Living in the Past: It’s Not Your Old System That’s Holding You Back

So many law firms are buried alive.  Covered by old data, entombed in systems they don’t want to use anymore.  Those systems are so gargantuan, bloated with data as they are, that lawyers treat them as ‘too big to fail’ — even if they’re failing on a daily basis.  In those instances, the argument against moving on, against moving into a new system, is that the task of transferring all of that old data into the new system makes the transition to the new system somehow not worthwhile.  The mindset that data transfer is too costly or too time-consuming forces the law firms adopting it to throw the baby out with the bathwater; and, it’s one of the main reasons that technology systems stagnate in law firms over time.

Of course, it’s true.  Data transfer, or migration, is costly; or, if the law firm endeavors to go it alone, it is time-consuming to transfer data using staff or attorneys, whose time is better spent (and more valuable) elsewhere.

So, don’t bother.

In many cases, the objection to data transfer is really a repudiation of the adoption of a new system, any new system.  What law firm managers are truly worried about is the productivity downturn that all new systems cause in the near-term.  And, that relates to another major concern: that all staff, and all attorneys, won’t ‘buy-in’ to the new system.  For relationship databases to work effectively, all attorneys and all employees have to commit to entering and managing data through it; when they don’t, the whole endeavor falls downs.  In many ways, it’s easier to maintain your old system — because, even though it’s busted, everyone is comfortable with it.

So, keep it.

There is a way to avoid the data transfer question, and stop short of burning the binkies, like so many velveteen rabbits.  The trick is to maintain your old system and to install the new system simultaneously.  First, you’ll have to settle on the new system you want to use (it helps if you allow the members and employees of the law firm to have a hand in making that choice — since they’re more likely to ‘buy-in’ at that point), and install it.  Next, you determine a date from which all new matters or events (or whatever items that system will manage) will be added to the new system, rather than the old system.  From that moment on, any new items drop into the new system, and you’re only using your old system to access historical, or archived, data.  Eventually, you’ll stop using your old system altogether, as it will naturally age out.  Your old system becomes your ‘legacy system’ . . . until it becomes a relic.

No data migration.  No fuss, no muss.

In most cases, those traditional objections to data migration are red herrings.  They are excuses that law firms use to avoid the implementation of new systems.  Remove the impediment, to find out whether your objection is truly about the installation of a new system, or merely a trick of the mind to sidestep necessary change management.

You know when people say ‘your past is holding you back’?  This is literally the case in this hypothetical.

Don’t hold yourself hostage to antiquated, failing systems, because you’re afraid to move into new ones.

. . .

Liner Notes

This is a good time to talk about legacy, I suppose, because Tom Brady just brought his crashing down upon the Atlanta Falcons’ Super Bowl dreams.

Too soon?  Nah.

The Leopard Song’ by The Outfield