Innovation is hard. Despite how easily the word gets tossed around, like a “bong at a frat party” as a friend likes to say, but to truly innovate, to truly change a process, a culture, a product is one of the most difficult things to do.
Many legal industry pundits call for law firm innovation, and us non-lawyers have been called out as the gatekeepers of innovation because we are not moving mountains, challenging the status quo faster or with enough chutzpah. There may be some truth to those claims, we do get frustrated, our ideas can be difficult to implement in the highly matrixed world of law firms and we can get stymied by politics. Often we give up and retreat into the comfortable, “we’ve tried that before” type excuses. But we have to keep trying, use different approaches, find new language and keep repeating the cost benefit of not changing. If we don’t innovate or transform what and how we do things, we may see more of our roles outsourced or vanish entirely as has been the trend. Today, I pulled out a report I created back in 2008 as an example of what firms could and should be doing for CI and practice strategy. At the time, the report was shot down for a variety of reasons but as I resurrected it from my “precedents” folder today, and blew off the dust, I still saw its brilliance. It would have been easy to walk away and not keep trying to innovate in the space given that set back. I was crushed to be honest and wondered why I was working in the industry when what I was hired to do was not welcomed with open arms. The report was and still is a perfect example of CI innovation in firms. At the time, no one was talking about insights or big data. But the report pulled together internal insights with external data, it combined form with function. It’s a beautiful report and it lives in my file cabinet to this day. A pretty picture of what could be.