The Financial Times North America Innovative Lawyers report for 2014 is out. The picture that emerges from this new edition is one of a profession in transition. The information revolution is changing the world, including the law profession. There are new applications of technology, new assaults on data security and privacy, and new forms of partnerships. The law has yet to catch up with many of these developments, but lawyers are playing a vital role in bringing clarity both to these issues and to the role of their profession.
A changing profession
What is the impact of all these global and local changes on the law profession? The 2014 report of the Financial Times North America Innovative Lawyers ranking provides some early insights into the impact big data and new technology can have. It also provides examples of firms that have radically improved the efficiency of their service, for the benefit of their customers.
Eric Greenberg, a corporate lawyer at Paul Hastings, says that legal innovation enhances reputation and generates business, but does not result in higher fees. He questions whether innovation pays off.
Indeed, innovation may not produce benefit in terms of hourly rates, while “busy” work does. However, clients appreciate busy work less and less, while demanding more value from the services provided. In the meantime, the firms featured in the Financial Times ranking are amongst the highest revenue generating and most profitable firms in the US. Clearly innovation does pay off.
The pivotal role of clients
Innovating for innovation’s sake is a waste of resources—both the client’s and the law firm’s. Clients come to innovative law firms with their most challenging needs. It is then up to the law firm to come up with an effective alternative approach in a timely fashion. Clearly it is important for the portfolio of a law firm to have the ability to meet clients’ needs in the most effective and appropriate manner.
One approach to innovation is to pro-actively reach out to (non-)clients, and ask how legal counsel can provide future value—for example, in the prevention of lawsuits. Both clients and law firms will need to adapt to this new model of providing services, where billing by the hour would not be appropriate.
To make pro-active service development work, law firms need an innovation framework that:
- Puts value-added work for clients at the center of activities, instead of busy work
- Ensures scouting of the market, to seek (non-)clients who can be reached with innovative services
- Values the contribution of those involved in innovation activities, as not all these services will work as well as intended
- Leverages the benefits of innovation beyond a single application
Interested in learning how law firms or a government agency can become a catalyst for legal innovation? Please contact us at: info”at”organizing4innovation”dot” com, or visit our webpage for more information: www.organizing4innovation.com.