Innovation in legal practice
Innovation, if it means anything, involves a hyper intensive focus and possible destruction of the firm’s DNA.
It would mean, inter alia, a consideration of:
- The ownership – should all employees have a meaningful stake in the firm?;
- The management of the firm – when were you last asked for your opinion as a junior fee earner, knowing that: (a) you would be listened to; (b) your idea, if accepted, would be acted on; and (c) credited to you?;
- The modus operandi for the delivery of legal services;
- The pricing of services – do we need to look at the Fast Moving Consumer Goods Sector (“FMCG”) for guidance?;
- The nature of the decision-making arterial structure: “Do we need a pyramid structure to be efficient and profitable?”;
- The need for people to work set hours, in an office and be constrained by the necessity for in-house support services – what about employing virtual assistants?;
- SCRAPING THE HOURLY BILLING SYSTEM (ONCE AND FOR ALL);
- Delivering the highest possible service – service excellence – without constantly being driven on by targets and time ledgers (which are counter-intuitive to what clients are looking for: you spend the most time on the job to make the job as profitable as possible).
A lot of what is promulgated around innovation is flimsy to say the least. Most of it is focused on making the existing model more efficient, and I would conjecture that most or the majority of firms are fearful of challenging the status quo.
Perhaps the biggest inhibitor of innovation is the people dimension. How many times do law firms promote or recruit people with a track record of innovation? Law firms by and large are run and staffed by people who are all very similar. When was the last time you came across someone who was weird – and someone who didn’t feel that they had to wear a uniform to be accepted?
Next time you think of something innovative, try discussing it with a non-lawyer from a creative area – a film or movie maker would be a good start – and see what they think. My guess is that your idea will be so smoothed off at the edges that what you will be left with is something that resembles a poor impersonation.
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