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Collaboration is key to success in legal tech

There was a time when technology in the legal sector was merely to provide operational efficiencies. No one at a strategic level seemed to think too much about it and if you said ‘legal technology’ in conversation, it sounded like a made-up term, maybe even an oxymoron.

Today, there seems to be a new piece of legal technology on the market  every second day and many firms have a large backlog of software projects underway. Many firms have formed teams tasked with innovating everything from behind the scenes processes right through to their client experience.

It is often very easy for providers and firms to get caught up in the technology itself, but ultimately the effectiveness of these projects and initiatives, has little to do with technology and everything to do with collaboration. The success of any initiative rests not only with the firm and not only with the software provider, it requires collaboration and a healthy working relationship to generate an effective outcome.

Working in-house   

My years working in-house leading the IT function for firms was spent (like is the case for most people) balancing the many things that were competing for my time. I was responsible for managing the firm’s IT strategy and execution, managing my team, our providers and last but certainly not least, managing my many bosses’ expectations. Those that have not worked in a law firm or professional services firm would struggle to truly appreciate the dynamic of having 50+ bosses / partners, to whom I was accountable to.

What I needed from the technology providers I worked with, was not more software, they needed to provide me with solutions and support that I could depend upon. The reason I needed solutions and not software, is that I was not measured on how I chose or implemented software, I was responsible for providing answers and solutions to my many bosses and their teams.  How I achieved that was in short, my problem, not theirs, that is what they paid me for.   

Consulting

Coming initially from an in-house IT management role, I then chose to provide independent consulting advice to firms. Working as the firm’s advocate, I helped to cut through the sales speak and technical jargon to simplify, expediate and improve the decisions firms were making in relation to their IT purchases.

This type of consulting meant that I was often exposed to a ‘gap’ between what a firm was looking for and what a provider was selling. This difference often seemed subtle, but it was what I experienced to be the key reason behind many failed projects and failed client/ provider relationships. I would find myself being able to appreciate both viewpoints (that of the provider and the firm) which were in many cases, both right in their own way. The problem was that even if neither party was technically in the wrong, that was of no consequence and did not help to achieve the result that was needed.    

Now a founder and provider

As the founder of Client Sense, a zero-data entry business development solution for law firms, I found myself for the first time on the ‘other-side’ of the firm / provider equation. My years of IT management and consulting experience were indeed very beneficial in this transition, but they could not have prepared me for some of the new challenges I encountered and the new reality that I needed to face as a provider.

As someone who had critiqued software prior to creating Client Sense, I knew that no one would care about the technology we had spent the last 2.5 years developing, they would only care about how it helps them.  However… coming to terms with that fact when you are personally invested in your solution, is very tough and very confronting.

I believe wholeheartedly in what we have created in Client Sense, but more importantly, I believe in why we created it. The benefits of CRM systems were clear, but the need to have time-poor lawyers manually updating those systems  simply seemed unnecessary, inaccurate and archaic.

This distinction between ‘what’ we had developed and ‘why’ we developed it did not initially strike me as something that our clients would be interested in, but we quickly learnt that firms needed to understand our ‘why’ in order to care about our ‘what’. This and many other valuable lessons would not have been learnt, if not for the help of some very knowledgeable and experienced professionals we have been fortunate enough to work with and those within the ALTA community. 

Collaboration

Being a member of the ALTA group has provided me with a network  to bounce ideas off, share the highs,  and also the hard days. I would strongly recommend anyone looking to learn more, to connect with the ALTA group because the support has been a key part of progressing our Client Sense journey.

Successful project outcomes are rarely the role of any one party in isolation, it is about collaboration, honesty, modesty and a healthy feedback loop.

We are proud to still be working today with each of the firms we worked with initially over two and a half years ago to create Client Sense. These firms continue to collaborate openly with us, helping us to improve and enhance the way Client Sense works to support them and their needs. Without this collaboration and the support of the firms we have since partnered with, we simply would not have been able to progress to where we are today. This collaboration to me is the key difference between being able to provide a solution, not just software.

About our blogger

Steven TyndallSteven Tyndall is an ALTA Member and Founder of Client Sense.  Client Sense is a zero-data entry business development solution for professional services firms. Client Sense allows firms to unlock and protect the value of their client, contact and referral networks, all without any manual data entry or CRM required.   

Steven is also a legal technology consultant at NextLegal, which provides independent legal technology advice and support with Practice Management System selection. 

In his spare time, he is an active member of the ALTA sponsorship committee.

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