Culture Clash: Resistance to Change is Hurting Your Law Firm

I recently read the 2016 Altman Weil “Law Firms in Transition Survey” and was dumbfounded by two statistics the report shared:

  1. Although 94 percent of law firm leaders identified the need to improve the efficiency of legal service delivery as a permanent trend, only 43 percent of firms have significantly changed their approach to achieve greater efficiencies.
  2. When asked why their firms aren’t doing more to change the way they deliver legal services, the top response from 64 percent of firm leaders is that their partners resist most change efforts — up 20 points from last year.

Wait a minute!? The people who have the most to gain from changing their ways and improving the firm’s overall efficiency and output are the ones who are most resistant to change?!

I’m flabbergasted.

OK, I’m not. I’ve known for.ev.errrrr. that this is the case. My company is essentially a change-agent for law firms and when we get on the inside, we usually discover a small cadre of people who are eager to learn how they can do things better, faster, stronger. The rest of the firm (usually the partners and other long-termers, including word processors and paralegals who have been in the industry for decades) just want to continue doing things the way they’ve always done them.

This type of attitude is understandable and cannot be changed through attacks (“You better change, or else!”) but rather through incentives.

Honestly, it reminds me of parenting. If you have a kid who is doing things that hinder his development, as a parent you are responsible for teaching that child new ways of doing things and for rewarding proper behavior.

If you’re in a law firm and you want to improve efficiencies, what you need to do is create a culture that rewards learning new stuff!

But before we get into the “how to’s” let me share a few “how NOT to’s.” Here are a few ways that you can absolutely kill the spirit of learning in your firm:

  • If you are training everyone the same way on the same things no matter their level of ability, you are killing the spirit of learning.
  • If you are not rewarding people for learning new things, you are killing the spirit of learning.
  • If you are not giving people time to learn new things, you are killing the spirit of learning.
  • If you are using outdated technologies or processes yourself, you are killing the spirit of learning.
  • If people are afraid of asking for help in your firm, you are killing the spirit of learning.

I could go on and on…

Now, there are many ways to change your firm’s culture and to incentivize learning, but here is one way that I mapped out recently for a client. This provides a step-by-step guide to changing your culture and for improving efficiencies:

  1. Get a “higher-up” on your side: In order for this to work, you need management on your side. (Hopefully YOU, my dear reader, are the management and can just take the reins and run with it. If not, use the following steps to help your “higher up” understand how you will effect change in the firm.)
  2. Form a technology and training committee: This committee should include representatives from across the firm to help design and launch a new training initiative. Your goal is efficiency. Your strategy is training.
  3. Administer individualized assessments: The key to removing training apathy is to tailor instruction to each person’s skill level. To do this, you need to assess people individually first.
  4. Increase attorney/partner participation: The committee and assessments should be used to encourage attorney/partner participation, helping them to understand the impact that improved technology efficiency would have on their workflow and output.
  5. Create customized training: Create customized content for more tailored trainings. (The SavvyAcademy LMS would be a huge asset in this endeavor.)
  6. Award certifications: People who achieve various levels of technology proficiency should receive certifications for their accomplishments. (These certifications could ultimately be used by the marketing department to tout the firm’s technological advantages.)
  7. Incentivize learning: Tying learning to valuable prizes could generate excitement and a culture that gets a “buzz” off learning!

I’m FULL of ideas on ways that firms can improve their efficiency and output through learning. Please contact me today to discuss your firm’s culture! 303-800-5408 or


Savvy Training & Consulting works with leading companies and technologies to deliver the most up-to-date training solutions and curricula to law firms. Savvy recently unveiled an award-winning Learning Management System (LMS) for law firms, SavvyAcademyTM, which delivers scalable training capabilities, reportable data down to the individual user and 24/7 support, all for a fraction of the cost of traditional LMS services.


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