Skip to main content Skip to footer

In 2018 K&L Gates replaced its existing DMS with iManage, rolling it out to 46 offices and 3,800 users under a time constraint of just six months. A tall, tall order, but we zeroed in on the technical requirements and — by putting in long hours and longer weeks, miraculously, we delivered. Within weeks of the cutover, however, the painful truth emerged that in our single-minded focus on achieving a technically perfect implementation, we left the people — our people — behind.

K&L Gates provides a broad range of services to a global client base, and it is imperative that our documents are secure and accessible to the right people at the right time. The firm does a significant amount of cross border work, and the ability to effectively share knowledge and expertise is critical to both our employee and our client experience. We have six people on the IT team maintaining 214 servers, and 85 billion live documents.

We implemented iManage to give our people the tools to deliver consistent work product seamlessly across all regions — and to ensure that our clients across the world all enjoyed the same high level of service. We wanted a fast, intuitive platform to help people work smarter, share, and collaborate. It’s people who innovate, and technology that facilitates.


What we learned

We could say that lawyers don’t like change, or they aren’t tech savvy, and lay the blame for our very low adoption rate on the users, but that wouldn’t be accurate or fair to our users. We could say the solution just didn’t work for us, but that’s not right, either. Lastly, we could have told ourselves we were just too big to expect we’d get everyone on board — but any organization of any size in any industry could have made the mistake we made, with the same result. We left our people out of the process, and that’s the honest answer to what went amiss.

Our journey to change management began with listening. By listening, we identified our failure points, and where we let our users down. Adoption wasn’t low because they refused to change or couldn’t adapt to change, or even because the solution didn’t do what they needed it to do — even if that was their perception (and we didn’t tell them they were wrong, because that would not have been productive).

People didn’t adopt the solution because we didn’t prepare them for the change. We didn’t adequately define or communicate the project’s purpose, why we needed to change, what was changing, and who will have to change.

People + technology + change = success

That’s why listening is so important. Listening with an open mind and an open heart, listening through 60 focus groups, taking that ear-beating, because there is a benefit to that. That’s how you know what the pain points are and what problems you need to solve. I like to say that technology is the easy part — the people part is hard. But with change management you give people that ability to change, you help them understand why to change, what’s in it for them, and you show them how the change will affect them.

When the time came to schedule our upgrade to iManage Work 10 in the Cloud, it was clear that we had to take a different approach that would enable us to take our people with us on this journey. We envision the tech side and the people side as two complementary processes coming together and culminating in end user satisfaction, seamless collaboration across borders, increased productivity, and, ultimately, better client service. People + Technology = Success. And that’s where change management comes in.

What we're doing now 

Our firm utilizes Prosci’s change management methodology. Prosci is, a global leader in change management. The methodology is adaptable and iterative and centers around the individual. According to Prosci:

“Change management is a structured and intentional approach [that] prepares, equips, and supports individuals through [change]. With a dedicated focus on mobilizing adoption and usage, change management supports holistic and successful change.” (An Introduction to Change Management)

To help us justify the importance of this path, we considered their “5 Tenets of Change Management,” which we’ll abbreviate here to just the questions we needed to ask ourselves:

  1. Why are we changing?
  2. Who has to do their job differently (and how)?
  3. How much of our outcomes depend on adoption and usage?
  4. What will we do to support adoption and usage?
  5. How will driving adoption and usage improve results?

Alignment is key.

Someone asked, “Who answers these questions?” and my response is that the entire project team must be aligned on the answers to these questions — including firm leadership, project managers, technical leads, trainers, and change management leads. This alignment is key to the success of the project, because when anyone outside of the team raises a concern or an issue, there has to be one unified response, no matter who they talk to.

After running 60 focus group sessions to find out why our staff weren’t using the platform, we learned that our training in the initial implementation had been inadequate: people didn’t know how to use the solution properly. That told us that training would be essential when we set everyone up on iManage Work 10. We needed to empower our people to find and use all the functionality they needed to be successful on the platform, and we had to follow up that training with ongoing support.

