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Taking the risk out of choosing a new product or supplier

1st September 2015

Change for the better

Systems are always changing – lets face it we all now have hi-tech gadgets in our private lives – digital TVs, tablets, smart phones and more.  But in business we often have little time to look at latest systems, new software or new providers of specialist products and services to the legal market, despite the fact there may be major improvements from which the firm could benefit in terms of cost savings and service enhancements.

Solicitors are rightly risk-averse, but can very often prevent their firm from moving towards greater efficiencies for fear of making the wrong decision. Decisions can seem daunting so are put on the back-burner for another day. There are, however, some simple, proven rules to apply that will make life easier. Not all decisions are the same…

Is this decision irreversible?

Well, it might be said that only death and surgery are irreversible, but some decisions are really life-changing. In terms of your firm, examples could include moving office to a completely different location or merging with another practice. Get the decision wrong and, whilst potentially reversible, it is likely to be extremely damaging, costly and time consuming. So this type of practice changing decision has to be taken very carefully with much planning.

If not quite so fundamental then…..

There is a better way to make a well-informed decision without major commitment up front.

Here are seven proven steps to choosing a new product or process and implementing it successfully into your practice:

  • Set clear acceptance criteria. Do you need the system to save time? Do you need the system to provide greater operational efficiencies and/or reduce costs? Do you need the system to deliver a benefit to clients? Write down your expectations.
  • Do your research and talk to existing users. Software/service providers will always enthuse about the strengths of their system but for an unbiased view, talk to three users – firms similar to yours – who can tell you what it is really like to use the system. Ask the supplier to give you the names of three users in firms similar to yours; a couple who have used the system for at least 6 months, and if the system interfaces with any of your other existing systems, someone who uses both systems together. Then visit or at least phone them and seek their direct experience and opinion of the system/software under consideration.
  • No need to ‘go for broke’. It is accepted practice to test-drive a new car before deciding to buy it or not. So why not take the same approach here? Tell the supplier you want to find a way to test their system in your firm in a controlled way so as to limit its effects should it, for any reason, be unsuccessful. Ask the supplier to help you to use their system in a restricted way – perhaps for an initial 4 weeks, or for 1 case in 5, or choose a small team – perhaps a single office – to put the system through its paces. The trial should be big enough to be realistic but small enough to limit any disasters.
  • Get the right person/team involved. Avoid the ‘old codger’ who has barely moved forward from a quill pen or who says “We have always done it this way, used this provider etc…” Choose a person with a positive approach who is open-minded enough to give the system under consideration a fair and honest trial, someone whose opinions are respected by others.
  • Train the ‘guinea-pig(s)’ properly. Don’t skimp on this or you may make a decision not to proceed simply having failed to give the system a fair and proper trial.
  • Review the results. Did it fulfil your expectations as stated in Step 1? Evaluate the  plusses and minuses to your business.  Overall, if the ‘test drive’ has gone well all that is now left to do is the…..
  • Roll-out. So the results are demonstrably beneficial and a clear decision made at Partner level. Now it is time to roll it out based on a Practice Policy Decision. Usage is, therefore, mandatory – “it is now Practice Policy”. Again, don’t skimp on training; it is a false economy.

Overcoming resistance

What happens if you encounter resistance from the ‘stick-in-the-mud’ types who have used the old approach for years and don’t want to change? You can try to persuade people to use it but if that fails you will need to adopt a more directed approach. The Practice Policy Decision has been taken at executive level for sound commercial reasons so it is perfectly legitimate to say “This is now company policy, this is the system everyone is going to use consistent across the whole firm/specific department. If you need more training this can be arranged for you.”

If they remain recalcitrant, you could consider letting them move to another firm stuck in the dark ages and, rather than hold your firm back, let them hold that firm back!


Co-author of this article, Martin Wyatt, a Director of Legal Mentors, was for 20+ years involved in selling, training and implementing successfully, new software into companies in the UK and internationally. Contact Martin to discuss how to improve decision making, evaluate and implement new systems/processes/software in your firm. martin@legal-mentors.com/ 0800 458 6720

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