Law \ Legal

3 Keys To Avoiding “Shiny Object Syndrome” In Legal Tech


Few professionals would characterise their legal departments as “cutting edge.” With many departments still pushing reams of paper from one desk to another, too often Legal is the analogue option in a very digital world. In fact, a recent Onit survey showed nearly four out of five respondents (79%) do not see Legal as “a modern operation.”

However, the rise of remote work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing more and more corporate legal departments into the digital age. Legal teams are shedding the “on-prem” constraints of yesteryear and looking to new technologies to improve operations, causing a boom in the legal tech industry.

In that recent survey, all respondents onboarded new technology solutions since the start of the pandemic, with over half (57%) stating the pandemic accelerated their team’s technology adoption by at least three years. For corporate legal departments, this is a revolution at lightspeed.

The concern: “Shiny Object Syndrome” 

In this booming legal tech market — offering a multitude of vendors available for departments eager to spend — “shiny object syndrome” is something Legal needs to guard against. Here, shiny object syndrome refers to the tendency of Legal to gravitate towards flashy, specific features or the promise of an all-in-one “glass slipper” solution when searching for vendors. It’s especially prevalent in legal technology due to the lengthy review and approval process.

This extended period provides plenty of time for stakeholders to get distracted by those “Wow!” features while losing sight of what the solution should do. Those bells and whistles are nice, but overall capability and fit are much more critical. Additionally, it’s extremely unlikely one solution will fix every problem right out of the box. Prioritise adaptability and a vendor’s overall ability to grow and scale as the organisation does instead of looking for that glass slipper to fit perfectly.

The stakes are high for Legal. Pick the wrong solution, and departments face suboptimal technology implementation, low user adoption, and wasted time and money. The wrong choice could quickly become “shelfware” — a solution bought with the best intentions sitting unused on the shelf. The Onit study shows just how common this situation is: over three out of four lawyers experienced a failed tech adoption project, and nine out of 10 struggled with technology solutions implemented by employers.

Here’s the good news: shiny object syndrome and tech implementation failure are both preventable through careful preparation, oversight, and focus. Here are three ways to ensure legal technology has the best chance of stakeholder adoption and project success.

1. Know the minimum basic requirements

Get a sense of what the organisation needs before searching for a vendor. Conducting this accurate analysis to find minimum basic requirements gets the search started right. Think about what the end state should look like and work backwards. Consider where Legal should be, not where it currently is.

After that, start building a list of requirements for a vendor’s product by differentiating between “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Let those must-haves drive the search. Far too many times, those shiny objects will fall into the nice-to-have category, and glitzy distractions could easily cause teams to compromise on a necessary feature — the first step in overall project failure. Don’t lose focus. Keep the team centred around the set-in-stone, must-have elements for the search to stay on track.

2. Have a realistic mindset

This realistic mindset applies to capabilities, timeframe, culture, resources, and budget. Take a pragmatic inventory of available resources and their experience and knowledge base. Consider organisational culture: Does the team have enough credibility to complete the project? What sort of buy-in will the team need from other stakeholders?

Know who Legal needs to partner with to avoid the shiny object distractions and get the technology purchase and implementation done right. Finally, be sure to invest in change management efforts. Designate a “champion” or create a dedicated team to manage the product rollout, liaise with the vendor, and work alongside internal personnel to ensure a smooth rollout. Careful and thoughtful change management will help ensure the overall investment pays off. 

3. Understand what success looks like

Finally, have a firm sense of what project success will be. Make sure everyone involved in purchasing and implementing the organisation’s legal technology knows what that definition is. If necessary, engage key stakeholders to understand their expectations and align goals. Form a consensus before moving forward.

That ideal end state should be top-of-mind while searching. Think of it whenever presented with a flashy feature or an all-in-one solution. It’s important to note that these shiny objects may not necessarily be harmful or cause the team to turn elsewhere. If they fit in with a product that will serve the organisation’s needs and grow along with it, that’s great. If not, it’s probably not the best option. 

Eyes on the prize

By adopting game-changing technology, Legal has the opportunity to shrug off its conservative, traditional “analogue” reputation and become a digital leader. Avoiding shiny object syndrome and ensuring successful technology implementation is critical to that leadership role. By understanding department requirements, knowing capabilities and resources, and keeping an eye on the end-goal prize, Legal can bring in technology that enables the department to become a modern, pioneering part of the business.

About the author: Melanie Shafer is the Vice President of Customer Success and Professional Services at SimpleLegal (an Onit company) where her passion for managing people, developing employees, and building teams and processes is critical for scaling service operations through significant organic growth. 

Melanie came to SimpleLegal from Zywave, a leader in the insurtech space. She led teams responsible for the customer implementation experience and ongoing technical support for 15,000+ customers through multiple acquisitions and international expansion.


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