George Grawe at Interact 2020: Evolving Legal Ops with Empathy

Our annual Legal Ops user group at Interact 2020 looked completely different this year, just one of the many changes we faced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

And while we have much to yearn for and look forward to as business will one day get back to normal, the event was a testament to the community-building that can be made possible by a fast internet connection, dedicated community, and agile leadership. The Legal Ops keynote on the first day reflected the value of community and collaboration in the face of change and showed how empathy, as well as agility, is essential to progress.

Change itself was a big topic at the conference. As part of his keynote to open the first day of the conference, Mitratech CEO Mike Williams interviewed George Grawe,  Senior VP/Deputy General Counsel at Allstate on the role of technology as a source of legal “excellence.” While technology plays an enormous role in making teams more efficient and more secure, Grawe mentioned that compassionate leadership is key to success in driving change and transformation in Legal Ops.

Getting “in the trenches” to drive Legal Ops changes

When employees say that they do not like change, what they mean is that they do not like loss, which change can represent. By “getting in the trenches” and going as far as shadowing employees, leaders can understand what their employees might lose in the face of change and, more importantly, what they stand to gain.

George Grawe explained, “(People) will say they have a more efficient way to do things…you need to get in the trenches with folks to see how they do their job. If you can find a way to have the technology complement the way they do their work, they become your change champions.”

By addressing change from this vantage point, employees become evangelists of efficient Legal Ops processes that will truly benefit them and their work. One way Grawe suggested to think about it? “If your idea becomes their idea, you have won.”

Getting executives to buy into your idea of progress requires more empathetic thinking. Grawe explained what it was like in the 90s when his team was getting their first cast management system implemented. Extensive training was needed for employees to use… the computer mouse, of all things! While at first, it seemed like too great an effort might be needed to use a digital filing system, things turned around when the team thought about it from the perspective of leadership.

How would a new system save not just time, but money? Everything clicked at Allstate once they started to argue that “there was an economic opportunity because if files were handled consistently, they would save money,” he said.  After framing from the perspective of ROI, it is crucial to do your research. Will the technology you plan to implement do what salespeople say it will do? Grawe urged listeners to test all the technology they consider purchasing, and then to start crunching the numbers.

Empathy should team with legal technology

At the end of the day, technology may be the greatest way legal teams and Legal Ops support can become more efficient and produce higher quality results. He remarked, “In the 90s, Allstate was looking for the elements to serve as the secret sauce to close cases faster at less expense. What we found was it’s really important when a case goes into suit. When a lawyer promptly reads the file and has a discussion about why that matter was in suit and what needed to be done whether that is settlement, arbitration, or trial. It needs to be documented, [then] come up with a plan, and then follow that plan. Technology could help drive that behavior in a consistent fashion.”

It’s not simply by watching your employees work on thinking about the economic advantages that generate the best plays. You also need to be able to think about your process holistically. What are you really trying to accomplish? What does the process depend upon? How can you take away redundancies and opportunities for error?

Grawe warned that “If you’re standing still, you’re falling behind.” But when you’re looking for the right solutions, empathy is key, as well as the technologies you’re considering, whether you’re putting yourself in the shoes of your employees, your business leaders, or thinking critically about the mission of your Legal Ops processes, department, and company.

To see the entire session with George Grawe or our other panels, access Interact 2020 as on-demand video.

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