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Damien Behan|IT Director, Brodies

Innovate or die! Disrupt, or be disrupted! The language of Silicon Valley has permeated the business world, and ‘innovation’ seems to be the latest buzzword for the legal sector. But does innovation necessitate the disruption of all that’s gone before?

Law firms have always had to innovate and evolve to survive. In spite of the old saw that lawyers are stuck in the past and resistant to change, the legal sector has gone through huge changes in the last 30 years, and it continues to roll with the punches. But that may be seen as reacting to change rather than actively pursuing it. The current focus on innovation is about shaping the law firm of the future to withstand the slings and arrows of a rapidly changing business environment.

We’re accustomed to thinking of innovation as being ‘disruptive’ (think Uber or Amazon), with technology being used to upend traditional business models and blast the legacy providers out of the water. But while there are certainly those who are focusing on disrupting legal services, improved ways of working don’t necessarily need to be disruptive. They can also complement and enhance what lawyers do best. In fact, ‘sustaining’ rather than disruptive, innovation is crucial to ensure businesses change to meet the needs of the modern business world.

Moonshots are exciting, and when they succeed they do so dramatically. They are potentially game changing. But they are also expensive when they fail, and may distract from the job at hand.

At its most basic, innovation is doing something in a new way that provides some sort of value. It doesn’t have to mean creating a completely new product or service – it may just mean redesigning an internal process to save time. It may be something that clients can see – whether in terms of faster delivery or improved service – or it may improve efficiency, reduce bottlenecks or remove obstacles internally from the daily working lives of lawyers. Fundamentally, it can, and should, be about identifying problems or challenges and then finding solutions to them.

Moonshots are exciting, and when they succeed they do so dramatically. They are potentially game changing. But they are also expensive when they fail, and may distract from the job at hand. With limited time and resources, firms need to focus on achievable wins that will drive efficiencies in the firm, provide value to clients and support the firm’s strategy. The answer might not be something revolutionary or expensive, or even based on new technology. It may just mean using the tools already at our disposal in a more effective way.

This article originates from Briefing November 2018: Leadership shapes

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