What is Innovation in Law?

Hands up how many of you have had clients, or prospective clients, ask you to be innovative when delivering legal services? Keep your hands up if you think your client can explain what innovation in law is?

You’re not alone. Chances are you’re just one of a growing number of wondering what initiatives are “innovative”. Do clients want us to be innovative with alternative pricing options? Or use technology to automate? Or collaborate to deliver smarter sourcing on their matters? Is it a combination of all those things? Or something else altogether?

I think this is part of the problem. To implement innovation and effect real change in the industry, perhaps we first need to agree what innovation in law is.

We all know the legal profession is in dire need of change and with so many legal options now available to clients in this world of #NewLaw vs #BigLaw, we all know if we don’t start doing things differently delivering more value to our clients, someone else will.

That said, I don’t believe innovation should be limited to that ‘Einsteinian’ genius moment, or lightning bolt flash of brilliance alone.

To me, innovation can be as simple as doing something we’ve always done in a better way: using new information, or new technology, or new knowledge and applying it to old problems. If our greatest asset – our people – apply new thinking to old ways, and create a better way to do something – *that* is innovation. (I’m not sure my experience of eating fries with chopsticks in China was innovative though?!).

Doing things differently in China Photo by Alison Laird

The Oxford dictionary seems to agree, defining “to innovate” as “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.”

Managing Expectations

Embarking on the adventure of getting lawyers to commit to do something differently for the greater good of the firm, their clients and ultimately themselves, is not an easy journey.

Lawyers are risk averse, the profession has changed little in the last 100 years, and the people in charge of making decisions are often only a few years from retirement. Short-termism is rife.

But just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. This is just the beginning of the adventure…

Time to stop hiding and see the opportunities – Girl in local market (Khiva, Uzbekistan) Photo by Alison Laird

Read Part 2: Accept the challenge