Skip to content

5 Expert Strategies for Securing Buy-In for Software Purchases in Legal Recruitment

by Flo Recruit on

Insights and Actionable Steps from Industry Leaders to Navigate Challenges and Ensure Successful Procurement

Introducing new software into an organization can resemble preparing an exotic dish. You start excitedly, eager to create something new, but may encounter unexpected hurdles. Just as you realize halfway through that you're missing a key ingredient, you may discover mid-buying cycle that additional stakeholders need to be brought into the process. Additionally, while you might be thrilled about the exotic recipe, your family’s resistance to trying new foods mirrors the challenge of addressing change management and convincing your team to embrace new technology.

To help tackle this challenge, Flo Recruit brought together advice from various interviews and panels we’ve had the pleasure of conducting through the years, featuring four legal recruitment experts: Matt Satlak, Legal Talent Operations & Technology Manager at Morrison & Foerster; Carly Appel, Director of Attorney Recruiting at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Lisa Feden, Director of Legal Recruiting at Ballard Spahr LLP; and a Director of Firmwide Legal Recruiting at another Top Am Law 10 Firm.

In this blog, we've distilled their wisdom to provide valuable strategies, tips, tricks, and actionable steps—much like crafting a recipe—that can be built upon to meet your organization's unique needs.

Step 1: Identifying Pain Points and Scoping Your Approach

Before you start cooking, you must gather your ingredients and understand the recipe. Similarly, before researching software solutions, it's essential to identify and prioritize the specific challenges or opportunities you want to address. Begin by thoroughly assessing your organization's needs, much like selecting the right ingredients for your dish.

  • Identifying Pain Points: Pinpoint areas within your organization where current processes are inefficient, outdated, or hindering productivity. Engage with stakeholders to gather insights and prioritize these pain points based on their impact on business outcomes.
  • Use Data to Help Identify & Quantify the Pain: Bridge qualitative feelings with quantitative data. Even if you start with emotional or anecdotal evidence to identify pain points, substantiate them with available data. Present quantifiable metrics showcasing the impact on time, money, efficiency, perception, and market opportunities. This framing is essential for gaining leadership buy-in and setting the pitch up for success.
  • Defining Scope and Phasing: Break the project into manageable phases based on identified areas for improvement. Consider resources, time constraints, and dependencies. Phasing ensures focused implementation, with each stage building upon the previous. For instance, when introducing a new ATS system, start with 1L recruitment or a single office's summer program as a pilot. This approach minimizes risk and allows for adjustments based on pilot program insights, enhancing the likelihood of 

Step 2: Think Tactically and Strategically

Combining tactical and strategic thinking in building the business case for new software helps demonstrate the initiative's practical feasibility and strategic importance. It provides decision-makers with a comprehensive understanding of how the software will address current challenges, align with organizational goals, and drive long-term value, ultimately increasing their confidence in approving the investment. This includes:

  • Building a Technology Roadmap: Develop a clear roadmap outlining the steps needed to implement the new software. This roadmap should include milestones, timelines, and responsible parties. 
  • Crafting Project Plans: Break down the process into manageable tasks and create detailed project plans. Consider factors like requirement lists, task dependencies, and the definition of success for this project. 
  • Navigating Procurement Processes: Take a systematic approach to procurement, addressing concerns related to security, privacy, and contracts. This involves thoroughly vetting vendors, negotiating terms, and ensuring compliance with regulations. 

This isn’t to say you need to be the one doing the tactical planning. Recruit among your firm’s talent pool to find the right resources to help you. 

“Understanding your process and thinking tactically about getting new software on board will make it easier to get to a good decision because you’ll have everything you need to set yourself up for success and get ahead of any objections from a process or procurement perspective,” says Satlak, who routinely partners with recruiting leaders across Morrison & Foerster to successfully bring on new technology and processes. “While directors focus on strategy and vision, my team and I approach it from the technical side. What forms are we going to need to fill out to meet the firm’s internal processes? What questions are we likely going to need to have responses ready for? What steps do we need to take with security and compliance that might create roadblocks to the decision-making process?”

For those who don’t have an operations resource like Satlak at their firm, our Director of Firmwide Legal Recruiting source suggests “leaning on your vendor or others in your firm who may have recently been through the process can be really helpful in preparing to meet with the stakeholder committee. The more you can understand the timelines and what to expect, the more you’ll be ahead of the curve.”

Step 3: Marinating in Research and Building Trust

Just as marinating adds depth of flavor to a dish, thorough research adds credibility to your proposal. With a clear understanding of the challenges you're tackling, a phased approach in place, and at least the beginnings of a project plan or your firm’s business processes in mind, the next step is to conduct thorough research to identify software solutions that align with your designated scope of change.

