In the first part of our Innovation in Legal Services blog series, we shared what innovation in the legal services sector looks like, the ways it differs from product-focused innovation, and why it is important for innovation to be at the core of a legal services practice. In the second article of our three-part series, we dive into the “how” by exploring how to create a structure within your legal practice that supports collaborative innovation at scale. In this article, we will review (1) how to establish an innovation structure, (2) how to manage innovation at scale, and (3) how to measure success.
At first glance, the structure of a multinational or multi-office law firm does not lend itself to collaboration and engagement across the practice. This is especially true of global firms that have geographically expanded through mergers. Traditionally, individual offices or regions are partner-managed and have a distinct culture centered on the needs of local clients and employees. Office processes, legal materials, and communication are built specifically around the needs of the individual practice: collaboration with other locations across the firm can be limited as each practice applies its expertise to a sector or territory. This structure can result in local or regional legal “silos”, leading to diverse (and possibly inconsistent) management priorities and operational practices across the global firm.
Global Factors Driving Structural Change for Legal Practices
However, there is an increasing need for global legal firms to reimage their organizations’ structure in a way that facilitates integration, knowledge sharing, and collaboration across all regional, industry or specialist practices – and not simply as a vehicle to leverage purchasing power. Key factors accelerating the demand to connect diverse legal teams include:
- Global client services delivery: Globalization is a factor for many industry sectors, which results in clients requiring legal services outside their “home” country. Multiple local practices may be involved in delivering legal services to a global client. Consistency in client management and services delivery, such as a standard format for client briefs or an aligned account approach, can improve client satisfaction and boost competitive advantage over firms with a less-integrated approach.
- Digital workplace and remote office environments: The transformation of digital workplaces and rapid pivot caused by Covid-19 to remote workforces has accelerated organic engagement and collaboration. Employees across departments are becoming adept at using new collaboration technologies (e.g., Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, many others). Legal firms are realizing strategic benefits from how increased collaboration enables them to tap into the intelligence of their global workforce. A natural next step is to introduce a utility model to support and bring structure to innovation.
- Changing workforce demographics and behaviors: Many experienced legal professionals have lived through transformation initiatives from manual tasks to automated workflows – and in the process, learning new technologies and onboarding digital workplace tools for the first time. However, today’s legal trainees, interns, and new hires are digital natives – and enter the legal workplace with expectations of using the latest tools and technology. The structure, processes and culture of the law firm needs to match these expectations.
3 Essential Components to Facilitate Collaborative Innovation at Scale across Your Firm
The good news for legal firms: the global factors listed above that are driving the need for practice-wide collaboration and increased employee engagement have also paved a path for legal innovation teams to get started. So what are the essential components that form the foundation of a successful structure for collaborative innovation in the legal services industry? Through working with global law firms to help introduce and scale collaborative innovation, our HYPE team sees three critical structural components that are key to a successful innovation program: an ability and desire to engage cross silo, scalable technology to manage innovation program input/output, and meaningful, transparent metrics (e.g., KPIs, dashboards, reports).
Structure: The structure to support and facilitate collaborative innovation needs to align with how global legal practices are organized, recognizing the influence and knowledge of local and specialist practices, but also realizing the need for centralized coordination and support. Linklaters, a global law firm with 31 offices in 21 countries and a HYPE Innovation customer, facilitates collaborative innovation with its 5200 employees by aligning their central Innovation and Efficiency (I&E) Team with local or regional Practice Innovation & Efficiency (PIE) Teams. PIE Teams are typically led by a sponsoring partner who coordinates innovation activities with local employees. Although the composition of each PIE team varies, they are ideally composed of at least one partner, counsel or managing associate, junior associate, trainee, secretary, and business manager: this brings a diversity of skills and knowledge to the team. The PIE Team structure is at the forefront of Linklaters’ innovation program, harnessing local practice expertise and employee insights. Among other responsibilities, Linklaters’ central I&E Team coordinates resources, provides guidance for idea campaigns, and manages corporate-wide innovation initiatives.
Technology: Modern digital workplaces thrive thanks to scalable technology. Today’s reality for innovators when facilitating collaboration or problem-solving sessions, running brainstorming exercises, or launching idea campaigns: if you can’t bring everyone together in one room, you need digital tools. Linklaters manages collaborative innovation through their HYPE-powered Ideas Pathway platform, supporting cross-firm collaboration and knowledge-sharing at scale. The Ideas Pathway provides employees with a scalable, user-friendly innovation platform for idea management, while helping the I&E Team to better manage resources and boost overall program efficiency. The Ideas Pathway is a critical component in their innovation structure that, supported by local PIE Teams and the central I&E Team, applies a ‘utility-style’ model to harness the collective intelligence of employees across the firm.
Metrics: Establishing, evaluating, and managing the metrics for any innovation program is key. However, the metrics for services-focused innovation may differ than those for product-focused innovation. For example: the value of innovation for law firms might lay more commonly in business model and process innovation rather than product innovation. This requires an imagination beyond what’s currently being offered, as well as a desire to implement smaller ideas that have a big aggregate impact. Also relevant for services-focused innovation: there may be a greater focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing instead of product. One of Linklaters’ successful campaigns focused solely on identifying best practices adopted by local offices that could be applied across the firm.
The starting point for establishing an innovation structure will depend upon where a legal practice is on the innovation maturity model – from valuing innovation as part of a core strategy for the firm at the high end of the scale, to a commitment to introducing an innovation program at the beginning of the journey, or somewhere in between. And there are other important innovation success factors – including leadership commitment, understanding the importance of creating cultural awareness and acceptance, and effective communication. However, by using three structural “building blocks” to anchor their innovation practice, legal teams can create a solid foundation for collaborative innovation at scale across their firm – no matter where they are on their innovation journey.
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.