Over the past few years, a combination of the pandemic-related push toward technology and the legal industry’s attempts to work as a business has spurred a steady increase in the number legal tech tools entering the market. By extension, it’s also put pressure on legal departments working to cope with all the new variety of options.
For legal operations professionals tasked with making decisions around what tech to invest in and how to control spending while effectively streamlining business processes, 2022 is a curious time. In an atmosphere with a growing need for determining what products to use, how to unify data models from disparate systems and how to get everyone to adopt technology, legal ops professionals say they rely on an outlier to make some of the harder decisions around change management: change resisters.
At the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Conference 2022, Marianne Troscinski, a legal ops consultant at Navistar, spoke at the session “Legal Reimagined: Conquering Today’s Challenges with Tomorrow’s Technology,” about how she has gone through the gamut of technological changes.
“Most of our attorneys have been there 20 to 35 years; we only have less than 10% that’s been with us five years or less. So, when we started legal ops seven or eight years ago, there was resistance. ‘Why are you doing this to me? I am perfectly fine managing my own cases,’” Troscinski said. “I have learned we have to first be able to answer why this [decision] is going to make your [attorneys’] life better and then assembling your [change management] team to make solution choices.”
Of course, the composition of the change management group often determines what solutions the department chooses to implement and how accepted they will be throughout the organization. For Troscinski, having a member represented from all groups within the department is not enough. “I need change resisters on that group.”
Having someone who can push back on solutions is important to legal ops as well as to innovation, especially since there are more solutions in the market than ever before.
Kiran Mallavarapu, legal operations executive at Liberty Mutual, agreed with Troscinski but doesn’t want to use the term “resister,” opting to call it a “diverse” team instead.
“If everybody agrees with the same solution, maybe you never wanted a team to begin with,” Mallavarapu said. “It’s not really about being a resister just for the sake of resisting, but you want a diverse team, one which has diversity of thought, of opinions. You need people to make sure they area asking the relevant questions, make sure they are pushing back on relevant assumptions. We have all tried technologies in our lifetime that promise a lot but deliver little, so by asking questions and having that inclusivity of that, we can fill those gaps.”
In an industry that has seen significant turnover since 2020, with legal ops professionals crossing over to the legal tech side or moving to law firms, such an inclusive atmosphere may not be far behind.
“When people move from in-house to law firms, law firms to technology, technology to in-house, I think that combination allows people to understand stakeholder’s issues, it builds diversity of thought-process,” Mallavarapu said. “Plus, when people move we are building a bigger and better ecosystem. I think it allows for new ideas to enter not only change management teams deciding solutions, but also the organization as a whole.”
Still, how much dissent is too much dissent in an industry that can’t shake the stereotype of being resistant to technological change? Jeff Marple, who himself moved from Liberty Mutual to the role of director of transformation strategy at KP Labs, said that, while he has seen the benefits of resisters “hardening products,” he also has seen them slowing down implementation.
“[As a team leader], you have to be able to understand what feedback you need to take immediately and what feedback you may need to move past and understand its risk and size, because, if it isn’t handled the right way, it can slow down [decision-making] and implementation of new ideas,” Marple said. Still, he added that “constraint breeds innovation.”