This involves:

  • Defining Research Parameters: Based on your identified needs and priorities, establish criteria for evaluating software solutions. Consider factors such as functionality, scalability, ease of use, vendor reputation, and cost.
  • Exploring Software Options: Explore various software options that meet your criteria. Leverage resources such as industry reports, peer reviews, and vendor websites to gather information about available solutions.
  • Keep Stakeholder “Care About’s” in Mind: Ensure research addresses topics of concern for leadership or the decision-making committee. While certain features, functionality, or related results might make life easier for your teams, such features are unlikely to resonate with an audience like firm leadership. Consider factors like budget comfort, socializing change, implementation timelines, and change management impact reports when making a case for new software.

Lisa Feden, Director of Legal Recruiting, Ballard Spahr LLP, emphasizes, "Do your research and gather as much information as possible. Talk to others who are using the system and get their feedback. This helps in understanding the real-world benefits and challenges. This builds trust and makes it easier to get buy-in from decision-makers.” In fact, Lisa and her colleagues got the buy-in to change the applicant tracking system after a year of research, which enabled them to present a strong business case for the shift.

But be mindful of how much information you’re creating, notes our Director of Firmwide Legal Recruiting source: “Leadership doesn’t want to read a 30-page slide deck with all the associated data establishing the savings or pain points. They want to know that I did the research, that I’m asking for a well-vetted solution or proposal, and maybe four bullet points summarizing my findings.” 

So why do all the research if it won’t get consumed? “Having the documentation and research will not only help make you feel more confident in presenting an internal pitch, but it will help build credibility and trust over time - two resources that are crucial for getting buy-in from leaders who often don’t have a good understanding of what challenges you and your team face on a daily basis,” says Appel.

Step 4: Setting the Table with Stakeholders and Influencers

Just as setting the table involves considering everyone's preferences, successful software adoption requires engaging stakeholders strategically. 

  • Map Out Stakeholders and Influencers: Begin by mapping out the key stakeholders and influencers who will be impacted by or have influence over the decision to adopt new software. This includes individuals from various departments, such as firm leadership, privacy, security, and end-users.
  • Identify Decision-Makers: Determine the decision-makers within each stakeholder group and understand their priorities, concerns, and decision-making criteria. These decision-makers may include executives, department heads, project sponsors, or budget approvers.
  • Engage Influencers Strategically: Strategically engage influencers and opinion leaders who can champion the software adoption initiative within their respective departments or teams. These influencers can help advocate for the software, address concerns, and facilitate peer buy-in.
  • Timing is Key: Determine the appropriate timing for engaging stakeholders and influencers at each stage of the software adoption process. Early engagement allows for input into requirements gathering and solution selection, while later engagement focuses on gaining support for implementation and managing change.
  • Align with Organizational Goals: Ensure that your software adoption plan aligns with the broader goals and objectives of the organization. This alignment helps build support among stakeholders by demonstrating how the new software will contribute to strategic initiatives and drive business outcomes. “At our firm, for example, we’re focused on modernizing and scaling our approach as we move to a ‘one firm’ model leaning in on shared resources and services. So if I’m looking to get buy-in for a new ATS and can align the benefits a new program would bring to one of those two pillars, I’m far more likely to be successful,” notes our Director of Firmwide Legal Recruiting source.

  • Communicate Transparently: Maintain open and transparent communication with stakeholders throughout the process. Keep them informed of progress, updates, and any changes that may impact them. This builds trust and ensures stakeholders feel included and valued in decision-making.

According to Appel, "Understanding how to make your projects attractive to influencers who might not otherwise impact the success of your proposal can be hugely helpful to build excitement for and buy-in around new technology."

Step 5: Timing and Engagement, Serving Up Success

Adopting new technology requires meticulous backward planning, much like orchestrating a Thanksgiving meal. Here are vital considerations to ensure everything comes together seamlessly:

  • Identify Full Field Readiness: Determine when the new software-supported process needs to be fully operational in the field. Consider staff training, documentation completion, and system integration requirements.
  • Factor in Budgeting: Back your readiness date to ensure it coincides with your firm or department’s budgeting process. Identify and allocate resources for software procurement, training, implementation support, and any additional costs associated with the rollout.
  • Communicate and Coordinate: Maintain open communication with stakeholders and coordinate activities across teams involved in the implementation process. Ensure everyone knows timelines, responsibilities, and dependencies to facilitate smooth execution.
  • Consider Dependencies and Sequencing: Identify dependencies between different components of the implementation process and sequence activities accordingly. Ensure that critical tasks are completed in the right order to avoid delays or disruptions.

“As soon as I’m talking to a vendor and we’re doing a demo, I’m reaching out to my privacy analyst,” notes Satlak, discussing the need to coordinate with other departments to ensure dependencies do not hold up a successful pitch or purchasing decision. “Making sure you’re getting privacy, compliance, and legal involved early can make sure you’re able to make your deadline for when the software needs to be in place and ready for your team to use.”

By following these steps, much like following a recipe, you can navigate the complexities of introducing new software and ensure a smooth and successful implementation.

Feeling ready to secure buy-in for your legal technology upgrade? Contact us now to start a conversation now about how Flo Recruit benefits law firms

Subscribe to our blog!