What Are the Key Attributes of an Innovative Law Firm and How Much Do They Really Matter?

Managing a legislation agency on this period of speedy change is a large problem. It’s exhausting to know the proper factor to do. It appears like the floor is consistently shifting. Your agency’s legal professionals are giving conflicting stories on the state of enterprise whereas your purchasers hold demanding “extra for much less.” Many authorized tech corporations are stepping as much as assist with these challenges. But these corporations usually meet resistance from the very companies they’re making an attempt to assist.

I’d prefer to introduce Sean Bernstein. Sean is a co-founder of MinuteBox, a subsequent technology cloud-based minute e-book and company information answer for legislation companies, accounting companies and inner authorized departments. As an entrepreneur in the authorized area, he’s spoken with dozens of legislation companies, starting from single lawyer places of work to world behemoths. Consequently, he has some ideas on what distinguishes revolutionary legislation companies from extra conventional companies.

This text presents each the “exterior wanting in” and “inside searching” views relating to what makes a legislation agency “revolutionary”. Following Sean’s remarks, I provide some ideas on how issues look from inside a legislation agency. General, we conclude that though sure agency attributes are prevalent in revolutionary legislation companies, such attributes are fairly restricted in predicting a agency’s “innovativeness”. As a substitute, the correct circumstances seem like a extra dependable indicator of a contemporary revolutionary legislation agency.

Sean’s Observations

From my experiences as a authorized entrepreneur I’ve come throughout commonalities inherent in additional revolutionary companies. In my very best world, these attributes would permeate throughout each legislation agency globally. These attributes embody: being proactive about danger, streamlined processes for implementing new expertise, devoted sources for innovation, and sturdy senior management help for innovation.

Being Proactive About Threat

Attempting one thing new requires taking over some danger. However danger is inherently unavoidable. Satirically, given right now’s altering authorized panorama, not doing something may be simply as dangerous as making an attempt one thing new. In some instances, I imagine sustaining the established order may be problematic. Understanding that indecision remains to be a call, revolutionary legislation companies put themselves in the driver’s seat by proactively selecting which dangers to take and which to dismiss.

Intently tied to understanding danger is knowing your agency’s inner ache factors. Corporations which have recognized their ache factors and strategic path upfront (normally by way of in-depth course of mapping) have an simpler time deciding what to purchase and what options match inside their danger tolerance profile. They additionally keep away from being stunned by an issue and making reactionary selections.

In the context of MinuteBox, our staff has mapped out a spectrum of companies starting from these merely interested in our answer to those that have clearly recognized and prioritized bettering minute e-book administration. Law companies which have already carried out inner strategic evaluation may have a less complicated (and less expensive) shopping for course of; they’re empowered to seek out the merchandise with the finest general match and extra readily adapt it to their workflows.

Streamlined Processes for Implementing New Know-how

Whereas every new expertise can carry new challenges to an IT staff, what’s not new is the indisputable fact that such expertise is a component of the technique of legislation companies. We imagine that the companies that may rapidly take a look at new expertise and make it obtainable to customers may have a aggressive benefit. The flexibility to take action lies in having streamlined processes.

Implementing a brand new software requires cooperation from the agency’s IT personnel, its Innovation staff, and the finish customers at the agency. The simplest companies have alignment throughout these totally different stakeholders. Clear and constant communication allows every individual to deal with their half of the job independently. In an very best world, the applicable people in each the legislation agency and the vendor could be in fixed communication and suggestions on every part from an answer’s efficacy, ease-of-use and general value-add. Conversely, conventional companies might have a much less formal expertise implementation course of, which might result in bottlenecks or implementation purgatory as different extra urgent issues take priority.

At MinuteBox, our seamless implementation course of is as necessary as our answer and we are going to do no matter it takes to find out if our answer is the proper match in your agency. However at the finish of the day, this course of is made infinitely simpler if a agency has outlined a course of the place the steps, roles and duties of all these concerned are clearly outlined.

Devoted Innovation Assets

It’s not unusual to listen to some variant of “this answer appears nice, however we simply don’t have the price range proper now.” NOs are high-quality. They are half of an entrepreneur’s life. Extra attention-grabbing is the various definition of “price range”: it may possibly imply every part from an ambiguous time period with no set quantity, to an outlined sum of cash put aside particularly to implement new options and improvements.

