Technology Enablement: Herbert Smith Freehills

Matt Goff, Legal Technology Lead, and Rachel Barnes, Innovation Lead, from Herbert Smith Freehills’ UK, US and EMEA Innovation Team explore how firms can retrospectively embed technology and drive user adoption with their tech rollout and project planning hacks.

User adoption is a defining factor to the success of any technology enabled change project, and whilst embedding and adoption should be viewed strategically and designed into the implementation process for new technology, what about technology that has already been purchased? How do you retrospectively embed and drive adoption for technology that is already implemented? What do you consider the responsibility of the firm and what expectations do you have on vendors and the level of support they provide?

In our view, the retrospective implementation of technology should follow the same steps as the implementation of new technology with the addition of a diagnostic period, including interviews and data analysis.

The aim of the diagnostic is to understand:

  • Who is using the tech, what for and with what regularity.
  • Why the tech is not being adopted. Why was it originally purchased, and do the conditions (problem/opportunity) still exist?
  • What worked in the roll out and what didn’t.

A diagnostic can then be used to refresh the roll out approach. This could include revising the change management approach, communication plan, support model and product branding. In our experience, a negative perception of the product may bear no reference to what it can actually do, but a result of how it was rolled out and embedded (or not!) and the lack of understanding and engagement, which can come with an unsuccessful roll out.

Steps to follow for a tech rollout

Identifying Business sponsors, early adopters and resource

At Herbert Smith Freehills, we always identify a business sponsor for any of our innovation projects. This is the person who will champion the solution at all levels and from whom the communication will generally come. The business sponsor needs to be a leader who has responsibility and accountability for the project’s success. To create a compelling proposition it’s important that they fully understand how the product works and will be used by our people both as a stand-alone product and in conjunction with other tools. As well as highlighting its benefits, it is crucial to create an awareness about what the tool can and can’t do.

In addition, a network of early adopters should be identified, particularly for tech roll outs, who will engage with the tech, provide feedback and start small fires of change (be it adoption or interest). In this experimental phase, leverage the users to check assumptions about the perceived benefits and how the tool actually works within the legal workflow and with the anticipated practice groups. One size does not fit all!

Lawyers need to dedicate the time to continually look for new opportunities to increase practice group productivity using process design and technology, identifying where value can be added and time saved. The benefit of having a dedicated embedded Legal Operations team as a point of contact is that busy people have a go-to team who have the network, know-how and can provide solutions in context. Taking a consulting approach allows for user centred design to be at the fore, whilst concurrently coming to an understanding about how this new tech fits into and is complementary to the current tech stack. This approach removes the need for users to refer to documents or communications, which may have been forgotten about or are too abstract.

Having a team of flexible lawyers to support with training the tools (in the case of AI solutions), to provide input or test new technology solutions on live matters is also important. This helps minimise the impact on billable time and workload.

Develop a roll out communication plan

A clear and detailed communication plan for the engagement and roll out is critical. This involves clear messaging on the tech itself – what the tech does (and doesn’t do), as well as the benefits. Provide messaging in as many channels as possible, reflecting the diversity of your audience: a document, podcast, video, etc. These channels should explain the solution in plain English and outline the risks and how these have been addressed. Ensure that people understand the hooks: why they should use it and what’s in it for them! The communication should also involve stories from the early adopters and business sponsor, with case studies reiterating the benefits. Ideally, practical examples of client feedback and efficiency savings would be included in the stories. Additionally, create opportunities to address scepticism and challenges openly. For re-roll outs, it is essential also to be clear about what is different about the tech/ usage/ benefits now versus when it was first implemented. Why should they engage this time?

Engage with the Supplier

Each supplier will be different, especially around how much resource they have to support you. Where possible, it is useful to get help with creating user videos and getting them to help with running engagement workshops to introduce staff to the benefits and the potential of the tool. Quite often, we implement a new tool for a specific use case, but there are other benefits to be gained. It is baby steps, of course, but running workshops demonstrating the broader use of the tool can inspire people to test it out in other scenarios. To be very clear, though, it’s not the responsibility of the supplier to roll out the tool. If they can support you, that’s a bonus! Also, continual communication with the supplier will provide us with new ideas of how to use the tech, as well as provide them with feedback as to how they may need to adapt their product development plan.

Include the client (where possible)

Often our clients ask us about the tech we are using and the benefits in terms of legal service delivery. It would be advisable that for each new initiative which will impact a client, a new technology product brief is created and shared with the legal team supporting them so that they are able to address any concerns (i.e. Privacy), provide details and answer queries.

Focus on the benefits when rebranding

Rebranding can be helpful for a re-roll out, or indeed a new piece of tech. To us, it’s not about the name of the tech or about whether it uses Artificial Intelligence, but about the benefit. In naming a new tech solution, we highlight the benefits that it will provide, rather than launching something through the project or the tech’s brand name.


Rachel Barnes

Rachel is the Innovation Lead for Herbert Smith Freehills, UK, US and EMEA. She is responsible for driving the innovation agenda for the firm, focussing on clients, products & services, data and tech. Rachel’s passion is for culture change, creating a creative mind-set and environment, in which ideas can blossom. Rachel has spent time exploring the broader innovation and start-up space, spending time consulting for Janders Dean, Innovation Beehive, a variety of start-ups and also managing an HR Tech focussed start-up incubator. Prior to that, she had a varied and fruitful 11 years at BNP Paribas running consecutively, the Innovation, Transformation, Client Relationship Management teams in Global Markets.



Matt Goff

Matthew Goff is the Legal Technology Lead in the Innovation Team (UK, US and EMEA) at Herbert Smith Freehills. Matt is responsible for scanning the market for new legal technology solutions and using legal technology to create solutions internally and for clients. Matt’s passion is for consulting with fee earners and clients to provide innovative solutions and supporting the firm to look beyond the traditional legal service proposition. Matt has worked for LexisNexis, Norton Rose, Barclays, Taylor Wessing and Macfarlanes in legal technology innovation and senior KM roles.

Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills
Herbert Smith Freehills is one of the world’s leading professional services businesses, bringing together the best people across our 27 offices, to meet all your legal services needs globally. We can help you realise opportunities while managing risk.