The promise of gamification in Legal IT

This post was originally published on The KnowList blog.

Gamification as a concept isn’t new and is something I have written about before within the context of Legal IT. To be honest, it still doesn’t have a great reputation or traction within the enterprise, let alone within legal. It’s a concept with very few real world examples of how it could affect our daily lives. Despite this, I can see it making an impact in Legal IT in the next 2-3 years.

So how could it improve the use of technology inside a law firm and what could it mean for law firms clients? Gamification is defined in Wikipedia as ‘the integration of game mechanics or game dynamics into a website, service, community, campaign, or application in order to drive participation and engagement.’ A recent Gartner study, states Gamification will be used by 70% of the Global 2000 by 2015, with over $1.6Bn spent on related products, services and technologies. Those of you who have LinkedIn profiles will have already been ‘encouraged’ to complete your profile which is a type of gamification. And if you check-in on Foursquare you might be awarded a badge for visiting certain locations, this is also gamification at work.

So how does this affect law firms and Legal IT vendors? At the moment it doesn’t, but I think it should. It certainly won’t make boring tasks less boring, it won’t help awful user interface (UI) or user experience (UX) design, which are common, but it can provide shared vision and objectives for leaderless groups or groups spread across the globe. It will influence Legal IT vendors to design their software more intuitively and emphasise collaboration and ultimately humanise and empower staff. Generally when people think of gamification they think of achieving inconsequential ‘badges’ when tasks are complete, but it doesn’t have to be like that at all. Why not build out the concept of a virtual currency, which can be earned against a pre-defined set of tasks collected by a team or department, which in turn could be used against a corporate shopping list, whether that is a team lunch or a drinks trolley on a Friday evening?

Why not target the #1 enterprise bugbear, email? Applying some game mechanics in the UX around things like the number of emails in your inbox, size of your inbox, speed of reply, total filed in to FileSite, coupled with some simple benchmarking would enable you to see how you compare to your colleagues and potentially achieve a long time objective of your IT dept, reducing your email capacity. It also wouldn’t be hard to associate a little gamification to the client and matter inception process or the matter management process within a law firm. Traditionally the client and matter inception process is a pain, with screens of tick boxes and information to fill in. Due to regulatory requirements, this isn’t going to change dramatically but why not incentivise completing the process accurately and in its entirety first time round?

The legal industry is currently in its biggest transformational shift for a generation and technology is playing a big part in that. Legal technology has to change its focus from the law firm to its clients, it has to adapt and become more collaborative, more social and the traditional legal technology vendors are going to struggle to deliver upon this expectation. Is gamification too far for legal? The answer is probably yes for now, but look beyond Legal IT for the trends that are circling enterprise technology, look out for gamification success stories as well as the failures as I certainly don’t think it is going away.

One thing to add; whilst this article might be shining a positive light on the promise of gamification, it is obviously not a silver bullet and won’t fix all of your organisational issues. But if the only thing that happens is that the UX is improved then that’s a good thing, right? I think the power of game mechanics could drive behavioural change in the legal technology platforms of the future.

Corporate collaboration toolkit

Ben Wightwick

Product Director at HighQ
Ben is responsible for HighQ Publisher product and the associated services delivered to its clients. Ben also provides consulting and focuses on the application of modern social and collaborative concepts usually found in the consumer world and applying them to today's typical business challenges to enhance productivity, improve both internal and external communication and knowledge management. He is more of a people person than a technologist and is driven by great user experience. He enjoys working closely with clients and colleagues to ensure the successful delivery of solutions which help clients derive the most value from their investment in HighQ software. He has over 10 years legal, social and content publishing technology experience.

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