Having a devoted price range for innovation can ship highly effective messages. First, when companions see {that a} portion of the agency’s earnings are going towards “innovation,” it signifies that senior management believes change can have optimistic advantages for the agency. Second, setting apart a price range usually correlates to hiring workers devoted to engaged on these tasks. Smaller companies that would not have the measurement to rent devoted folks normally designate somebody internally to future-proof the agency. Both means, designated roles additional sign {that a} agency not solely values innovation in idea, however is actively pushing ahead an innovation agenda.

Change (and by extension innovation) is tough. It requires analysis, inner evaluation and the proper staff to truly implement an answer as soon as determined. However having devoted and motivated workers, supported with some inner monetary backing, is a superb indication {that a} agency is severe about change.

Robust management help

Arguably the most necessary issue is powerful management. It’s tough for legal professionals and workers to really feel comfy about making an attempt one thing new with out senior management recognizing the worth of their efforts. Efficient leaders create a way of urgency and talk a transparent imaginative and prescient of what change will seem like throughout the complete agency – authorized and “non-legal” alike.

Though I not often have an entire image of the inner workings of the totally different legislation companies I encounter, it’s apparent when senior management prioritizes innovation. It may be so simple as permitting junior legal professionals to sit down on innovation committees. Proactively creating management abilities can enhance each facet of a agency. As Blane Prescott notes, “the single most typical success issue for legislation companies right now is nice management.” Senior leaders that embrace innovation will assist foster change all through the agency.

At the finish of the day, I need to work with legislation companies that need to work with me. I don’t need to be a burden or an imposition inside a legislation agency. Huge or small, I need to dig deep right into a agency’s issues and attempt and sort out no matter points they face collectively. I would like the incorporation of MinuteBox inside a legislation agency’s workflow to be a mutually helpful expertise that creates a powerful relationship of belief and understanding.

James’ Observations

Thanks for these nice insights, Sean. I believe it’s precious to see what attributes usually correlate with revolutionary legislation companies. Nonetheless, typically companies with the attributes you coated nonetheless stay ineffective relating to making ready for the future. Why? I believe that past these attributes one should take into account the circumstances inside a agency. The correct circumstances enable these attributes to have the desired impact, or not.

For instance, take into account David Maister’s statement that expertise-based work is on the reverse finish of the spectrum from efficiency-based work – and that “each facet of a follow group’s affairs, from follow growth to hiring, from financial construction to governance, shall be affected by its relative positioning on this spectrum.” There may be unavoidable rigidity between innovation efforts, which usually goal at effectivity, and legislation companies taking delight of their specialised experience. Even in case you have the proper attributes in place, so many legal professionals and others shall be working strictly to optimize experience.

One sort of positioning isn’t inherently higher than the different. But when a agency can not adapt its enterprise mannequin to assist customers justify utilizing efficiency-based improvements then will probably be almost inconceivable for them to take action. Whereas it’d seem out of your finish that sure legislation companies are efficient or ineffective primarily based on sure attributes, my expertise working inside these companies tells me one thing deeper is happening inside companies, whether or not they understand it or not. As change administration professional John Kotter factors out: “we underestimate the refined and systematic forces that exist in nearly all organizations”.

Being proactive about danger

To your level, danger is at all times current. However I’m undecided if a agency’s danger tolerance is a dependable indicator for locating right options. As Clayton Christensen factors out: “many of the executives who’ve been unable to create sustained company development have evidenced a powerful abdomen for danger”. If there’s not a lot correlation between danger tolerance and sustained development in enterprise usually, it’s secure to imagine the identical goes for legislation companies.

Contemplate a agency that has determined to proactively handle danger: how does it precisely assess these dangers? The issue with giant companies in search of development is that the thrilling development markets of tomorrow are small right now. Even when a agency desires to pursue a sure alternative, its measurement and enterprise mannequin can nonetheless make it inconceivable to justify doing so.

Despite the fact that companies are certainly conscious of business developments and have sensible folks engaged on making ready for the future, an group’s measurement and enterprise mannequin can skew its notion of danger. So irrespective of how a lot a agency may perceive it wants to alter, it can not justify doing so given the constraints it has constructed for itself. As Christensen places it: “[Disruption] isn’t a narrative of incompetence. It’s a story of completely rational, profit-maximizing selections.”

Streamlined Processes for Implementing New Know-how

As somebody who works in innovation, I do know that at instances it may possibly certainly really feel like there aren’t any processes. Some companies are higher at this than others, however each legislation agency already has processes for implementing and managing new expertise. Given the quantity of expertise concerned in each legislation agency (e-billing, doc administration system, accounting software program, laptops and cellular gadgets, and many others.), processes are a should. I’ve come to know that delays come up not from any attributes of an IT staff, however the circumstances underneath which they’re working.

