How to Find a Champion for Your Law Firm's Technology Project

How to Find (or Be) a Champion for Technology Change at Your Law Firm

Legaltech continues to redefine the legal profession, but many law firms struggle to adopt and implement new technology. Lawyers are often reliant upon tried-and-tested manual processes, hesitant to rip up the playbook and start from scratch. Some even say “the practice of law is inherently risk averse.” Perhaps that’s why only 38% of law firms use cloud technology, despite its clear benefits for clients, staff, and the bottom line.

All too often, law firm technology projects fail to launch, grind to a standstill, or run over budget. Why does this happen time and again? You might be missing a critical component that can help your firm cross the finish line when adopting new tech: a project champion.

Read on to learn how project champions unite stakeholders when transitioning to a new law firm software, helping implement meaningful change. The results? Increased efficiency, performance, client satisfaction, and revenue.

What is a Technology Project Champion?

Project champions are team members within an organization who strongly advocate for and drive change – in this case, implementing new technology at your law firm. This person could be you, or it could be another influential team member who is particularly excited and supportive of the project. This is usually an unofficial role, with project champions helping project managers bring their best-laid plans to fruition.

Project champions usually help:

  • Identify and effectively communicate the project’s ultimate goal (i.e., the promised land).
  • Gain buy-in and support from the wider team, stakeholders, and perhaps even from clients.
  • Obtain the resources needed to realize the goal.
  • Keep the project on time and on budget.
  • Suggest alternative strategies/process improvements if the project hits major obstacles.

Need help deciding which software is the right fit for your firm? Check out the seven questions you need to ask in our free guide here.

What’s the Difference Between a Project Champion and a Project Manager?

Project managers have a formal role – they’re responsible for the project’s success. Conversely, a project champion is typically a more informal role. Champions advocate for the project, whereas project managers own it.

Project champions play a crucial role in supporting the project manager’s work. Project managers usually adopt a bird's-eye level view, assessing firms’ current operations, selecting the appropriate technological solutions, devising an implementation roadmap, and getting the firm from A to B.

Project champions, on the other hand, are on the ground. They notice how the project impacts team members, picking up on whispered frustrations or concerns that the team might not want to raise with the project manager or senior management. Project champions have a key role in identifying and handling these types of objections from the team.

Why Does Your Law Firm’s Technology Project Need a Champion?

Implementing new technology within a law firm is exciting – but it’s also a challenge. It’s no small feat to change your firm’s existing processes and workflow, even though you’re replacing them with more efficient, up-to-date alternatives.

Change is hard, as people tend to overvalue what they have over what they’re missing. Unreceptive team members might drag their feet, keener to focus on their familiar day-to-day tasks rather than learning new systems. This is where your project champion is key. They gather support for the project, helping hesitant individuals and departments see the endgame and take one step after the other until the firm fully implements its new software.

Traits a Project Champion Needs to Succeed

Project champions can come from anywhere in your firm. They could be a paralegal, partner, or a member of your IT team. Regardless of their position, successful project champions are usually:

  • Influential employees who their team trusts.
  • Empathetic, seeking out others’ opinions and willing to coach them through uncertainty.
  • Excellent communicators.
  • Collaborative, acting as a go-between to relay the project manager’s wishes and/or the team’s concerns.
  • Forward thinkers who strongly believe in the power of technology,
  • Upbeat and motivational, keeping teams focused on the end goal.

What Are a Project Champion's Responsibilities?

Project champions’ primary responsibility is to ensure their firm successfully implements its new software. When the project first gathers momentum, this might involve creating a strategic vision: defining the firm’s current pain points, how the software would help, and helping to create a plan.

Once the project properly kicks off, the project champion then helps it run according to plan. Project managers interact face-to-face with attorneys and paralegals, especially in large firms. Project champions act as critical on-the-ground advocates. They help to communicate the plan, reinforce the software’s benefits, and keep teams motivated.

Unfortunately, office politics often hinder tech change. Experienced, well-respected team members who’ve always followed a particular method may question why they need to learn the ropes of a new tool. These doubts might lead to outright criticism of the project – which may impact how junior colleagues feel and behave. Project champions identify these types of potential roadblocks early and attempt to resolve them as soon as possible.

This doesn’t mean shutting down peoples’ concerns – in fact, just the opposite. Project champions adopt an empathetic approach. They listen to their colleagues’ concerns, try to understand where they’re coming from, before gently reiterating how the project will ultimately benefit them and the organization overall.

Long-Term Change Starts Today

Law firms that fail to adapt risk missing opportunities and falling behind growth-minded competitors. To effectively drive change, your law firm technology project needs both a champion and the right software platform. Get in touch with our team today to find out how Actionstep’s all-in-one, cloud-based legal practice management software can help your firm stay ahead of the curve.

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Written by The Actionstep Team