Here are three ways to walk up to the plate and get the ball rolling.
1. Mix and match different members of the firm and see what happens.
The field of law is defined by its hierarchy, where first years bow to fourth years who cower to senior associates who report to partners. In business, consulting groups have spent decades devoted to organigrams and charts mapping Chief positions (CEO, CFO, COO…). Law firms combine business principles with those of law.
But what happens when you draw wayward chain-of-command lines, mixing and matching unlikely individuals?
“First, consider the relationship between the CMO and the CIO. There are many opportunities for these professionals to work together— client relationship management databases, deals and case tracking systems, Web sites and client portals, to name a few. For a firm to truly innovate, the relationship between these two individuals and their teams must be strong, supportive and respectful,” writes Silvia Coulter in her essay, “Innovation In Leadership,” published in InnovAction.
Innovation is sometimes the product of untraditional pairing.
First think about what areas of weakness your firm is working to improve. Identify two persons who would have similar interest, but different professional perspectives on that issue. Then, put them in a room, and see what happens.
“A second example is the relationship between the Director of Professional Development and the COO. By carefully understanding the strategic goals of the firm, the professional development person is better able to assist with educational offerings across the firm, from senior partners to support teams,” continues Coulter’s essay.
Communication among teams—even unconventional ones—is vital to the successful growth of a firm.
2. Choose one of your more difficult clients and partner up with them.
The greatest asset to the industry of law is human capital. That’s why investing in first-year associates via training and mentorship is crucial to long-lasting success. But, outside of lawyers, clients are the next best in human capital.
Corporate clients are business-savvy and quite possibly, the best in their field. Take advantage of an especially difficult client—whether that be one who always hopes to lower fees or one in constant contact—and ask them what aspects of his or her experience with the firm could be ameliorated. Discuss creative solutions.
Not only will you improve your client’s experience at the firm, you’ll likely glean a few good ideas for restructuring from his or her industry expertise.
“The firm should aim to form ‘innovation partnerships’ to work with the most demanding and difficult clients with a view to exceeding the existing service norms of the profession,” writes Robert Pay, managing director, Europe and John Atkinson, senior consultant JaffeAssociates for Managing Partner Magazine.
3. Conduct industry research (like the rest of them).
Finally, businesses spend millions of dollars each year on consulting agencies and advisors to analyze their practice. Lawyers lag behind in this trend.
“There is very little time or money spent on research by law firms compared with similar professions, such as accounting and consulting. As evidenced by the recent Lighthouse Research report on research in the professions, lawyers are behind both in spend and the way they use research,” laments Pay in his MP Magazine article.
Even if your firm doesn’t hire outside help for internal auditing, find an in-house associate or researcher capable of the task. Ask them to interview associates and write a report on the various processes in the firm, areas of strength, and areas of weakness.
Choose a person who is respected by the employees, but also one who will retain the confidentiality of interviewees to employers. Make sure the impromptu analyst saves room in the report for suggestions for innovation.
Remember, “Don’t wait for creativity and innovation to grow gradually—disrupt the status quo. The change can be radical or transformational or just a reset and reboot of top priorities and budget allocations and reward systems,” says sound Business Rx from the Washington Post.