Getting the Right Technology - Advice for Innovation and KM Professionals

Our new podcast, The Empowered Attorney, is all about offering actionable advice to legal industry professionals. For each episode, we will publish the advice offered by our guest, along with input from other thought leaders in the legal industry.

We asked Nikki Shaver, our podcast guest and Managing Director, Innovation & Knowledge at Paul Hastings, as well as Kate Simpson, National Director of Knowledge & Practice Innovation at Bennett Jones:

“What advice would you give to someone who may be new to KM and Innovation on getting the right technology into their team?”

Nikki Shaver

Listen to your end users. Really understand their needs. Build deep relationships within your practice groups, not just with the partners, not just with the associates, but also with law clerks and paralegals. Listen and have your ear to the ground, so that you’re aware of pain points and understand where the opportunities lie for process improvement or the application of technology.

At the same time, having a cross-disciplinary skillset on your team is very important. Any modern innovation function requires different types of roles to function optimally. It’s critical to have lawyers on your team who understand the practice well enough to recognize where a need comes up that would be right for technological augmentation. It’s also critical to have technical people on your team that know how to scope out a problem once it’s been identified, how to build out requirements, and how to develop solutions. Project managers are also important, not legal project managers, but technical project managers or product managers, who understand the product side of technology and are able to design a solution – potentially involving a combination of multiple tools that you already license – and leverage the team’s technical expertise to implement that solution in a way that meets end user needs.

Kate Simpson

A group’s technology needs come from pain points with existing technology or gaps in processes that may be filled by technology. Having that understanding about your users and their challenges is key. And there is no right way of uncovering those user needs – whether it’s through the direct relationships you have with the lawyers, the professionals, the assistants or staff, or whether you have embedded KM lawyers who can identify and point to frustrations that people are having. But knowing about pain points and having technology to throw at it is still only a third of the equation. You also need to understand the processes and how things currently get done, because when trialing any new technology with the group you will need to see whether it overcomes the frustrations, as well as whether it will ultimately get adopted. Throwing technology at a bad or undefined process won’t improve that process. That’s where the skillsets from Business Analysts and Project Managers can help. But the final third of the equation I think comes down to the integrations and the broader tech stack that any new solution will have to plug into. Adding another new tool when there are so many new tools out there is starting to create app fatigue amongst lawyers and we can’t expect them to remember which tool does what and when. So figuring out the overarching user experience of integrating the new system within workflows to make using the tool at the right time intuitive is very much a focus of KM and Innovation teams.

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  • Chris Ford is ZERO's Chief Marketing Officer. With years of marketing leadership experience in the legal industry around the world, he leads all marketing efforts for ZERO.