and development.

Key elements and considerations

Here are some key elements and considerations involved in change management for legal digital transformation projects including a list of exemplary means:

  • Establishing a clear vision: Define a compelling vision for the digital transformation project, explaining why it’s necessary and how it aligns with the organization’s overall goals. Clearly communicate this vision to all stakeholders, including lawyers, support staff, and management.
    Exemplary activities: project scoping, project charter, kick-off meeting

  • Stakeholder engagement: Engage key stakeholders early on and involve them throughout the process. This includes all legal professionals, IT staff, management, and other relevant parties. Seek their input, address their concerns, explain the benefits to them (“what’s in it for me?”) and involve them in decision-making to gain their buy-in and support.
    Exemplary activities: stakeholder maps, stakeholder communication plan, different meeting formats, project landing page

  • Change impact assessment: Prior to the project start, assess the potential impact of the digital transformation on different aspects of the organization, such as workflows, roles and responsibilities, job requirements, and stakeholder interactions. Identify potential areas of resistance or challenges that may arise during the implementation and, more importantly, monitor any trends throughout the project and post-go live.
    Exemplary activities: target operating model, legal services portfolio map, user journey maps  
  • Change champions: Identify change champions (or better “ambassadors”) within the organization who can act as promotors for the digital transformation. These individuals should have influence, credibility, and expertise in both legal and technology domains. They can help drive adoption, address concerns, and provide training and support to their colleagues.
    Exemplary activities: stakeholder mobilising strategy, starter kit, engagement plan

  • Communication and training: Develop a comprehensive communication plan to keep stakeholders informed about the digital transformation project’s progress, benefits, and timeline. Provide regular updates, address concerns, and highlight success stories, like go-lives of specific processes or use cases. Offer training programs and resources to ensure individuals have the necessary skills and knowledge to leverage the new technologies effectively.
    Exemplary activities: stakeholder communication plan, publication schedule, train-the-trainer and end-user -training

  • Piloting and phased implementation: Consider piloting the digital transformation project in a specific practice area or department before scaling it across the entire organization. This approach allows for testing, refinement, and gathering feedback before broader implementation. Phased implementation can also help manage risks and mitigate (perceived) disruption.
    Exemplary activities: Legal Design sessions, User Acceptance Testing planning and procedures, rollout schedule

  • Change resistance management: Anticipate and address resistance to change. Some individuals in the Legal and Compliance team may be hesitant or resistant due to concerns about job security, lack of familiarity with technology, or fear of increased workload. Implement strategies to address these concerns, such as providing training, offering support, and showcasing the benefits and positive outcomes resulting from the transformation. Leverage your change ambassadors for communication activities! A school of thought even suggests addressing specifically the fiercest critics, assuming their change of mind may have a more impactful implication on the reluctant but potentially silent majority. 
    Exemplary activities: key stakeholder engagement plan, retrospectives

  • Continuous evaluation and improvement: Regularly evaluate the impact of the digital transformation project and identify areas for improvement. It is a journey, not a once-off initiative! Solicit feedback from business users, legal and compliance professionals, executive management and other stakeholders, measure key performance indicators (select a few meaningful ones for the start) and make necessary adjustments to ensure the project’s success and maximize the actual and perceived return on investment.
    Exemplary activities: feedback / “client listening” sessions, governance by change boards

A final word

Remember, change management is an ongoing process, and it requires a combination of effective leadership, communication, training, and support to facilitate a successful legal digital transformation. Furthermore, it requires sufficient time, expertise, and funding. Instead of considering external advice and support, the internal communication team may be a good partner to be engaged!

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