The transition to a new world is the hands of the old.

This from author, consultant and speaker, Euan Semple addressing the biggest challenge to digital transformation.

Those who can bring themselves to use the phrase “Digital Transformation” are invariably those who least understand, or would like, its implications.

The true transformation of a digital culture is in behaviours and interactions between people. It is in the ability to more directly connect with each other in the workplace, to reduce unnecessary steps and overheads, and to be able to adapt and respond to challenges more quickly. All of this threatens the status quo and the authority of many of the gatekeepers who have, until now, been deemed necessary.

Reading Euan’s post, I couldn’t help but think of the roadblock to the adoption of legal technology and innovation across the legal industry. Whether it’s law firms, bar associations, or even legal technology associations, the transformation to digital, the use of technology, social media, and efficient solutions is often in the hands of the old guard.

Law firms can’t do this or that when it comes to the use of the Internet for networking to build trust, learn and engage people.

  • We cannot have a lawyer post blog posts without them being reviewed by someone senior.
  • We cannot have lawyers post their posts directly to the publishing platform directly, marketing needs to do that for them.
  • We cannot have lawyers using their personal Facebook accounts to engage clients, referral sources, business colleagues and others.
  • We don’t have lawyers posting their blog posts to the lawyer’s LinkedIn accounts so as to engage those who may comment on or like the post, our marketing people control that.
  • We don’t have lawyers with personal Twitter accounts for following news, engaging influencers or sharing posts, we have one account for the blog on which a lawyer is an author.

If not directly mandated by the old guard, such limitations come because the old guard does not understand how the Internet works for learning, engaging people, building trust and business development. Those below fear taking a stand.

The vast majority of people in this country have no access to legal services. Yet bar associations adopt ethics rules to stifle innovation and efficiency brought by legal technology companies to improve access to legal services in the name that consumers need to be protected.

Very few law firms have adopted technology solutions and processes in the delivery of legal services. The old guard, understandably, wants to use billable hours in charging for services, charges that would be eroded by improving the delivery of legal services.

Bar associations, legal technology associations and legal technology conferences are often led by executive directors and boards that do not use the most powerful tool they have at their disposal – the Internet – to engage their constituents, the influencers of their audience, the public and the media.

Rather than use the Twitter, Facebook and blogging to listen, to connect and lead change, these folks wear it as a badge of honor that they have no time for such interaction, let alone learn what’s about.

  • I wish I had the time that the associate general counsel of a $100 billion company, a law school dean and a practicing lawyer has to use twitter, but I have a full time job.
  • It’s not up to me as executive director of a bar association to use social media to connect with members who are leaving my association in spades.
  • I don’t feel comfortable using Facebook like managing partners, other law firm executives, and legal company CEO’s do.
  • It’s not my responsibility as a board member of a legal technology association “leading change” and running conferences to stay abreast of relevant online discussion or to engage constituents through the net.

Sure law firms, bar associations, legal technology associations and traditional legal publishers will talk technology and innovation. Publications and conferences are abuzz with the topics. But do they want transformation.

…[M]ost organisations want tinkering rather than transformation. They would rather rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic than face the true challenges of “Digital.” They find it easier to digitise their dysfunctions than to face up to them.

This is human nature.

The brave will try harder

Well said, Euan.

  • I love your list of why they don’t have a go. This is why I have started to explore the possibility of Non-Exec Director roles. I could give them a nudge!