8 Steps To Change Management Success For In-House Legal Teams

The legal sector is arguably undergoing its biggest period of change of the last century. Cost pressures, new technology and shifting expectations of lawyers are bringing new challenges and opportunities to the sector.


In-house lawyers face their own unique difficulties. The evolving nature of business means professionals are increasingly expected to offer strategic advice in addition to legal checks and balances.


Moreover, organisations are keen to reduce expenditure on external legal services. In-house departments are therefore outsourcing less of their work, but aren’t always given the extra budgets needed to shoulder the burden.


A recent Thomson Reuters survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of in-house professionals said they had experienced an increase in the number of legal matters they had handled in the last six months.



Embarking on a change management project

The legal sector is notoriously slow to innovate. Yet, the demands placed on in-house lawyers means change is inevitable, and the most proactive businesses can get ahead of the competition.


LawGeex, a legal technology services provider, has published an eight-step approach to change management projects based on the leadership theories of Harvard Business School professor John Kotter.


If you are looking to revitalise your in-house legal function, this guidance should help you get the ball rolling.

1. Create urgency

Kotter’s research revealed that three-quarters of an organisation’s management structure must buy into a change management strategy.


Advocates of in-house legal transformation must therefore work hard to build an open and transparent dialogue with senior executives in order to emphasise the urgency of change.


Planners must understand the company’s pain points, develop a business strategy and then implement an appropriate solution based on requirements.

2. Build a volunteer army

Organisations need more than just management buy-in. The in-house legal department and other business teams must be fully engaged in the process to ensure success.


Bringing together internal stakeholders to form a coalition can provide a strong basis for effective change management, but companies must be able to identify key influencers and ask for their commitment.

3. Create a clear vision

Change management initiatives are huge undertakings that can take a considerable amount of time to implement and begin to show results.


Keeping management and employees energised to see the project through requires a sophisticated strategy underpinned by a clear vision. According to LawGeex, staff should be able to describe the vision in two sentences or less.


Establishing this vision requires businesses to identify the values that are central to change and codify a summary outlining the future of the in-house legal department.

4. Communicate the vision

A vision for change must be effectively communicated to employees. Frequent, powerful reminders of why, when and how changes are occurring will alleviate confusion and reduce the anxiety that can accompany large-scale upheavals.


Communications must be embedded throughout all relevant processes, including training and performance reviews. Reinforce how the changes will make day-to-day tasks easier for in-house lawyers and clients.

5. Overcome or remove obstacles

Change is often challenging, particularly in industries that have historically been slow to adapt, such as law.


Businesses should provide incentives for embracing change, including promotions, bonuses and recognition across the organisation. Hiring change leaders can also help to encourage innovation and upset the status quo.

6. Deploy short-term goals

Comprehensive change can take years, so it’s crucial to keep people motivated using short-term goals. These early wins should justify the scope of the project and be realistic – a missed milestone could damage morale.


Remember to reward those who helped meet short-term goals and celebrate successes with the wider organisation. This should encourage other colleagues to participate on future projects.

7. Monitor successes and build on change

Every success or failure during the change journey should be carefully analysed to see what went right or wrong. Set new goals to maintain momentum and train employees based on the lessons learned from previous achievements.


Change is an ongoing process, and businesses may need to bring in fresh talent to continue driving innovation forward.

8. Anchor the changes

Even if a change management project has a start and finish date, businesses should try to embed a culture of innovation within departments to ensure they don’t stagnate.


Continue to celebrate success stories, train employees on change ideals and values, and reinforce the idea that errors and failures must be taken in stride for innovation to occur.

Do you have the right staff in place for change?

Many of these steps require change leaders who have experience in revolutionising current processes and energising colleagues to embrace innovation.


You may already have people in mind to spearhead your change initiatives, but there is help at hand if you need to strengthen your in-house legal departments.


Contact Barclay Simpson today to discuss your in-house legal recruitment needs.


Our 2017 Compensation and Market Trends Report combines our review of the prevailing conditions in the in-house legal recruitment market together with the results of our latest employer survey.