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Daniel Grant Smith (Guest author)Sep-16 20215 min read

What are the barriers to the use of legaltech tools and how can law firms avoid them?

In this chapter from our Transaction Management eBook, Daniel Grant Smith, Head of Engagement at Legatics looks at some of the key points from their recent research and whitepapers on the barriers to legaltech adoption.


User adoption and barriers to the use of legaltech is a fundamental focus at Legatics. We recently worked with Innovate UK to conduct a two year project on the adoption of technology in the legal industry. 

In this chapter I’ll discuss the work we conducted, explore the barriers to adoption we identified and make some recommendations to promote increased usage. 

Innovate UK research​

Despite high expectations of technology increasing productivity in the legal sector, the reality is that this has been limited. Our project focused on solving this problem by addressing the behaviour challenges associated with technology adoption combined with adopting a ‘microservices’ based approach to AI technology implementation. In regards to behaviour change, we gathered data by working with 200 lawyers at leading UK firms (including DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills, Pinsent Masons, Eversheds, Osborne Clark and Reed Smith) through workshops, surveys and interviews. 


The barriers

Understanding and conviction

  • Valuable but not prioritised
    While participants recognised the importance of innovation for future success, they do not actively seek to work more innovatively day-to-day. There is a general feeling that time spent learning new working methods is a lesser priority than chargeable work. One partner commented: “Lawyers are paid for time, not ideas”. 
  • Limited but growing experience
    The forced acceptance of tools like Teams, Zoom and DocuSign due to the global pandemic has increased willingness to engage with other forms of legal technology. However, wider experience with legaltech is still limited and best practice has not yet been established, which leads to low confidence and stifles usage.
  • Lack of trust
    There is a general feeling that tools do not deliver on their proposed benefits, which were often caveated. Often this can be attributed to lack of knowledge, unsuitable use cases or user.


Developing talent and skills

  • Lack of time
    Lawyers have very little time and their available time is expected to be billable. While aware that it takes time to learn new skills, time pressure and lack of availability and familiarity means lawyers revert to traditional methods.
  • Lack of knowledge
    There was general confusion around availability, access, best practice, support and relevancy of tools. Resources and collateral are limited and, where resources do exist, these are difficult to locate.
  • Ineffective training
    It is widely recognised that long form training is hard to attend, and often missed. Respondents therefore called for a change in the way training is offered, considering points around: (i) higher volume, (ii) more digestible, (iii) mandated, and (iv) more practical.

Aligned systems and structures

  • Limited incentives
    Participants described insufficient additional or external motivation to use legaltech (e.g. targeted innovation hours). This, combined with lack of time, knowledge etc. means that the push to adopt technology has not been strong enough.
  • Disengaged third parties
    There can be difficulties getting external parties to engage with tools. A number of partners interviewed cited concerns around security or unfamiliarity. We discussed several examples of third parties preventing the use of new legaltech (e.g. e-signing).
  • Perceived poor product
    Participants highlighted a number of general issues with products, including (i) irrelevant use cases, (ii) unreliable technology and (iv) unintuitive UI. When investigated, often the issues resulted from unclear communication or training or user error, rather than deficiencies within the product.

Role modelling

  • The project highlighted limited partner role models for the active use of legaltech. Senior stakeholders were praised for their “talk” about legaltech rather than their role-modelling of its practical use.

How to circumvent barriers to adoption

  1. Create a communication agenda: Stress the need to prioritise legaltech in day-to-day work. Include clear, targeted, benefit-led communication campaigns about new products; best practice guidance; and war stories & case studies. Encourage conversation between advocates and detractors. Ask vendors for help where appropriate.
  2. Develop knowledge: Create and clearly communicate a centralised location that contains all the information regarding benefits, availability, best practice, support, accessibility and success stories of legaltech.
  3. Upskill and incentivise appropriately: Offer flexible, practical training in new legaltech, both by relying on vendors but also by developing internal training capability. Firms should also consider providing external incentives for lawyers, e.g. innovation hours (that are included in bonus targets), specific sections of the appraisal dedicated to innovation, innovation awards etc.
  4. Engage senior stakeholders: Encourage senior stakeholders to be champions and role-models, both conceptually and by modelling and mandating practical usage of tools. 
  5. Solution-led procurement: Involve users in procurement and focus on genuine pain points. Tools should be procured to focus on problems that lawyers actually face, not bought in isolation. 
  6. Engage third parties: Proactively reach out to clients and opposing counsel with a message highlighting holistic benefits (e.g. improvement to client service and better value proposition, not just percentage efficiency gains) and have good resources prepared to support client use of the product.


The future

The legal sector is showing promise for technology adoption. While there are a number of stumbling blocks, the steps outlined above can be tackled to accelerate the progress the sector has already achieved. 

Going forward, legaltech providers should look to develop their solutions using this knowledge. In the Legatics Innovate UK project, for example, we observed that adoption of AI technologies was hampered by significant organisational costs and barriers. We addressed this by providing highly specific and pre-trained models (“AI microservices”) to be built into lawyers’ existing workflows within the Legatics platform. This increased the number of tasks AI technologies could be cost-efficiently applied to. Circumventing identified barriers by specific product development is a powerful way to increase usage. 


This is a chapter from our eBook Transaction Management: Is technology taking over the deal?   You can read more insights from legal industry voices on the role technology is playing in the transaction management lifecycle in the book. Download the eBook today. 


Daniel Grant Smith (Guest author)

Daniel Grant Smith is Head of Engagement at Legatics. He trained and qualified as an associate at Hogan Lovells for 5 years, working in the Private Equity/M&A team on transactions of all sizes, from billion-dollar acquisitions to Seed financings. ​ Prior to joining Legatics, he completed an MBA at Cambridge University Judge Business School, with his final research paper focusing on barriers to the practical adoption of LegalTech solutions in law firms, and is passionate about law firm innovation and change.