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What to do if my boss says no to my legal automation project

Posted by Gene Turner on 13-Feb-2024 18:32:01

Woman with her hand extended signaling to stop (only her hand is in focus)


It's not uncommon for someone to show some initial interest in a legal automation project, get excited seeing how it could make a real difference in their work and that of their team, and then be told that it is not possible.

What can you do in that situation?

The person saying "No" could be a boss or someone from another department, such as Procurement or IT.

One thing that we have learned from salespeople we work with is that you have to expect to be told "No" a lot and that, on average, it may take seven attempts to get to a "yes". It's a valuable lesson in sales, but in life generally. It's important not to give up – you're a step closer to "Yes", so treat it as "Not now". If you believe in what you are doing and how it will help your team and organisation, it’s a lot easier to persevere.

The key thing will be to try and understand why they said "Not now", and having understood their underlying issues and concerns, work out how you can address them.

You can work with suppliers to gather more information and different ways to do things. If you are transparent with suppliers about the issue, suppliers can either help using their experience of similar issues with other customers or if the gaps can't be closed immediately (for example a licensing structure or integration requirement), they can work away themselves on possible remedies to bring back to you.

If the issue is with IT, Procurement or another function, try and understand their priorities. You may be able to help them achieve their goals at the same time as yours. IT Teams are often looking at low-code/no-code software solutions for the organisation more generally, so if you can provide them with good use cases that can embed legal and compliance best practices across key business processes while also creating material efficiencies, they may be much more open as this will help their project too. If they are insisting that you have to use an existing tool they favour, it will help to show why that option is not viable technologically and economically (for example, if you need to create more complex contract documents than the other technology can enable, you can show you need a different option, and there is a substantial cost to doing nothing).

Another key aspect is confidence. Many people are more worried about failure than excited by success, and lawyers in particular are trained to think about what could go wrong. It will help your case a lot if you can show you have done the research to understand the current situation and its real costs; how this new project can be delivered and for what cost; and how that will generate a strong return on investment.  You can see more on that here.  Looking back on some of the early projects I initiated that my bosses approved, I think a big factor would have been how motivated and committed I was to making it work.

One of my favourite customer stories is when our key contact in a prospective customer was knocked back on his proposed project by his bosses (the business owners). They thought it was expensive relative to other technology (e.g. Microsoft Office) that they used. However, he gathered his thoughts and went straight back to them and pointed out how little it was relative to the value of the contracts and the fees they were paying lawyers. He also said he was so confident that the project would succeed he would be willing to pay for it himself, as long as he could keep the upsides. His bosses looked at it again and approved it. The project was actually much more successful than forecast, winning a prestigious World Commerce & Contracting Award, in large part because of the customer’s determination to make it successful.

January and February are the best times to look at new projects

Sometimes, someone says "Not now" because they are simply too busy to consider anything new. For this reason, I often go back over these opportunities in January and February because I've found that late January/early February are good times to re-commence discussions with someone after they have had a good break, are feeling refreshed and optimistic about what they want to achieve for the coming year, and are not yet too busy.

If you've previously been knocked back on a request, maybe now would be a good time to take a fresh go at it armed with some new information (see these resources, for example) and enthusiasm.          

For more insights on how to implement a successful legal automation project, ensuring success and avoiding the key mistakes most lawyers make, see our Lawyers Guide to Implementing Successful Legal automation.  

If you'd like to talk about your current situation and what options may be available, please get in touch. Alongside our trusted partners, we help people at all ends of the spectrum from getting the most out of the M365 tools you're already paying for, through to some of the most advanced solutions available. 

Topics: Legal Technology, In-House Legal, Document Assembly, Law Firm Management, Compliance, Legal Automation, Matter Management, Legal Operations, Contract Management, Law Firm Profitability

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