I don’t play tennis, but I might after attending SOLID (Summit on Legal Innovation and Disruption)  West last week.  Playing tennis was a metaphor used by founder David Cowen of the Cowen Group to signify that we aren’t great at something right away—we must learn it. And that some are better at the game than others.

The SOLID summit has an energizing format—several TED-style talks, mostly from in-house representatives, guided roundtable discussion, then Town Hall where a few tables report to the larger group.  You switch tables a few times, so you get to meet LOTS of people.  There are also a few fireside chats and a couple sprint discussion panels.  There was very little vendor participation, other than the sponsors.  And while I appreciate the absolute value the exhibit floor, the lack of vendor involvement gave SOLID a different and welcome flavor.

The tempo was upbeat and fast-moving, which I enjoyed.  The presentations were curated and each one was valuable. Each one. Some of the main themes were:

  • General Counsel is now more integrated in business and innovative efforts (Alexia Mass)
  • Productizing of legal service will promote efficiency and distinguish firms (Stephen Allen, Kiwi Camara)
  • Industrialization of end to end process (Stephen Allen)
  • Data is unstructured. Structuring is hard, but worth it.  Choose what is important to you (Jay Angelo)
  • Building, not buying is what will set you apart (Jay Angelo, Stephen Allen, Ben Allgrove, Bennett Borden)
  • Successful change is evolutionary, not revolutionary
    • Shock therapy doesn’t work, client sourced demand is limited (Ben Allgrove)
  • Evidence based decision optimizes decision making (Bennett Borden, Eduardo Ruiz)
    • At one of my table discussions, I learned one firm does psychological assessments of potential laterals during the hiring process. They also use the same to build leadership profiles
  • Innovation from the ground up, not the top down—Activate the base!
    • Develop an Idea Channels flow and create an Idea Drop database where staff can input ideas (Anusia Gillespie)
    • Incorporate volunteer Innovation Ambassadors to spread the message (Ben Allgrove)
  • Collaboration-clients want it; teams need it (almost all speakers hit this theme)
    • Your team members are your clients, treat them that way (Wendy Callahan)
    • Firms, vendors and ALS need to work together to bring solutions to clients (Don Walther)
    • Reward efficiency and collaboration (Brett Tarr)
  • Importance of Design thinking (Don Ferguson, Patrick Barry, Bryant Isbell)
    • Don must listen to “The Geek in Review,” or “Make me Smart,” or be a student of Aristotle because he used the phrase “Nobody is as smart as everybody.” He is in good company 😊.
    • Don shared a unique example of applied design thinking where two large companies, desiring to collaborate on a large scale, used him as a facilitator so they would get the most out of meeting with each other.
  • Talent + Process + Tech= Innovation
    • Build your talent pipeline like major league baseball—farm systems, scout everywhere, play moneyball in hiring, ID MVPs and reward them (Michael Avalos)
    • Use talent tools for hiring and build work around industry, not practice group (Alexia Mass)
    • No more superhero CEOs (Michael Bryant)
    • There were some different approaches centered around teaching tech to attorneys One of the more interesting ideas I heard was that UnitedLex is working with several law school, including USC and Vanderbilt to establish a legal residency program with a focus not on tech, but on critical thinking that can be applied to business and tech.  After that, our table, complete with a Law School professor and a techie lawyer, had a robust conversation about tech knowledge of the digital natives in law school

I want to thank all the presenters and producers of SOLID West, along with my firm, for the opportunity to attend an excellent event.  Now to go work on my tennis game…