What Are You Ingesting and Will You Digest It For Me?

22 May

blur-books-close-up-159866By Deborah S. Panella, Director of Research & Knowledge Services, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

I recently stumbled upon a web post, 50 Popular Business Books Summarized in One Sentence Each, and appreciated authors Drake Baer and Mike Nudelman’s ability to synthesize entire books so succinctly.  For example, about Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: “[t]here are six universal principals that determine if people will change behavior – reciprocity, commitment, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.”  Okay, so one sentence is sometimes more like a teaser, but the list helped me decide which books to explore in greater depth.  It also made me realize how much I value recommendations from – and summaries by – peers.   Several selections are shared below.

Stephanie Abbott, Director, Janders Dean (Australia):

“I’m currently (re) reading an oldie but a goodie – Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. A title with “checklist” in it might not normally scream “page-turner,” but the first time I read it back in 2011, this one was so compelling I actually stayed up until it was finished. I find this book even more relevant now amidst the hype and ever-escalating promise of legal technology. It’s handy to remember that, sometimes, all you need to make major improvements is to think about what you’re doing.

This book traces the origins of the process checklist through real (and at times, hair-raising) stories: starting with the evolution of the aviation industry then branching out into operating theatres, disaster recovery, investment banking and construction, to name a few. It’s a great reminder that processes too fiendishly complex for one human or a team of humans stay on top of can still be managed and improved without resorting to magic bullets or billion dollar investments. All it requires is some intelligence, diligence and empowering the right people with a simple, no-tech solution. Sound attractive? You betcha.”

Marlene Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions, Greenberg Traurig (US):

“I read a blog post on Knoco Stories on knowledge documents versus project documents, and I thought Nick Milton laid out the differences very nicely.  There is a difference between the knowledge workstream and the project workstream and both serve different purposes.  Documents in the project workstream serve the purpose of completing the project and their lifecycle revolves around the project.  Knowledge documents are not tied to a project, but are applied across an organization and have an extended lifespan.  The two types of documents can be linked; there may be best practices or examples that come out of a project and that can be absorbed into the knowledge base.  I found the distinction interesting because there is sometimes a misconception that these documents and workstreams overlap or are the same when they are not.”

Mara Nickerson, Chief Knowledge Officer, Osler (Canada):

“I recommend the podcast, Here is Why All Your Projects are Late and What To Do About It. If you have been in KM for more than … hmmm … 6 months, then you have had a project take longer than you thought, and I am guessing all of you have had projects go over budget (if you haven’t then please give me a call as I would like to hire you). Assuming you are not some kind of project management savant, then you should listen to this Freakonomics podcast.

The central theme of the podcast is the planning fallacy – a tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a project, despite knowing that similar projects have typically taken longer in the past. The speakers on this podcast posit that planning fallacy stems from a combination of the optimism bias and coordination neglect. The first being our tendency to idealize and over simplify when we are planning.  The latter, being our tendency to underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to coordinate activities and communication across a team. (Reinforcing my belief that if I could just do the work all on my own I would get it done on time!).

So what can you do to overcome the planning fallacy? The primary answer seems to be – look at the data!  (I suspect most of you are not surprised.)  When we are doing a budget for project X, ignore the specifics of project X and instead use reference class forecasting. Look back at similar projects and see how much they cost and how long they took.

The planning fallacy isn’t a new concept and many of you may have read the Harvard Business Review article on the Planning Fallacy and the Innovators Dilemma. But I found this a really interesting podcast to consider not just with respect to my KM projects but to reinforce for our lawyers the importance of data on past matters to support budgeting and pricing efforts for legal matters.

Check it out on Freakonomics Radio, available through iTunes.”

Deborah Panella, Director of Research & Knowledge Services, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP (US):

“I was recently drawn to a book’s title: Best Practices are Stupid, by Stephen M. Shapiro.  The author, an ‘innovation advisor,’ offers 40 short chapters, each covering a tip to avoid innovation failures.  Some chapters, like ‘Simplification is the Best Innovation,’ need no explanation, while others are more substantive.  Each chapter ends with a quote, including this one which will surely resonate with KM professionals: “We often hear the expression ‘Build it and they will come,’ but with innovation, a more accurate statement is ‘Eliminate a pain and they will come.’”  Shapiro advises readers to manage their innovation portfolios much like your investment portfolios – with a balance of Incremental Innovation (safe bets that are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, and sure to yield positive results), Adaptive Innovation (relatively easy changes from a technical perspective, but possibly difficult to drive adoption), Technical Innovation (where the need is clear but the solution is technically complex and challenging), and Radical Innovation (both technically complex and with a high level of adoption uncertainty).

