Improving DevOps May Take Pain Out of Law Firm Tech Development
Law firms are beginning to bring software developers into the fold, and as law firms’ IT departments make room, tech consultants say a clear understanding of priorities and expectations are paramount for efficient workflows.
More law firms are developing legal technology to assist their clients or streamline lawyers’ or staffers’ workload. In turn, DevOps can be key in alleviating inefficiencies or burnout during legal tech development.
DevOps, short for development and operations, is a set of practices used to quicken and automate processes to get a product out as quickly and easily as possible.
In 2018, Kelley Drye & Warren chief information officer Judith Flournoy described DevOps for law firms as designing and implementing “repeatable processes with minimal disruption that can be easily understood and reused over and over again, regardless of whether it’s a Windows 10 deployment or another system.”
In most industries, DevOps includes improving communication and collaboration between the IT department and other teams, and law firms are no different. Below are some tips for legal tech DevOps, from earning buy-in to making sure communication leads to advocates in different departments—a needed ally when matters go awry.
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1. Gaining Buy-In
“If you have an older law firm and are transitioning that technology, change is a big issue and you have to have a lot of people to buy-in,” explained Andres Hernandez, co-founder and CEO of law firm tech consultancy Wingman LegalTech. He added, “The last thing you want is implementing new technologies and the partners don’t buy into it, and the IT department turns into the bad guys.”
Before IT is seen as the villain, Hernandez suggested law firms hire leadership that has tech and communication skills and understands how the technology will impact the firm’s overall business.
“Technology is ingrained with everything we do and they need to understand how it supports the business,” he said.
2. Communication Creates Advocates
Beau Mersereau, Fish & Richardson’s director of legal technology solutions, said the key for law firms creating legal technology is communication between software developers and practice groups to keep everyone aware of a project’s development. Such communication creates needed advocates when issues arise and lawyers and staffers want answers.
“You are building affinity with those groups and you are trying to build partnerships, so when something goes wrong, they’re there to help you. In my experience, if there’s an issue, they will help you explain it to other people.” He added, ”While we are working on the issue, they become your advocates.”
3. Address Burnout Beforehand
Jeff Gallimore, partner and co-founder of Agile technology firm Excella, lauds DevOps for not only the efficiency it provides, but also for its ability to prevent burnout, a mental health issue that grips the legal industry.
“Leaders must care about their teams and the people in their organizations. Put a little more bluntly, bosses need to give a damn. They should care about whether burnout is affecting their people,” Gallimore wrote in an email.
“Once we know about it, then we can work on making it better. And in the process of making it better for our people, we will also get better results for our companies, especially in productivity.”
4. Leveraging Partnerships
Hernandez also recommended law firms bring on third-parties when developing software.
“If you are not a technology company, [and] you are a law firm, your business is providing legal services, always keep that in mind.” He added, “If you are expanding your department, make sure you are bringing the right leadership and leveraging the right partners, [because] bringing them in-house would be very expensive.”
But for the law firms that do hire in-house developers, Hernandez said it’s important to have realistic expectations about the cost and time needed to create software. “Make sure you don’t cut any costs, because good developers and good support consultants cost money and does make a difference in the quality of work.”
5. Acknowledging Tech’s Disruption
For legal tech development to have a captivated audience in law firms, all lawyers and staffers have to understand tech’s current and future impact on their work.
“Law firms should also recognize that technology has been disrupting almost every industry, and legal is not an exception,” Gallimore said. “Adopting this perspective will help legal IT departments take effective steps to keep themselves updated with modern tools that help them quickly meet their client demands.”