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Innovation for Law Firms

Attorney with Client in Court

There's a particular character,the mad scientist, that seems to embody innovation for innovation's sake. Chemical explosions, attaching forearms to dogs, solar panel chargers for clocks that tell time backwards; these are innovations made not for a particular purpose, but simply to see if it can be done. This is science at its most unhinge; the character might not be truly insane, but their drive to create, to satisfy their curiosity, to innovate - this drive causes horror, destruction and calamity to them, their loved ones and their community. These fictional characters can't help it; it's in their nature to try new things for the hell of it, instead of for some pre-defined purpose.

Your firm should not act like a mad scientist; you don’t want to be known as the Frankenstein of law, assembled from decaying ideas shambled together into an incoherent whole. Innovation in the law should not be the end, but rather a means. In order to properly create solutions, you need a problem to solve; some end goal that innovation will allow you to reach.

The first step to effective innovation is to define your purpose. What is your firm’s principle, it's motto, the things that it does to set it apart from the competition? Once you've established purpose, you can establish a strategy; concrete steps you can take to fulfill your purpose. Your strategy should include the resources you can leverage, be it staff, information, capital, location: anything at all that you can use in your strategy. Having established your purpose, strategy and resources, you can begin to align the departments and resources in your firm towards your overarching strategy goals to reach your purpose.

A properly aligned firm will give you plenty of opportunities for innovation; having concrete divisions in your business structure will allow individual units to report on findings in a meaningful way. This makes it easier to monitor feedback from both clients and attorneys and find opportunities for improvement; you might find that one department struggles to keep up with its paperwork, and find ways to innovate on its distribution and completion; another department might have a hard time with client acquisition, and you can then innovate your marketing and retention strategies appropriately. Innovation for firms is booming in our hyperconnected era, so once you have sufficient data on problems your firm is facing, you have an opportunity to innovate appropriately.

Innovation also involves shedding unnecessary practices. Should you find that you’re using a particular technology or technique in one area and not others, and the places that you’re using the technique fall behind those where it is not used, you should likely bin the practice. One practice a firm might change is it’s approach to finding local counsel; firms tend to lean on their in-house staff to find appropriate counsel for courts outside of its typical region of influence. When no one on staff knows an attorney for the region, it can become a scramble to find appropriate representation; experienced attorneys for local counsel are now available online, however, so you can draw from a pool of experts who live all around the country.