Given most law firms’ and law departments’ budget and staffing challenges, few KM and Innovation professionals have an active project portfolio with such a mix.  Instead, we must prioritize the winning projects – by identifying the difference between ideas that are duds and those that are worthy of time and investment.  This is surely one reason that ILTA’s recent workshops and 2017 program on Sustainable KM: Turning Treadmills into Windmills (featuring Mary Abraham and Chris Boyd) were so popular.”

 As for reading foundations and keeping up with hot topics and identifying what to read, several peers provided useful recommendations.

Mary Abraham, Instructor, Master of Science Program in Information and Knowledge Strategy, Columbia University (US):

“I have two recommendations: Working Knowledge by Davenport & Prusak is a classic that everyone in KM should read — several times. I’d also be happy to pass on a recommendation for my blog: AboveandBeyondKM.com. I’ve been writing about KM and the legal industry for 10 years so there’s a terrific archive of useful information for my readers.”

Chris Boyd, Senior Director of Professional Services, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (US):

Some of my favorite blogs are: 3 Geeks and a Law, Above and Beyond KM, Above the Law, Adam Smith, Esq. and Strategic Legal Technology.

Patrick DiDomenico, Chief Knowledge Officer, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. (US):

The book Knowledge Management for Lawyers.   I would also recommend the Knowledge Management for Legal Professionals LinkedIn Group. It has over 9,000 members.

Ron Friedmann, Partner, Fireman & Company (US):

Here is my list of blogs and one book I found relevant.

KM Book: For an excellent deep dive, I highly recommend the 2015 book, Knowledge Management for Lawyers by Patrick DiDomenico, published by the ABA.

For all the sources below, I read via my feed (RSS) reader. I use Feedly. If you want to follow more than a couple of regularly published sources, a feed reader is a must.

Legal AI + InnovationArtificial Lawyer Blog by Richard Tromans. Daily coverage of legal AI, both news and commentary. This is more about AI and innovation than KM – but can we even draw the line anymore?

Legal Tech: KM is not just about technology of course. But KM professionals should stay current on legal tech, especially since so much is happening now. I find three sources useful for regular updates: LegalTech News (ALM), Legal IT Insider (aka The Orange Rag), and Legal IT Professionals. KM professionals might also consider Above the Law: it has noticeably increased its tech and start-up coverage, and also covers the business of law, but if you subscribe to the feed, you’ll get a lot of other content too.

Legal Research and Legal Start-Ups: KM also often touches on legal research. I read Lawsites (Bob Ambrogi) and Dewey B Strategic (Jean O’Grady). Bob also provides excellent coverage of legal tech start-ups and other topics.

Legal Business: KM professionals should stay current on developments in law practice management, legal operations, and firm management. For the big picture and strategy, I read Adam Smith, Esq. (Bruce McEwen), Law21 (Jordan Furlong), Legal Mosaic (Mark Cohen), and Legal Evolution (Prof. Bill Henderson).

In addition, members of the Knowledge Management Content Coordinating Team recommended the KnowItAALL Newsletter, Wired Magazine, and PinHawk Daily newsletters for Legal Tech and Library.

If you have recently read or listened to or seen something you found valuable, please share your thoughts.  And if anyone recommends one of the many subscription services (e.g., GetAbstract, Summary.com, or Business Book Summaries), please let us know.

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How Firms are Redefining DMS Ownership to Drive Adoption

20 Apr

pexels-photo-886465.jpegBy Tom Baldwin and Ron Friedmann, Partners at Fireman & Company

Introduction

Many firms are planning major upgrades to their document management system (DMS) over the next 12-18 months. This move to a modern DMS experience offers firms the opportunity to address one of the previously intractable problems of document management: lawyer adoption. Firms now realize that driving adoption is the key to enhancing security, embracing governance policies, leveraging know-how, informing pricing, driving knowledge management, maximizing the potential of artificial intelligence, and achieving other goals that cut across the practice and business of law.

