The Challenge of Law Firm Technology Innovation

There is no shortage of evidence to demonstrate why law firms should be more focused on technology and process innovation.  Hardly a day goes by without some focus by the legal world on the importance of innovation.

The 2017 Altman Weil ‘Law Firms in Transition’ report states:

“Firms that pursue thoughtful efficiency initiatives and stick with them will improve internal performance and add value for clients.  Those that do not will experience competitive disadvantage over time.”

From the 2018 Citi Advisory Report:

“Technology, including AI, will help reshape the law firm industry.”

“It will be the firms who can grow profitably, by increasing both revenues and margins, who will distance themselves from the growing number of firms who cannot meet both challenges.”

I doubt that anyone in the legal arena is unaware of the need to consider new ways to ‘get the job done’, but for some reason, only a handful of firms seem focused on the challenge.  In an informal poll with several firms I found that while there is no one answer for every firm, there are some common cultural themes as to why most firms have not focused on this task. These include:

  • Innovation related initiative is not rewarded
  • Firms are very ‘siloed’ and investments in one practice area are not often supported by partners in other practice areas
  • Collaboration is not adequately valued
  • Seeking client feedback on what a firm should consider is not adequately valued – some partners go as far to say that it should not even be sought

How do we grow a culture and program of innovation?

There is no one easy answer or magic bullet, and one size does not fit every firm, but there are some steps that should be included in the effort.  This approach may not work or be complete for every firm, but these steps should be considered.

  1. Build Awareness – why innovation is important and identify the challenges
  2. Develop Objectives – Collaborate internally and with clients
  3. Identify Cultural Changes Needed – and then implement the changes and build the culture that is best for the firm
  4. Assemble a Diverse Team –  include partners from a variety of practice areas
  5. Create a Plan – Include staffing and budget as well as methods to measure results
  6. Manage the Process – Assess results and modify the approach as needed

There is much detail and fine tuning for each of these steps, but each should be considered to guide your firm through the innovation process.

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