By Mike Wong, VP, Business Development
Innova(tion)(tive)(ting)(te) – I think it’s safe to say that, through the first two months of the year we have a new favorite set of terms in the legal industry. We are collectively abuzz with legal innovation. While I’m certainly guilty of jumping aboard this train (see my LinkedIn profile), and am incredibly excited about the brainstorm/ideation sessions I have day in and day out with clients, I find it equally important that we remain mindful and purposeful in how we approach innovation to avoid overextension and conflation with other concepts – automation, next-gen technology and the like.
To elucidate, I digress into metaphor…
Prior to the days of being a model for dress-up, tea-party attendee, stepstool and particularly terrible horse – our Black Labrador, Finnley, had a routine, and it was a given. I’d walk in from work, he’d greet me at the door – and I would pet, feed, and walk him without interruption. He would then find his way to the wood stove, or someplace equally warm and nap until breakfast. The life.
Things got tricky when one kid came along, and now with two that are mobile and eager to greet Dad each day, Finn has had to reconsider his approach. At first he struggled against the competition – pushing his way through the kids as if they weren’t there. He didn’t exactly find favor with that line of attack.
After a few days of hanging back, Finn did something unexpected – as I walked in and the kids each grabbed a leg, effectively cementing me to the floor, Finn ran over to the toys with which they had been playing, picked one up and ran off to the kitchen. Much to the delight of my knees, the kids immediately made chase. As soon as he was cornered he dropped the toys, the kids snapped them up to continue playing, and Finn made his way back to me. Canine innovation … Caninnovation!
While it took a few days for him to work his way through the change, Finn realized that he was not going to solve his challenge through automation alone. He needed to innovate, which involved leveraging new tools, taking advantage of situational data on his new companions’ play habits, and mapping a new process, all before automating.
Similar to Finn, as we traverse the legal innovation landscape I think it imperative to work through a similar set of questions when looking to innovate:
What challenge am I looking to solve?
Where is the expertise and how can it be accessed?
What is the current process vs. ideal process?
What is the realistic attention span of the stakeholders?
What tools will help me develop and then automate my ideal solution both in time and within budget?
What is my plan for driving adoption and iterating?
And while there are a myriad of other questions to consider when approaching innovation in legal, these have been the building blocks that I’ve personally found to help focus the conversation and differentiate innovation from its constituent parts – automation, tech adoption, knowledge engineering, brainstorming etc.
If you have any other starting points to the legal innovation conversation that you would like to posit, I’m always happy to discuss and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org