The criticality of user adoption is leading forward-thinking firms to take the approach of sharing DMS ownership between a technology and a business lead. This move recognizes that a DMS is more than another piece of software – it sits at the core of how lawyers practice. At both Faegre Baker Daniels and Perkins Coie, IT owns the DMS back-end and infrastructure, while practice-facing departments are responsible for adoption, design, and configuration. We interviewed both firms to learn more – but first a bit of background on the changing role of document management.

The New, Central Role of DMS

Firms now recognize the need to achieve high DMS adoption. Wide adoption is required to achieve three key practice and business benefits:

  1. Security. Realistic cybersecurity recognizes that intruders will breach firewalls (often by phishing) and systems must limit the access of whomever penetrates the perimeter. Perimeter defense remains essential but inside, systems must limit each user’s access to information. That means making sure all documents are stored in the DMS and properly secured, typically to just the team working on the matter. For more on this topic, see Your New Biggest Security Threat – DMS Adoption, ILTA KM blog, Dec. 12, 2017).
  2. Collaboration. The ability to share documents and find them is the foundation of collaboration in law firms – and with clients. When some lawyers use the DMS and others do not, sharing work in progress becomes a big challenge, especially for lawyers who regularly work on different teams. When all documents are in the DMS and properly secured, then every lawyer knows where to look. And sharing with clients is more systematic and secure.
  3. Mining Know-How and Leveraging AI. Artificial intelligence (AI) in large firms is on the cusp of making a big difference in how lawyers practice. Starting in 2018, AI integration into the DMS will open new ways to serve clients and understand the firm’s business. Smart search and other built-in intelligence will alert lawyers to relevant documents, clauses, matters, and people. This will make a real difference in daily practice. Pricing teams will be better able to estimate costs. And marketing will be able to find relevant matters faster to tailor pitches. But all this works only if all the documents are in the DMS. With AI embedded in the DMS, the scale of firms will finally have a noticeably positive impact on practice: firms with more accessible and organized data will gain advantages.

These benefits accrue only with high DMS adoption. That’s why leading firms have moved to joint DMS ownership in order to combine great technology with a practice-based focus on design, adoption, and usage.

Shared DMS Ownership at Faegre Baker Daniels

To understand how Faegre Baker Daniels shares DMS ownership, we talked to Katrina Dittmer, Senior Manager of Knowledge Management. We asked her how and why the firm had taken the path of shared DMS ownership.

She explained that after the 2012 merger of Faegre & Benson and Baker & Daniels, lawyers and staff both realized that much more was involved in DMS than just technology. So management, including IT, saw the need for both the business and practice to be represented along with IT when making changes to the DMS.

At that time, Shawn Swearingen, Director of Knowledge Management, suggested the ownership change, with the support and approval of the CIO. Today, KM focuses on DMS design and adoption – how lawyers and staff use the system. This allows IT to focus almost exclusively on the operational aspects of the DMS (up-time, patching, security, tuning, backup, etc.). In contrast, KM owns the roadmap for the DMS, in regular consultation with IT.

Shortly after this change, shared ownership proved its value. Prior to the merger, legacy Baker & Daniels had not mandated the use of DMS workspaces and lawyers within and across both firms used the DMS in different ways. To bring uniformity to the merged firm, KM created a “workspace warrior” campaign to design a uniform approach and adopt proper workspace usage. And that campaign succeeded.

The KM team not only works closely with the practices, but has analyzed DMS usage data to shape how the workspaces will be designed. KM, with its close and regular connection to the practice, is able to present that message to lawyers in a way that they will understand, hear, and accept it. Data also informs day-to-day decisions: KM regularly analyzes help logs to find common issues and questions, then either provides coaching or improves the user interface to address an underlying issue.

We asked Katrina if there had been any push back to shared ownership. She reports that, in fact, the DMS system administrators were quite happy not to have to deal with user design / user issues. They can now focus more on the back end and maintenance while KM focuses more on change management.

