The Human Lens on Legal Tech: How Perceptions and Biases Shape What Clients Do

Perception, according to Black Law's Dictionary, is 'taking into possession'—a process through which the brain interprets sensory information and assigns meaning to it, shaping individuals' beliefs, emotions, and attitudes that, in turn, influence their actions. The way things are perceived can evoke emotions, and these feelings play a crucial role in determining how receptive your clients are to the technology used by your law firm. We will explore the nature of these emotions in a bit.  

Often, these people's perceptions can change depending on several factors such as their surroundings, thoughts, feelings, cultural values, and, in this case, the transformative shifts happening in your law firm.   

If your clients perceive legal tech as a departure from their traditional understanding of legal services, it can trigger resistance. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, and worry may surface, preventing them from fully accepting these changes and keeping up with your tech-savvy law firm.  

Recognizing and being mindful of these client perceptions and the associated emotions is crucial. This awareness is crucial. It allows your firm to be more considerate, take necessary actions to ease surrounding anxiety and worry, and ensure a more favorable return on the technological investments been made.  

How Do Cognitive Biases Shape These Client Perceptions?

Building upon the foundation of perception, cognitive biases come into play as subtle influencers. While trying to understand biases in this context may initially seem overly technical, they establish a great framework for our natural thought processes. This framework will better help you understand the underlying reasons behind the frustrations your legal clients experience, and how it affects their decision making.  

We will break down specific cognitive biases and explore how they contribute to the apprehensive perceptions these clients have.  

Gaining insight into these cognitive biases and their influence on the human thinking process is essential for a better understanding of your clients and their worries. This knowledge will be crucial in persuading them to embrace the innovations implemented by your law firm.  

Will These Tools Disrupt Our Current Methods? (Status Quo Bias)

Imagine a scenario where people have this natural inclination to stick with things as they are, even when there is a possibility of making things better. This is the Status Quo bias.  

Clients accustomed to traditional legal practices may harbor fears of the unknown and resist the introduction of innovative technologies. They may worry about what could happen if they switch, driven by a strong liking for what is familiar. The methods they are used to provide a sense of comfort, like a safety net, making any shift away from these practices seem overwhelming.  

What is more, this bias can result in legal clients overestimating the effectiveness of current methods. As a result, they tend to place higher value on traditional practices, overlooking the potential advantages offered by these new tools.  

How Reliable Is This Technology? (Anchoring Bias)

When individuals put a lot of weight on the first piece of information they come across, it becomes an 'anchor' for their decision-making. They might rely heavily on that initial piece of info when making choices. Afterward, their decisions often lean towards the initial information, even if it is irrelevant or inaccurate.  

Since Open AI's ChatGPT chatbot became one of the fastest-growing and most widely used applications of all time, it has taken a crucial role in everyday life, including the legal field. A Reuters/Ipsos poll from last year, surveying Americans, found that more than two-thirds of them are worried about AI's negative effects, with 61% thinking it could be a threat to civilization.  

With this notion in mind, it could be the 'anchor' when legal clients first engage with legal tech. This can shape their perception even before they have had the chance to try it. Clients might skeptically favor the stability and reliability of familiar methods because of this cognitive barrier.  

What Potential Losses Will We Face? (Loss Aversion)

Clients, guided by this bias, find themselves more preoccupied with the fear of potential losses than the promise of equivalent gains. When your law firm considers incorporating legal tech into their practices, these clients may tend to focus on their perceived losses, like their usual way of communication and workflow transparency depending on the solution.  

There could also be an overestimation of the losses, which further intensifies resistance to change.  

Most of the time, these clients opt to maintain the status quo until the benefits of legal tech adoption become overwhelmingly apparent, as it is still being introduced.  

How Do We Navigate the Uncertainty Linked to These Advancements? (Ambiguity Aversion)

Sometimes these clients may tend to favor risks they know over those that are unknown. Certain clients may hesitate to adopt these technologies due to uncertainties and a lack of a clear understanding of how these legal innovations operate, including the potential outcomes.  

Clients familiar with the clarity of traditional legal methods might resist the ambiguity linked to adopting new tech solutions. Take, for instance, the shift to AI-driven contract review platforms. The uncertainty about how technology thoroughly analyzes intricate legal documents could create hesitation among clients who are used to the precision of human review.  

Because of their ample experience with traditional methods and knowing what to expect, their dislike for uncertainty makes them even more hesitant to change. They tend to lean towards preferences for clear and predictable outcomes.  


The Antidote

Trying to shape these clients' perceptions and encourage them to be more open to these technological changes will require a lot of convincing and reassurance. They need to know that these innovations bring clear improvements.  

In a 2022 study by the Legal Services Board and Solicitors Regulations Authority, training and guidance emerged as crucial factors in facilitating client tech adoption. Almost a third of respondents highlighted that this support instills confidence. Beyond mere reassurances, building confidence also meant setting up strong support systems to make legal tech more user-friendly.    

An essential part of convincing clients is also putting effective regulations into practice. Adhering to existing rules, especially in areas like data security, anti-fraud measures, and protecting vulnerable clients, establishes a trustworthy environment.  

Ultimately, the clients' experiences serve as the arbiter—if they find these solutions accessible, user-friendly, reliable, and secure, they will eventually become the biggest advocates. You must ensure they feel this way by shaping their perceptions, all while being mindful of the general biases that your clients, like all humans, might display.  

It is sensible to initiate these changes with lower-risk tools, such as e-signatures and biometric identity checks for simpler processes. This gradual approach will build public confidence, making it smoother for your law firm to transition to more advanced tools.  

Fostering client confidence not only reduces resistance to change but also ensures clients keep pace with the technological advancements your firm implements. This proactive approach will help overcome low client adoption and nurture alignment between you and your clients.