The dynamic agility of Silicon Valley seems a world away from the legal sector: across the country, remember, lawyers still turn up to court with attaché cases stuffed with papers. One of the reasons is the partnership model – law firms have a naturally flat structure, which makes modernisation all the more difficult.
Matt Peers would know. He joined Magic Circle firm Linklaters as CIO from the same position at Deloitte UK in 2015, before becoming chief operating officer in 2018.
"There are a gazillion innovative things going on in the legal sector, but there is resistance. We have 470 partners, about half in the UK. I can’t go to all of them every time we want to change anything, asking is this a good idea, but you can't say to them 'just do it'.
You have to explain what’s coming – when, why, how. If you do too little groundwork, projects get stopped.
We still have paper expenses. A few years ago we tried to digitise this. We had the software but the change management part wasn’t done properly and it ended up getting rejected, though we are having another go at it soon. You need buy-in across the firm.
There’s more than one way of getting people’s attention. Our IT hub is next to our restaurant, and it looks like an Apple store. If we’re launching a new product, we offer drop in sessions there, as well as videos and documents.
We recently eliminated individual partner metrics. The theory is that if you’ve got no individual metrics you’ll put the firm first, then your team, then yourself. With individual metrics it’s the other way around: if our partners haven’t got enough to do, individual metrics incentivise them to fill their day with quick wins.
What people struggle with is when they think someone isn’t pulling their weight. How do you prove it? We’ve done a lot of work to move to a conversation-based approach, which is a big change for our culture.
The key is not to drive change for its own sake, but to show people why it’s important and for themselves, the firm and the clients."
Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you haven’t explained why the proposed change is good for the business – and worth the hassle – then you will get resistance.
Give people options. Use various channels to get your message across. The more ways they can engage with your message, the more likely they are to listen.
Listen. Partners and employees alike may have legitimate concerns that you haven’t thought of.
For more information
Boston Consulting Group senior partners Martin Reeves and Lars Fæste wrote this piece for Management Today exploring the secrets of successful transformations. Alternatively, read this guide to converting sceptics.
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