The perfect processes in the world will barely matter if the work you need performed is deemed “further” in comparison with every part else dealt with by the IT division. There are an extended checklist of obligations for these groups which can be extra necessary than implementing new innovation software program. Implementation procedures are necessary, however the useful resource allocation priorities of IT present ample justification for suspending innovation efforts.

Additional, if an IT staff appears genuinely resistant it may be as a result of, although they don’t get any reward for implementing new software program, they definitely tackle all the danger. It doesn’t matter if one thing was or wasn’t IT’s concept, any cybersecurity situation is at all times seen as IT’s fault. As Gary Moore explains, in any business, “technical operate is commonly final to get on board”. And the well beyond this isn’t in processes however in altering incentives. As Moore explains: “IT solely get on board after the government operate makes it a precedence, which they may solely do after a division makes it clear they’ve an issue.”

Devoted Innovation Assets

Assets are certainly a vital piece to any endeavor. However they’re fairly malleable to their circumstances. Having an innovation fund doesn’t assure a agency will spend money on the proper expertise. Equally, simply because a agency has devoted workers engaged on innovation doesn’t imply the relaxation of the agency is receptive to their efforts. Getting a agency to purchase new software program is one factor, getting a agency to truly use it’s usually fairly one other. So identical to processes, sources are essential and but restricted of their effectiveness.

Whereas sources and processes are sometimes enablers of what a agency can do, a agency’s values can signify constraints by outlining what a agency can not do. A agency with one set of values could be incapable of succeeding in something aside from the work that aligns with these values. The “refined and systematic forces” of the group received’t enable it – even with devoted workers and price range. Christensen’s statement that “organizations can not disrupt themselves” implies how deeply an group should change as a way to shift its values and corresponding enterprise mannequin as a way to adapt. The magnitude of this modification is why he suggests an group construct an off-shoot group with values that result in higher outcomes, or undertake a herculean managerial effort as a way to redesign itself.

Robust management help

I’ve spoken earlier than about the huge shift in required abilities concerned in going from lawyer to managing a legislation agency. And whereas I nonetheless suppose that argument has some benefit, even those that have spent complete careers managing corporations battle with sustaining development. As Christensen observes:

“about 90% of all publicly traded corporations have proved themselves unable to maintain for quite a lot of years a development trajectory that creates above-average shareholder returns. Until we imagine that the pool of administration expertise in established companies is like some perverse Lake Wobegon, the place 90% of managers are beneath common, there must be a extra elementary rationalization for why the overwhelming majority of good managers has not been in a position to crack the drawback of sustaining development.”(emphasis added)

Although all corporations battle with navigating a altering market, one specific impediment for legislation companies is embedded in the management model that sometimes works for expertise-based corporations. Maister explains that in expertise-based corporations (like most huge legislation companies), “the autonomy of the particular person associate could be amongst the most supreme virtues in the agency, with little use made of formal inner structuring.” This setup has had a lot historic success. However as the authorized business undergoes structural shifts, this palms off method is now a legal responsibility. Christensen explains that: “disruptive innovation is the class of circumstance by which highly effective senior managers should personally be concerned… A senior-most government is the just one who can endorse the use of company processes when they’re applicable, and break the grip of these processes and choice guidelines when they aren’t.” No quantity of enterprise acumen shall be ample in creating change until senior management is prepared to be hands-on all through.


A proactive method to danger, streamlined processes, designated sources, and administration abilities are all vital for a agency to have the ability to adapt for the future, however they alone usually are not ample. As a lot as sure persons are pushing for change, workers at each degree make prioritization selections. And people selections are derived from how the agency units up its values. One set of values isn’t inherently higher than one other, and it is doable to navigate the rigidity between experience vs effectivity; however the battle between them will at all times be current.

Promoting merchandise that make an group extra environment friendly is one factor. Organizations making an attempt to transition from expertise-based values to efficiency-based values will, as Maister places it, “be remodeling the elementary nature of their agency.” And people asking their legal professionals and workers to change into extra environment friendly whereas focusing their incentives and development technique on expertise-based work may have a tough time navigating that rigidity. So authorized expertise corporations have to be acutely aware of the modifications their options ask of a agency. Equally, the extra acutely aware legislation agency leaders are of how a lot they’re asking their legal professionals and workers to alter, the much less annoyed these may be when issues don’t go in accordance with plan.

What Are the Key Attributes of an Innovative Law Firm and How Much Do They Really Matter?

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