Innovations Fresh Thoughts For Managing

User Adoption: Feeling the Love for Your New Tech

If a law firm buys best-in-class new technology and no one at the firm uses it, then it’s money down the drain.
Jody Cosgrove

Sure, when you phrase it like that, it’s a no-brainer. But we rarely look so bluntly at user adoption. That’s why I’m glad to see a discussion — in The American Lawyer and in the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA)’s 2018 Technology Survey — about user adoption. I agree that choosing software to solve real pain points is key to improving adoption of that technology.

I just don’t know that it’s the complete answer. We tend to assume that the hard part about technology upgrades is done once we’ve decided which software to purchase and implement, but that might be when the true challenge begins.


Serious question: What does it take to get people to use technology?

1. They should know about it. This should be obvious, but it’s sometimes overlooked. After all, if no one knows you have a product that helps proofread documents, no one is going to use it.

2. They need to think about it at the right time. (Like how you only think about buying batteries when you try to use the dead TV remote, not when you’re in the store walking past a battery display.)

3. There needs to be a value in using the technology — and “because my boss said so” isn’t always good enough in the moment. Some law firms have gamified adoption of new technology, playing off people’s natural competitiveness to raise awareness and encourage use. According to the ILTA survey, this approach is more common with large firms: While only 7 percent of firms overall used gamification to improve user adoption, the number rose to 15 percent for those firms with 350-699 attorneys and to 35 percent for firms with more than 700 attorneys.

4. They must know how to use the technology and should be comfortable with it. That also means that the new tool shouldn’t throw off the rest of their workflow. Some tools are just hard to master — people end up feeling like they must continually start from scratch, relearning the system each time they use it. If a system is slow to start or frequently requires a call to IT, it’s going to interrupt rather than streamline their work. Simply put, people are not going to use technology that slows them down.


Let’s take a moment here to dispel one logical problem: the sunk-cost fallacy. If you’ve already invested in a system — particularly a pricey one — you may be tempted to double down on it and try to force user adoption. You know it’s great, right? All the reviews said so. Plus, look how expensive it was!

We tend to assume that the hard part about technology upgrades is done once we’ve decided which software to purchase and implement, but that might be when the true challenge begins.

But if your people don’t use your technology, I hate to tell you, it’s not great for you. It might not solve any of your pain points, or it might be inconvenient to use, or it might not fit within your existing workflows. Unless the benefits of technology substantially outweigh any costs of using it, adoption will be sluggish at best. Don’t try to rearrange your whole process to incorporate a tool that’s not a good fit.


If you’re buying new tech, don’t expect that your work will be done when you sign on the dotted line. Don’t even expect to be finished when the install is complete. Think ahead about how the business will use the new system in day-to-day work.

Consider finding systems that are integrated with programs or workflows you already use. Ideally, you want to find a tool that’s available exactly when and where you need it that can be implemented seamlessly. It should also provide a significant benefit, not just to the firm overall, but directly to the user. Tools that clearly save time and catch user errors increase the likelihood that people will use them again.

No matter how exciting a tool’s demo is, make sure it is easy to use when you don’t have a salesperson or tech support assistant sitting beside you. Provide training and resources so that your team knows about the tech and knows how to use it without hand-holding. Having a process for implementation and project planning will ensure that the team engages with new solutions.

Don’t waste money on technology that no one is going to use. Choose wisely and roll out your implementation carefully — then watch your user adoption rates soar.