Our final question was if Katrina has any advice for firms that do not have a dedicated KM function. Her view is that the DMS team in those circumstances needs whomever best represents the voice of users, suggesting that can include the help desk, lawyer and/or IT training, business managers, litigation support, or anyone else on staff that regularly interacts with lawyers.

Shared DMS Ownership at Perkins Coie

At Perkins Coie, we spoke with CIO Rick Howell and Director of Knowledge Management Services Gwyn McAlpine. Rick said that he was very happy to share DMS ownership with KM because he views IT as a service provider for technology. Our KM team is well aligned and integrated within our practices and has the insights necessary to help attorneys succeed, he said.

“To take advantage of AI as it becomes available in the DMS, we need all of our documents in it. We won’t get there if the DMS is prescriptive. It needs to be flexible, easy to use, and agile. Otherwise, what we deploy today, we will be rebuilding tomorrow. Working with our KM and our Governance teams, we can achieve that.” – Rick Howell

With the arrival of iManage Work 10, both Rick and Gwyn are enthused about shared ownership, so that each group can focus more in-depth on the features most relevant to each group. On the one hand, IT can focus on how to best leverage the new backend architecture in Work 10, security models with both Threat and Policy Manager, and other technology aspects. On the other hand, Gwyn’s team can transform how lawyers work, taking advantage of flexible foldering, AI, and persona based design.

We asked how the firm got to the happy marriage of KM and IT for the DMS. Rick, who started as CIO at Perkins Coie in 2016, said it matches how the firm views itself – that we best serve our customers through diverse partnerships, like KM, IT and security, working together toward shared goals. “I can’t imagine doing it any other way because it’s how we have structured our teams and overall efforts,” he said.

Gwyn agreed, citing the close relationship KM has with the practices. She observed about KM that “we are trusted. Lawyers will talk to us. We have credibility to address concerns.”

The importance of that access and understanding was recently highlighted when the firm redesigned its intranet. For that process, KM led many focus groups with lawyers and other users. The engagement from those groups pointed the way to new and better ways of working. (Fireman & Company assisted Perkins Coie with the intranet redesign.)

The firm is now applying this collaborative model to other issues, particularly use of cloud services. A governance board comprised of attorneys, risk, information governance, and KM actively engages lawyers and management to make the right decision and decide timing about all issues cloud.

Conclusion

We think Faegre Baker Daniels and Perkins Coie represent the leading edge of a coming wave of firms sharing DMS ownership between IT and KM.

A new, rapidly emerging tech-enabled law practice requires that business owners and IT work more closely together, with each focusing on its strengths. The old model of limited flexibility and infrequent change has been stood on its head. Software today makes customization for practices or personas easy. That flexibility, however, is a benefit only with design informed by how lawyers really work.

Fireman & Company sees this daily across our practices. We regularly work with firms on a new generation of intranets, DMS, enterprise search, and experience management. Working with IT and KM, we help ensure that the voice of lawyers is clear, and that final designs reflect how lawyers actually work.  Even if you don’t have a dedicated KM group, you can emulate this shared ownership concept in your firm.

Today, law firms can no longer afford to allow lawyers to operate outside the DMS. The benefits of security, collaboration, and tapping the collective know-how all require very high adoption. Joining KM and IT to deploy new generations of software will be an essential success factor in achieving this.

Knowledge Management for Everyone: Quick Tips to Develop a Successful Program

30 Mar

wheretostartBy Alexis Soard, Knowledge Manager, Fennemore Craig, P.C.

I first encountered legal knowledge management four years ago. I was fresh from the world of academia where I’d been a technology librarian for years, had zero legal experience, and had just been hired to lead my firm’s new knowledge management initiative. There was only one small problem.

I had no idea where to start.

Developing a KM program from scratch can seem a little daunting. Here are some suggestions on how to develop a successful program at your firm.

Define KM for Your Firm

KM is as varied as flavors of ice cream at the supermarket. The definition of KM differs depending on whom you’re talking to and when you talk to them. In general, however, most KM programs tend to center on sharing, organizing, and managing institutional information. These programs typically include determining ways to ease access to information and sometimes cross into the outside world when institutional knowledge needs to be made available to an external party, such as a client. They often cross over with other departments, such as IT and the library.

