Legal Innovation Cannot Wait

Innovation Can’t Wait

January 11, 2019

Recently, a colleague sent me a meme that was so incredibly accurate, I laughed so hard I almost cried:

As lawyers, it’s easy to say we’ll do things differently this year: we will spend more time with clients; we will work more efficiently; we will enter time daily. And yet we seem to easily break these promises to ourselves in the face of a client crisis, getting hours billed, or family pressures. It’s understandable.

We Keep Talking about Innovation

“Innovation” seems to be one of those things that firms keep talking about but never actually do. We might look into software that has the potential to move our practice in the right direction, but we don’t pull the trigger and buy it. Alternatively, we may implement new tools but not take the time to learn how to properly use them.

How can we change that? Many state bars are requiring a duty of technology competence, which may help. Perhaps forcing lawyers to learn about technology will help them embrace the ways it can change their practice for the better. But if biannual seminars on alcohol addiction haven’t curbed our profession’s tendency toward substance abuse, what makes us think mandating seminars on software will aid in reducing technology inadequacy?

We Have to Start Somewhere

Law firms (and law schools) need to commit to making innovation happen, and the best way to do that is to just start. The saying, “every journey starts with a single step” may be cliché, but it’s true. The hardest part of any type of change is getting started.

Some law schools across the country have already taken that step. In Connective Counsel’s own backyard, Cleveland State Marshall College of Law just opened a legal technology lab. Suffolk University created an Institute on Legal Innovation & Technology. And Duke launched its Center on Law&Tech.

Leading law firms are following suit. Thomson Hine is one that has grown on the basis of its investment in new ways of doing things with SmartPATH. Davis Wright Tremaine’s DWT De Novo is another great example. Dentons and Allen and Overy have invested in legal innovation incubators to collaborate with technologists to bring new ideas to market.

But midsize and small firms don’t necessarily have $2 million to invest in building an innovation team – and that’s okay. What those firms do have is the ability to be flexible and adaptable. Small and midsize firms can adopt cutting edge technology and use it to evolve their business.

How Do Small And Midsize Firms Compete?

Choose a platform like Connective Counsel that puts your firm on your clients’ phones and gives them unprecedented insight and access into their legal matters. Look at legal practice management software that helps automate routine tasks and reduces embarrassing errors. Invest in a contract review platform powered by artificial intelligence that you can host on your website and turn into a profit-center.

It’s time for small and midsize firms to adopt the adage of Silicon Valley: Move fast and break things. At the very least, just move. Don’t let another year go by without innovating. If you do, you might not be around to wish you did.

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