Reinforcement is the secret sauce of change management. It’s all about mindset and educating the organization about what it is, why it’s important, and cultivating a culture of change.

Take care of business.

Prosci lays out a 3-Phase Process, to provide a framework for change, starting with the “Prepare Approach” — which comprises defining success, impact, and approach.

Technology is easy but figuring out what people want can be challenging. Here are five lessons I learned from this experience:

  1. Talk to a broad and diverse group of constituents, not just partners.
  2. Listen with an open mind and don’t take feedback personally. Don’t shy away from the naysayers, if you can win them over in the end that will go a long way with other users!
  3. Build out a change management strategy, communicate clearly, and get buy-in from senior stakeholders. Engage people’s direct managers. Direct managers have the ability to influence their teams, build consensus and address concerns.
  4. Accept that people learn at different rates and will need varying levels of support. This is not a one and done approach; ongoing training is needed to ensure everyone has the same access and opportunity to be successful.
  5. Look holistically at how all changes at your organization impact your end users and adjust project timelines accordingly. Too much change at the same time ensures something will fail.

In the second phase, “Manage Change,” you develop your master change management plan and support individuals via the ADKAR Model which stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Using this model, we can gauge where people or personas are in terms of their individual pace of change, so we can better engage individuals, informing and motivating them to navigate organizational changes successfully, while meeting any resistance with effective strategies.

Rely on your stakeholders to build momentum.

Remember early in Phase 1, maybe even pre-Phase 1, you identified your stakeholders and made sure they were vested in the project? And under Take care of business, above — where we say to make sure you have that buy-in from senior stakeholders? I can’t emphasize enough how critical stakeholder support — including those direct managers of people — is going to be to the success of your initiative. Keep them engaged and informed. Stay connected to these groups so you understand where there are opportunities to capitalize upon and challenges to overcome.

Another strategy that has worked quite well for us is our Idea Group, comprising a regionally distributed collection of people in the firm. This group meets regularly with an open agenda to provide feedback on things we’re considering and discuss ideas for new innovations. It helps us define what we should be working on. It’s very egalitarian, with people listed alphabetically rather than sorting them by title, and we don’t minimize roles at our firm that aren’t partner or lawyer — our supporting roles, which includes any of the 1,600 staff who support the firm in a different capacity, are all “allied professionals.”

Follow through to sustain your outcomes.

I think that a lot of firms stop after Phase 2 of the Prosci process, but I strongly advise you to follow through with Phase 3, which is “Sustain Outcomes.” This is where you assess performance, make the change sticky, and assign ownership for maintaining continuity.

We’ve outlined an education campaign that includes monthly hour-long training sessions to highlight useful features so the firm can take advantage of new functionality being released by iManage every quarter. We want to tailor the experience for both lawyers and allied professionals. We also plan to send out a newsletter to keep iManage top-of-mind for our employees.


Reap the dividends

Putting the work in to optimize our existing investment in our technology and platforms requires continual reinforcement of our message. And while change management evolves in an infinite loop, our ongoing efforts are paying dividends — one of which is how it has helped us avoid “change fatigue” by prioritizing changes so that they don’t all happen at once. And because we’ve kept our people top-of-mind as we’ve prepared for this upgrade, we look forward to a successful launch of iManage Work 10 in the Cloud in 2024.

K&L Gates is focusing on creating the best possible user experience, meeting lawyers where they are, integrating systems such as DocuSign, Office 365, and the legal platform HighQ to create a single source of truth. Reducing the number of emails and automating processes are high our people’s wish list, and we are excited to see the new AI capabilities in iManage that allow users to capitalize on their internal treasure trove of data. We anticipate having many more tools for collaboration, better productivity, a more comprehensive global knowledge base, and an even stronger reputation as a cross-border firm, and we are confident that iManage has all the features and functionality we need to make that happen.

About the author

Melissa Speidel

As Director of Business Transformation Office, Enterprise Applications, Practice Support & Solutions at K&L Gates, I manage a team of twenty-seven dedicated, collaborative and talented individuals across the globe. This high-performing team has continued to exceed expectations while doing more with less. We focus on building collaborative and authentic relationships across the firm.