Resistance to change is something that is referenced regularly in relation to the changing legal profession. 

If you google 'lawyers resistant to change', you'll be greeted by a number of articles stating that the legal industry is slow to adopt change, that lawyers are stubborn and lists of why law firms seem to resist innovation. 

What I've found interesting is that a lot of this seems to be unfairly blamed on lawyers' personalities or the training they receive… yet this seems unfair as I think, as humans we all in some way seem to be hard wired to be naturally resistant to change. 

Just look at the reaction from the general public when The Great British Bake Off moved from the BBC to Channel 4 in 2017. 

The change of channel along with the loss of Mary, Mel and Sue had people up in arms. This displeasure was expressed all over social media with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook alight with people declaring that they were done with #GBBO. It couldn't possibly be the same as it had been for the previous seven seasons on the Beeb. #GBBO doesn’t appeal to everyone but its popularity cannot be denied – after all it had become an institution and one of the most watched programmes on British TV in 2015 & 2016. 

There is no denying that to start with it had a somewhat shaky start on channel 4 – with the lowest opening figures for the show since 2013. And whilst it didn't reach the lofty heights of the high viewing figures of 2015 and 2016 - with average viewing figures of 9.79m over the 2017 series, it did reach almost 70% of the BBC viewing figures – making it channel 4's most watched programme ever. 

So that's all mildly interesting. And you may now be asking why I'm writing about this on a legal tech blog. Personally, I think there are many comparisons you can draw between the public's outcry over #GBBO and changes in the legal industry, but what lessons can we take?

Firstly, that you'll always have some early adopters - those willing to jump on board straight away, come along for the ride and who don't mind trying new things from the start. Possibly even hosting a #channel4 #GBBO party on launch night! These are probably the same people who upgrade their IOS on the day Apple release it! They will carry on with the change as a new normal.  As someone effecting change in an organisation this group, the early adopters will become your biggest advocates. Consistently telling their friends how great the show is and how they should try it. Bringing up the bestselling points and defending it - when in those first few episodes it does seem a little bit awkward…

Then there are those who choose to watch it but seem to fall into two camps – 1.) those who came to see what it's like and whether the recipes are the same or 2.) those who watch it secretly hoping that it's going to fail. 

These are an interesting group. Probably watching it with a wince here and there if Pru said something that Mary wouldn't, sharing memes on social media about Paul cheating on Mary and just generally looking for things not to like about the show! 

The vast majority of this group however, do start to adopt to the new change. They may look at you strangely at first as most people probably did at Noel and Sandy to start with, but slowly, as the weeks go by, as you showcase good news stories and experiences they realise that yes, this isn't bad – just a little bit different. Some may be there within weeks – others might take until the final week. But slowly they are converted and now very much looking forward to the next series.

But what about those who refuse to watch it all? Or who do watch and still really don't like it? What do you do with those? I think you may have to accept that you won't win everyone over. You can try – and the good news stories may permeate and convert people. But, instead you should focus your efforts on the early adopters, the converts and the new entrants – people who have never watched #GBBO before. There is no denying that the vast majority of the 9m viewers on channel 4 are likely to be converts from the BBC but some of those could also be new viewers who will grow up with it being on the new channel and never know anything different.

Lawyers may be badged as resistant to change – which seems unfair when it's human nature to react to change in a hesitant or negative way. It's the responsibility of those in roles that are effecting change to understand this and bring people along on their journey so that the vast majority of people can join in the water cooler gossip on a Wednesday morning!!

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Kerry Westland

Kerry Westland

Partner, Head of Innovation & Legal Technology

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