While product-oriented innovation is well-established as a business practice, innovation in service-oriented sectors, such as legal, accounting, and consulting, has had a slower progression – until now. Workforce disruption due to the pandemic, coupled with the rapid adoption of digital workplace technologies, are creating unique, exciting opportunities for service-focused innovation. The first of this blog series focusing on innovation in the legal services sector explores what collaborative innovation looks like for legal practices, explain why establishing an innovation practice is a game-changer for law firms, and share how to kick start innovation with 4 idea campaigns. Future blogs will share best practices in establishing an innovation structure and nurturing collaboration within a legal firm, together with a case study from global innovator and “Magic Circle” UK firm Linklaters.
Collaborative Innovation in Legal
Establishing a structured practice to facilitate collaborative innovation at scale is a logical step for law firms who wish to tap into employee insights from regional or local legal practices. Structured innovation enables a firm’s partners and legal professionals to harness their organization’s collective intelligence to (e.g.) identify and scale best practices or to surface new ideas about internal or client processes. And wide-scale digital technology adoption across the legal sector has transformed how innovation can be introduced and nurtured across diverse legal teams - who are either based in local law offices or working remotely - and connect them with centrally-headquartered colleagues. At HYPE, we refer to this ability to harness employee insights from diverse geographies and teams, as “collective intelligence as a utility” – that can be tapped at scale and on demand to solve problems, brainstorm new opportunities, or share expertise.
Traditionally, it has been a challenge for legal firms to scale collaborative ideation due to silo-like organizational structures that centered around geographically dispersed local practices, which may or may not be supported by a central services team to provide administration, training, and other organizational support. In addition, individual practices often are highly localized, with processes, activities, and legal materials catering to the needs of local or regional clients. However, many client organizations are becoming increasingly global in scope and reach, and this globalization is driving the need for many legal practices to improve cross-firm collaboration. And consequently, this cross-firm engagement is helping to break down silos and harness the collective intelligence of its partners and teams – “if our practice in Singapore has a great idea, why can’t we adopt (or adapt) similar ideas for our London or New York offices?”
Innovation as an Imperative
Why is establishing an innovation practice and nurturing a culture of collaboration a must-do for legal firms in today’s environment? Like most organizations in both product and services sectors, law firms need to rapidly, effectively respond to an ecosystem where disruptive events or transitional change can be triggered from factors such as:
- industry-driven disruption from new laws or regulatory requirements,
- competition in attracting and hiring legal professionals,
- workforce needs, especially helping employees adapt during unanticipated events or crises, and
- new client expectations, or changes in managing firm-client relationships
Collaborative innovation, supported by a platform to collect, share, and communicate ideas, helps law firms improve agility across the practice and enables better decision-making by centralizing collaboration and increasing visibility of high-value ideas. For example, this enables a firm to pivot quickly during a crisis, better respond to tenders or client service requests, or continuously gather employee insights to improve processes or deliver better service.
Generating Scalable Innovation
Finally, how can legal professionals kick-start innovation within the practice so they can start to generate high-impact, scalable innovation? For inspiration on the importance of innovation as a core value, we suggest looking to industry leaders such as Linklaters that have a strong commitment and success-based examples of how to drive collaborative innovation across a global practice. To kickstart and scale collaborative innovation across your practice, we suggest four idea campaigns to get you started:
- Launch an idea campaign that focuses on identifying and sharing best practices. Ask each regional or local office to contribute at least 2-3 examples of best practices that they use locally.
- Introduce an idea campaign with a theme focused on how to improve engagement with clients. Invite your client-facing teams to contribute ideas. Areas of improvement could be to how to extend relationships beyond a client’s legal team, how to improve communication, or to identify new services or offerings.
- Focus on increasing the impact of your talent management program by inviting new employees or junior team members to contribute ideas for improving onboarding, training, or communication. As they have recently been through the recruitment process, they will have valuable insights about how to attract potential candidates that have scarce or valuable skill sets.
- Review your client-facing legal documents, such as briefs, proposals, and other documentation. When was their last refresh of content, design, and style? Invite both client-facing teams and marketing colleagues (e.g., designers, content writers) to explore how you can reimagine your client documentation.
In our next blog, we will share best practices and examples to help build a scalable organizational structure for collaborative innovation. For more resources about Linklaters and other HYPE customers who have leveraged collective intelligence as a utility, we invite you to listen to our recent webinar How to Innovate at Scale. Do you have experiences within your own law firm to share with innovation community peers, or would you like more information on best innovation practices in the legal services industry? Give us a call or contact us here.