Why Talent Retention is the New KPI for Legal Tech
By Derek Kan
Legal departments are finding themselves at the crossroads of the growth of legal tech and the battle for legal talent. The question is: how and where do tech implementation and talent retention interact?
Axiom and Above the Law recently hosted a webinar in which Zach Abramowitz, CEO of Killer Whale Strategies and investor in legal startups, suggested a rather unusual answer: implementing KPIs beyond efficiency and revenue can help legal departments take advantage of new technologies while simultaneously improving lawyer recruitment and retention efforts.
The webinar examined the role legal technology is playing in attorney retention and how it might be making that retention more challenging for companies, particularly in light of the Great Resignation, or as we at Axiom refer to it, the Great Reflection. In addition to looking at data regarding the attorney shortages, Zach explored the growth of legal technology in terms of funding and spending, ways in which it has fallen short of consumer expectations, and practical applications of trends that will bring more cutting-edge technology in-house while also improving employee morale.
Four Thousand Weeks and hustle culture
Zach opened the webinar with a discussion of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. The premise of the book is how as humans, and particularly as employees, we are constantly trying to maximize productivity, often to our personal detriment. Participating in what Zach calls “hustle” culture has almost become a badge of honor. But surges in workloads over the past few years have brought many lawyers to their breaking point. In fact, 70% of almost 2,000 surveyed lawyers experienced mental health issues during the pandemic, according to the Financial Times.
Four Thousand Weeks provides contextual background for what David Pierce, Chief Commercial Officer at Axiom, coined as the Great Reflection – many lawyers are making major life changes after a period of reflection during the pandemic, and these changes mirror recent employment data.
Technology’s impact on legal departments
In addition to personal reflection, the pandemic has also greatly accelerated technology adoption across all industries, and legal departments are no exception. Gartner expects legal technology department budgets will triple, or increase by 200%, by 2025, with legal operations becoming one of the most significant in-house initiatives.
Even though companies are trying to cut costs in many different ways, this has not been the case when it comes to the adoption and implementation of technology within legal departments. Companies are increasing the amount they spend on technology and obtaining a greater variety of technology solutions. But the jury’s still out on whether this new technology is going to have the impact departments want it to and whether everyone is aligned with this shift. “I don’t see a huge wave of embracing technology a lot of people expected a year ago, but I do think we will see some downstream effects for people jumping on board, when previously they may not have been as on board,” shared Zach in a previous webinar, “Back in Person: Breaking Down Legal Week 2022.”
Gartner found more than 50% of legal department transformation projects do not achieve expectations. If a company is lucky, they might experience anywhere from a 15-20% increase in productivity, some cost savings, and more efficiency after adopting new technologies within their legal departments, but these KPIs focus almost entirely on the benefits to the organization itself. In the age of the Great Resignation, it’s imperative companies focus on KPIs related to talent morale to improve recruitment and retention efforts.
The new ROI for legal technology: Does it make our company a better place to work?
Does anyone leave their company solely because they aren’t a fan of the technology the company is utilizing? Probably not. But if the technology is only working for the bottom line and not for the talent, it can be draining.
Zach gave the example of BlackBerry devices. After they were introduced to the market, law firms became more productive and efficient, but their talent didn’t necessarily become happier. Lawyers had much better work-life balance before BlackBerry devices were introduced.
At a time when more people have left their jobs than at any other time in history, it’s essential companies explore the effect technology is having on lawyer morale.
Reframe how your company approaches legal tech KPIs to improve legal talent recruitment, retention
Some ways you can reframe how your organization approaches and implements legal technology KPIs to enhance talent recruitment and retention efforts include:
Be aware of the risks of technology: While most legal technology your organization is considering implementing likely boasts a myriad of benefits that will benefit the organization, such as increased efficiency, not all new technology is going to make your lawyers happier. Some of it might even make their jobs more challenging and make them feel less fulfilled at work. Therefore, before implementing any new technology, it’s imperative to weigh values. For example, before purchasing a new tech product, ask for case studies that demonstrate how it will improve attorney morale, not just revenue and efficiency KPIs.
When interviewing lawyers, explain your organization focuses on tech that’s morale-boosting. Most applicants are more interested in hearing how the way you implement new technology will provide them with a positive work experience than they are in hearing how it improves revenue.
Ask about the impact of technology when lawyers depart: If and when lawyers leave your organization for another opportunity, survey them about how the technology your organization is utilizing impacted them. Chart and flag this information so you better understand which tools are doing what and how it’s impacting legal talent morale.
Consider working with outside flexible talent by creating a digital bench: If your organization has experienced some of the hardships associated with the Great Resignation and talent retention is an issue, consider working with an outside provider, like Axiom, to help boost legal department morale. Not only can Axiom help balance the burden placed on remaining department lawyers by allowing clients to build a digital bench of on-demand talent, but they also offer other services that can help more strategically attract and retain talent, better implement technology, and more. In many instances, clients can take advantage without increasing their department’s outside spend.
Technology is supposed to allow lawyers to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Implementing legal technology KPIs that track talent satisfaction will go a long way toward monitoring morale and improving retention.
View a recording of the webinar here, or contact us to learn how to become an Axiom client or lawyer.
Derek Kan is the vice president of Product at Axiom. His experience includes building, scaling, and managing global product, ux/ui, and data science teams. Prior to joining Axiom, Kan was the vice president of Product Management at Monster where he acted as the global head of product for Monster’s B2C product suite.
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