Identifying the scope of the KM program will help you identify what skills you’re looking for, particularly if you’re looking to hire or convert a position to a KM position, and what projects you envision being a part of this initiative. It will also help provide guidance and focus for the person or people put in charge of leading this effort as well as give you talking points when discussing it with your firm’s executive team or management.

Identify the Issues 

If it’s not broken, we’re not going to get the budget to fix it. Period. So, if you think your firm is ready for or needs a KM program, ask yourself what issues this program/person would solve. Maybe there are barriers getting to information or problematic processes that no one has time to resolve. Or perhaps there’s a lack of ownership between the firm’s technology and implementing it into the everyday workflows of the firm. Whatever the reason is, identifying the issue that this position or program would solve will help you justify why it’s important to the firm and how it can help long term.

Determine whether or not the identifieIdentifyd issues are actually fixable and worth fixing.

Some KM projects end up having little or no impact on our intended audience, or something that we think is a no-brainer falls flat when we talk about it to others. In order to avoid these situations, we have to determine whether or not the issue we’re trying to solve is actually worth fixing. Having critical conversations with both key project stakeholders and end users will help determine whether or not you’re trying to resolve a problem that is both fixable and worth fixing. Gathering relevant statistical data regarding the issue will also assist in identifying how wide spread it is and what the potential impact of solving it could be.

Starting a KM program can be overwhelming; however, the payoff is worth it in the long run. KM stands in the unique position of solving business problems with real world solutions and can bring about improved process and greater efficiency, leading to better overall client service.

Time for Change: Welcome Sharon Lee

5 Mar

By Ginevra Saylor, National Director, Knowledge Management, Dentons Canada LLP

After a wonderful and rewarding stint as ILTA KM Blog Editor, I am pleased to pass the editorial virtual pen on to Sharon Lee. In Sharon’s capable hands, the blog’s popularity and community of readers are certain to continue to grow and soar.

Currently a Knowledge Management Specialist with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, Sharon worked as a senior legal editor for a major legal publishing company and practiced law for nearly ten years as a litigator in New York City before joining WSGR. Sharon looks forward to collaborating with other ILTA members to bring valuable commentary and insights to the blog.

For me, the best part of serving as editor over the past several years has been the opportunity to meet and get to know the many contributors from across the world. The diversity of thought and knowledge shared has been outstanding and I will miss working with such a broad and talented group of individuals. I wish to personally thank all of the authors I have had the privilege of working with for taking the time to share their expertise and perspectives with our KM community.

Please join me in welcoming Sharon Lee to her new role.  And… keep the excellent content coming.

Knowledge Management Round-Up: 2017 Programming to Revisit

20 Dec

By Gwyn McAlpine, Director of Knowledge Management Services, Perkins Coie LLP

As last year’s catalog of ILTA’s KM-related programming was well-received, let’s make it an annual event.  Think of it as ILTA KM’s holiday letter, without the stories about kids and travel.

As you will see below, ILTA’s KM programming comes in a variety of formats, from articles and blog posts to webinars and ILTACON panels. If you need a refresher on these programming types, refer back to the explanation in last year’s post.

My main observation from putting together the list below is that KM professionals have diverse interests. I focused on content that was targeted to, or created by, KM professionals, and the resulting breadth of topics was noteworthy.  In addition to KM standbys, like search, portals, expertise location and strategy, newer categories like artificial intelligence, innovation and data analytics continue to be hot programming topics.  But interestingly, marketing, training and project management all make an appearance as well.  This rings true to me based on my own experience and conversations with many of you:  KM is casting a wider net.

If one of your areas of interests is on the periphery, be sure to check the ILTA archives for additional content.  For example, there is much more programming related to data analytics, which bleeds into business intelligence and financial analysis.  Or for those of you thinking about training and adoption of KM tools, there is a vibrant User Support community with even more programming.  I had to draw the line somewhere.

If you have suggestions for the future programming, submit an IDEA, start a conversation on the Knowledge Management community, or drop a note to a member of the Knowledge Management Content Coordinating Team.  Enjoy!

A note on the links: Some do require ILTA membership to access, so be sure to log into the ILTA website as a first step.

