KM and Change-Resistant Lawyers

Scientists have been warning doctors and patients alike about the dangers of over-using antibiotics. One of the biggest problems they see is that improper use of antibiotics has led to the development of drug-resistant bugs. Because these super bugs are becoming increasingly difficult to treat, they bedevil modern medicine.

Similarly, we find that there is a phenomenon that bedevils many law firm knowledge management personnel: change-resistant lawyers. These are the lawyers who really aren’t interested in learning about new ways of doing their work. They are comfortable in their routines and don’t want to budge. Even if you wax rhapsodic about the multiple benefits of the new thing you are proposing, they are likely to tell you why they would rather stick with the old thing they’ve been complaining about.

What makes lawyers so change resistant? Nothing as simple as too many antibiotics. Rather, I suspect it is a combination of some of the following factors:

  • *Change is scary. As a result, many people tend to avoid it like the plague.
  • *Change can impose more work on an already over-burdened lawyer. Time-strapped lawyers are rarely willing to spend time they don’t think they have to learn a new system.
  • *The 9x Factor is an enormous barrier to change since you have to prove that your innovation is likely to be nine times better than what already exists.
  • *Change management is an art that not all knowledge managers have mastered. While we usually can plan change management steps leading up to and directly after launch, we don’t always succeed at creating a new environment that supports the desired change.
  • So how can you help lawyers embrace change? First, start with their clients. If the change is demanded by the client, that will improve the odds of lawyer adoption. If that isn’t an option, consider obtaining a mandate from senior firm management. However, be aware that lawyers are notoriously independent and may subvert your new program in a passive-aggressive way by barely complying. Yet another approach is to adopt guerilla tactics: work with small groups of lawyers who either have experienced so much pain with the current system that they are willing to try something different, or have glimpsed a vision of a better future that compels them to move out of their rut. Finally, don’t discount the value of incremental change. Sometimes that’s the only change scared, busy people can achieve.

    What ways have you found to help change-resistant people?

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