How to achieve buy-in at your law firm

In Business Support

Change is difficult – especially in a traditional sector like law, and progress means different things to different people. If you’re fizzing with ideas to take your law firm to new heights using a new product or service, how can you successfully make the business case?
 

Change is difficult – especially in a traditional sector like law, and progress means different things to different people. If you’re fizzing with ideas to take your law firm to new heights using a new product or service, how can you successfully make the business case?

 

Introducing the problem-solution conversation


Transformative ideas always ruffle feathers. It’s been that way since long before the days of Galileo and the Copernican theory.

Fresh ideas challenge the familiar cry of ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ with ‘but why are we doing it that way?’.

This is especially hard in the legal sector, which for very good reason, remains fairly traditional in its operational approach. We all remember the initial culture-shock of lockdown and the rise of remote working.
So, if you’ve identified a new way to operating, it’s not enough to pitch your new idea; you need to gain genuine buy-in.

That success demands leadership.

You know yourself, it’s not easy to bring people around to a particular point of view. Explore the tactics that will help you drive your ideas forward with senior stakeholders.

 

Tactics for gaining buy-in

1. Plan, plan, plan, engage

All legal professionals know the benefits of proper preparation – treat any ‘pitch meeting’ in the same way. Long before you even raise the prospect of introducing a new product or service into the business, lay the foundations, do the research, find data and case studies that back up your point again and again and again.

Know the subject inside and out. It reflects well on you, showcasing your passion for a project not easily dismissed as ‘just an idea’. It also means, once those inevitable awkward questions start rolling in, you can easily assuage your boss’s concerns.
 
 

2. Solicit feedback first

As part of your initial-stage planning, where you’re gathering intelligence, obtain broad feedback from partners and other staff. Make sure to talk to those with differing opinions, ideas, and answers.

You don’t want to create the business case equivalent of an echo chamber, and it’ll help you identify what really needs to change. Partners may raise issues you hadn’t considered before, or otherwise inform the direction of your proposed resolution.

Colleagues may offer even more reasons your proposal needs to happen, with approaches or criticisms that will help make your case airtight.
 

3. Share your thought process

Narrative is a powerful tool. As humans, we’re hardwired to respond to stories, so rather than starting with your proposed solutions, take stakeholders on the same journey you’ve been on.

At the start of your buy-in meeting, explain how you got here in the first place. Tell them what triggered your desire for change, stir those emotions, induce empathy if not outright agreement with your proposal.

You’re laying the groundwork here, showing your understanding of the current business process and where it needs to grow. Use visual storytelling techniques to help create a clear image in the minds of partners.
 

4. Set out the problem

The destination of your journey should end with that brick wall. That dead-end. That one problem that’s causing havoc across your law firm.

Put that problem in the spotlight.

Then tear it to shreds.

Use strong, authoritative data to show senior partners the true cost of not solving the problem. For example, if you want to launch a new responsive, mobile-friendly website, you’d point to studies showing some law firms seeing as much as 70% traffic from users on mobiles and tablets.

The framing of your business case should focus on weaving an emotional connection (e.g. ‘it’ll make it easier to perform tasks’) with unemotional rational (e.g. ‘it’ll cost the business thousands of pounds if we don’t act’) to motivate action.

Be careful not to 'catastrophise' and make the problem seem bigger than it is to scare partners into buying in. Doom-and-gloom prophecies risk being dismissed as over-dramatic.
 
Adopt a big picture mindset. As you lay out the problems, focus on how it helps staff, but also the full benefits to the firm. Those at the top want to know two things: Those at the top want to know two things:
  • How much is the problem costing us?
  • What is the ROI of your solution?
 

 

5. Present your vision


Before you present your solutions, show what success looks like.

If the problem were solved, what would that mean for partners, and the firm as a whole? Again, you need to back this up with hard data.

Let’s say you’re looking to introduce The Law Superstore to find more clients online. Well, we know that, according to IRN Research’s UK Legal Services Consumer Research Report 2021, that at least 10% of those looking for a legal expert use review and comparison sites, and we also know that SRA and LSB are keen to encourage firms to start joining these sites. So, effectively, it’s about getting ahead of your competition and picking up new clients while others are still playing catch-up. In this example, that’s the sunlit uplands.

Let your optimism and enthusiasm shine through. Consider how results can be measured (because someone is bound to ask).
 

6. Showcase your solutions

Finally, it’s time to unveil your proposed solutions.

Keep your message simple. ‘We have problem X, so we need solution Y, which does Z.’ Don’t get too bogged down in the minutiae and the second-guessing and every dotted I and crossed T. You’ll have these details to hand thanks to your investigatory period, but by going into these too quickly, conversations can swiftly be derailed.

Offer different options. Present the pros and cons of each, and highlight the significant benefits. You shouldn’t be too attached to one product or service, as it risks clouding judgement.

And be utterly honest about the risks and rewards of each solution. It’ll make reaching the right decision easier.
Be careful here. Research shows that, after implementation and training, new systems that don’t fit the bill can be just as expensive as continuing with outdated technology.
 

7. Start a discussion

Successful buy-ins rely on creating a dialogue – at first, this may involve the board or management, but you should aim to involve everyone affected by the change at the earliest stage possible.  

You’ve likely seen it within your own practice – particularly if you have a wide range of junior and senior partners. Younger staff promoting digital tools and opportunities, older partners prefer to rely on the strength of their experience and service to generate word-of-mouth recommendations.

Both sides are right.

Both sides should be heard.

You’ll have already picked up a lot of feedback while exploring possible options (and identifying frustrations). Take that a step further when revealing your proposed solutions. Rather than making it a presentation, structure the meeting as a conversation. Ask open-ended questions. Listen.

All the things, then, that play to your existing skills.
 

8. Identify next steps

Finally, after highlighting your thoughts, everyone should leave the room with clear next steps.

This may be additional research, or further information on pricing. You should also aim to arrange a demo or get a free trial to start understanding the ins and outs of any new system, tool, or service.  

If you’ve faced strident opposition in your bid to gain buy-in, aim to bring stakeholders in on any demos and trials you have, so they can see exactly how your solution will fit within your current processes (and fix all those niggling problems you can’t unsee).

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