Artificial Intelligence

Collaboration

Data Analytics

Document Assembly

Document Management/Information Governance

Experience & Expertise

ILTACON

Innovation

KM Strategy & General

Marketing

Project Management

Professional Development

Research

Portals and Search

Training

Your New Biggest Security Threat – DMS Adoption

12 Dec

By Tom Baldwin, Partner, Fireman & Company

It seems like not a day goes by without another article or news headline featuring a security breach, whether it be Equifax or a law firm.  In light of law firm breaches finally becoming public, there’s been a fever pitch focus on security – and rightfully so.  These breaches are evolving from pure ransomware to malware wipers capable of rendering all locally saved data inaccessible, even after the ransom is paid.

In response to these threats, many firms are looking to the cloud as a means to become more secure.  For most firms, this is a very sound decision, as cloud providers are able to spend significantly more on security measures.  However, simply moving your document management system (DMS) to the cloud won’t solve your security issues.  

In most firms, DMS adoption is mediocre to downright nonexistent.  This year, Fireman & Company has interviewed almost 2,000 lawyers across a wide range of projects and one common theme crosses firms and practices: lawyers work very hard to avoid using the DMS. Most often, they’ll put files on their local C drive, or a network share, because they feel it’s simpler and easier to save and retrieve documents that way.  Left unaddressed, this is a ticking time bomb, even if you move to the cloud.  Malware wipers are designed to delete, or permanently encrypt, the data on any hard drive they touch.  This was the method used in the attacks on several law firms and what was part of the Sony breach.  Documents stored on C drives and network shares are susceptible to these malware wipers.  Fireman & Company has seen firms where over half the work product sits outside the DMS. 

The bottom line is this: poor adoption is a major security issue.

Unlike other security issues, technology isn’t the answer. This problem can be solved only by people and process. 

Start by being honest about your DMS adoption.  Adoption means that lawyers are using the DMS effectively, which implies much more than measuring basic system interactions. We have seen DM administrators willfully blind themselves to user avoidance behavior by falling back on meaningless usage stats. There is no need to be defensive about your levels of user adoption; after all, most of the legal industry is equally bad. Get a clearer view of user behavior by analyzing useful metrics. Look at how many files live on your file shares (Varonis is a good product for this).  You might be surprised how many people are circumventing the DMS.   

Next, listen to your lawyers. They will almost universally deliver one message: they need flexibility. Matters can be large or small; practice needs vary by the area of practice, geography and industry. Partners have their own, equally effective ways of managing matter files. In plain English, get the system out of the way and let the lawyers practice law. What would you prefer: Knowing that all of your matter content is in an organically structured, flexible DMS – or a perfect taxonomy that is misused and avoided? 

Planning for DMS adoption is about much more than how you structure matter workspaces. You need to understand why lawyers have been frustrated with document management. Here is one example. Many litigators save their first drafts of pleadings outside the DMS. They know they are not complying with the firm’s risk management policy, but it’s more important to them to avoid having raw drafts – which reflect on their work quality – floating around the DMS and search results. So, get creative. Make it easy to save first draft pleading in the DMS as private documents and make it simple to render later drafts public. Understand your users’ needs; they know how they need to work. Build empathetic processes. 

We are entering a significant DMS upgrade cycle. Do not risk continuing legacy approaches to DMS design; this will only exacerbate adoption challenges. For instance, think about how to leverage DMS-based artificial intelligence features to simplify, streamline and enhance work product quality and productivity.

There are other benefits to driving better DMS adoption. With better adoption compliance, you can more confidently, comprehensively, and systematically ensure ethical walls and security are enforced. When you’re asked to produce a complete record of a client file, you can be more confident you’re turning over all work product.  Better adoption also ensures your work product is actually under the umbrella of security your DMS provides.  Lastly, your partners will appreciate that you are trying to maximize the (not so trivial) investment in the DMS. 

With so many firms planning DMS upgrades in the next 12 to 18 months, this is the perfect time to revisit your DMS adoption.  If done right, you can be a hero in the eyes of your lawyers and staff, and put your firm in a better security posture in the process.

