How Law Firms Can Embrace Innovation

Introduction

Why law firms have been slow to embrace innovation in practice?

Expanding view of legal practice

Five Pillars of Innovation

Conclusion

Introduction

Businesses in the legal sector need to see innovation as a solution to a rapid and complex legal market. But what law firms need to innovate? According to Wisconsin Legal Innovators,

“The innovation process requires a mindset that accepts failure and desire to win that is stronger than the fear of losing”.

Innovation is an important aspect of a law firm that drives new ideas into everyday business and encourages creative thinking. Nowadays innovation has been strongly linked to technology, but technology is only a mean that helps law firms achieve their innovation goals. Law firms should also look at innovation as being tied to their employees and clients. Before going more in-depth to explain what resources could law firms use to innovate we must understand:

Why law firms have been slow to embrace innovation in practice?

To answer this question, we have to understand the nature of a law firm workload, client pressure and responsibilities. In most cases, those barriers are logistical and they include:

  • Lawyers are too busy catering to the needs of their clients and employers. Most often this becomes a priority when considering transforming their practices.

  • Resistance to change. Even lawyers working in big law firms, experience uncertainty when it comes to participating in areas they are not familiar with. Therefore they feel ill-equipped to adopt sweeping changes.

  • If they are already successful, investing in innovation is not one of their priorities. This only happens because the status quo is easier and safer on the surface, but in long-term will only lead to obsolescence.

The legal profession is facing a greater rate of change than ever before and the pace of change for society generally is exponentially greater than in past years.
At the same time, another trend is rising since businesses and consultants are continuing to expand their mission and offerings entering the legal market that once belonged only to lawyers. Law firms cannot complain about a shortage of demand for legal services but their methods, delivery, end-user behaviours are changing.

Expanding view of legal practice

Although recent, law firms can feel already the disruption happening in the legal marketplace where accounting and consulting firms have stepped in and invested in the adoption of new solutions. Consider for instance that:

  • Big four accounting and consulting firms, EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PWC, have dramatically increased their presence in the worldwide legal market.

  • EY bought Pangea3 from Thomson Reuters to facilitate providing legal “managed services” to allow their clients to complete legal work efficiently and at a lower cost.

  • EY also purchased the U.K. alternative legal services firm, Riverview, which provides fixed fee services to in-house legal departments.

  • Online dispute resolution systems have been applied in the US and Canada.

  • Online negotiation solutions are being used instead of personal injury lawyers. If the online solution is not effective the resolution is being brought in front of a tribunal.

All these advances can be seen as an opportunity for growth and business development. If law firms are prepared to innovate they will easily see the effect of the innovation reflected on their profits.

Five Pillars of Innovation

To start exploring and implementing sustainable innovation, everyone in the firms should get involved to make this step more successful. There are several aspects that incentivize firms investment in innovation. These aspects can be classified in client-driven or talent-driven actions:

  • Collaboration and co-creationbetween law firms and clients since clients are increasingly demanding to be part of the process and value creation to build more solid relationships. This collaboration process includes working with technology providers and adding bespoke functionality.

  • Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to innovation. Lawyers deal with a large number of clients coming from different backgrounds and different needs. Therefore any legal team needs to be diverse and inclusive, reflecting the diversity of their own customers.

  • Looking beyond legal servicesby having conversations with clients to address clients’ real-world problems in creative ways.

  • Mental Health in the Legal Profession. Although it is not a topic openly accepted by the legal professionals, improving mental health can extend careers and positively impact the life out of the office with very little investment.

  • Pro Bono and Community Investment.Giving back to the community allows sharing expertise and time to help those without resources to afford legal services. This commitment to giving back creates more relationships and stronger brand awareness.

“Change or be changed, but don’t focus all of your energy on technology.The tech piece is important, but significant change is possible without having to develop the next hot app and without hiring an army of programmers.” Mark W. Brennan

Conclusion

We went into detail about how innovation affects law firms and which are their struggles, and pillars of innovation that are not tech-related. While technology can be part of innovation or can enable innovation, it becomes a mean to reach innovative solutions and services in the legal industry. The main goal is to provide your law firm with resources and tools to modernize, anticipate and adapt to expand and enhance the opportunities to practice your profession.