 

Embracing Change: Lessons from an Immigrant

6 Aug

By Milena Higgins, Founder and Innovation Coach, Audacious Legal

Reposted with the author’s permission. Ed.

I was a 12 year old in Poland when the communist regime was in full force. People could not openly speak their minds for fear of being caught not obeying the communist rule. My parents would often meet with their friends in private, carefully selecting participants to avoid communist sympathizers, to discuss their political views and concerns for the country. Meetings like that is how an underground social movement called Solidarity got its roots in my home town of Gdansk.

I still vividly remember passing by the striking shipyard workers behind a tall metal fence with their families and supporters just on the other side. A strike in a communist country was a rare sight indeed. I felt proud of my people for taking a stand, but also felt afraid for their safety. Years later, the Solidarity movement eventually led to the fall of communism, but at the time the country was going through much political upheaval. The future was uncertain.

The winter of 1981, my mother decided to make a bold move and flee the country with my younger sister, leaving me and my dad behind. Somehow, we would figure out how to join her later. But things were not easy during this transition. Between 12 and 14, I had to adjust to dramatic changes, ultimately living with my grandmother in a city away from my home, school, and friends. After a long, turbulent two years, including a separation from my dad when Poland declared a police state with martial law, I finally re-joined my family in the suburbs of Chicago to start a new life.

In order to get through those turbulent two years, I had to learn how to embrace change. Multiple times. That experience changed me forever and influenced who I am today. I view change as a positive force that propels us forward. And leads to better things. The pace of change in the legal market is accelerating, yet lawyers in general have a hard time adjusting to change. Here are five strategies I have honed that will help you embrace change and lead your organization into the future.

  1. Focus on the ultimate goal. For me the ultimate goal was a new life in a new country. I didn’t know which country we would end up in, but I knew that wherever it was it would be better than communist Poland. I always kept that as my guide post, no matter how hard things got. Whenever anyone starts a new project or initiative, there is always a goal, a positive outcome that we expect as a result of the change. The more you focus on that result, the easier the change becomes. If you keep thinking about the old way of doing something, that will only get you to gripes and complaints about the new way. If you keep reminding people that the reason you are doing X is so that your organization can be better at Y, which will ultimately lead to Z, people start feeling good about the changes they are being asked to make. Even if the changes are temporarily painful, the ultimate goal makes the pain worth it.
  2. Measure and report milestones along the way. My family’s journey was full of unexpected twists and turns, but each twist and each turn, brought us closer to the ultimate goal. If your change effort is a three-year process that involves multiple steps, be sure to stop along the way and look back at the progress you’ve made. I advocate measuring your progress before, during, and after a change. While you’re in the midst of a large change initiative, it may feel like all you’ve experienced is pain, but when you actually look at the metrics you might discover you are actually making progress. Don’t forget to celebrate those incremental wins. Shout them out to your team. Celebrate them! They will give you the fuel to keep going.
  3. Don’t forget the silver lining. It sucked for me to be stuck in war-state Poland with my parents in another country, but having some newly-found freedom and reduced constraints as a teenager was not such a bad thing. In any change situation, there are bound to be negative side effects. But usually nestled among them are some good things. It might take a bit of extra effort to see them at first, but when you stop to think about what is going on, you can usually find them. Seek them out and shine a light on them.
  4. Look for role models. We knew of other families who made similar journeys before us. You may have done another change project five years ago. And you may remember the pain and the reward. Remind yourself and your team about that success. Or you may have a colleague or a competitor who implemented a new initiative that turned out well for them. Look to those examples for inspiration and a reason to keep going.
  5. Keep a positive attitude. I am an optimist. I see the glass as half full. At the end of the day, it all boils down to your attitude. If you are leading the change effort and you are the one grumbling and complaining about it, be sure that your people will follow your lead. If you are positive they will be positive too. And that circles right back to point #1— focus on the ultimate goal. There is a reason you decided to make a change in the first place. That reason is positive. If it weren’t you wouldn’t have started going down this path. So brush those Negative Nellies and Debbie Downers aside and keep on marching forward.

Change is a good thing. Really. Use these strategies to guide your law firm, legal department, or legal team through change to new or improved legal services. Change may be temporarily painful but it ultimately leads to better things. And all of our clients want that!