Firms Who Have Made A Difference: Identifying & Rewarding Innovation In Law Practice

Innovation should be rewarded. At least, the College of Law Practice Management believes so.

Lawyers, law firms, and other purveyors of legal services have until June 1st to enter the 2012 InnovAction Awards, which recognize passionate professionals with big ideas, strong convictions, and the determination to make a difference.

Last year, the firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, LLP (BLP) was selected for the InnovAction Award in honor of its Lawyers On Demand (LOD) initiative, initiated in 2007 after BLP observed two important issues affecting the UK legal market: (1) legal services clients want to stretch their budgets further and (2) many lawyers are looking for greater flexibility and autonomy in their work.

Not only did LOD challenge the traditional models of legal service delivery by bringing talented freelance lawyers to work directly with clients, but the program also allowed lawyers to work flexibly, either at the client office or from home, with outsourced BLP support and resources. Since its inception, the initiative has increased ten-fold in size and BLP has gained a fantastic list of clients along with it.

Along with BLP, The University of Toronto Faculty of Law also received an InnovAction Award for its unique initiative, the Internationally Trained Lawyers Program (ITLP).

When first immigrating to Canada, one of the biggest challenges faced by internationally-trained lawyers (ITL) is the lack of access to practical, hands-on experience in the Canadian legal environment.

So, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law created a program for ITLs practicing in Ontario that helps ITL participants obtain their license and secure full-time professional employment upon arrival. The 10-month program includes academic, cultural fluency and career development classroom sessions geared specifically toward international lawyers.

Finally, the University of Miami School of Law in partnership with five other law schools was the third applicant to receive the InnovAction Award last year for its LawWithoutWalls initiative.

LawWithoutWalls is a part-virtual, collaborative academic model that joins together students, faculty, practitioners, and entrepreneurs from around the world to share ideas about innovative legal education and practice.

In the 21st Century, technology is already fully integrated into the lives of young law students, and it should be adapted seamlessly into the daily activities of all law practice today.

This year, applicants to the InnovAction Award must meet the following criteria to enter:

  • Originality: Is this a novel idea or approach, or a new twist on an existing idea or approach?
  • Disruption: Does this entry change an important element of the legal services process for the better, and marketplace expectations along with it?
  • Value: Is the client and/or legal industry better off because of this entry, in terms of the affordability, ease, relevance or effect of legal services?
  • Effectiveness: Has this entry delivered real, demonstrable or measurable benefits, for the provider, its clients, or the marketplace generally?

The 2012 InnovAction Award is a refreshing reminder to legal professionals that (1) innovative business models, (2) comprehensive training programs, and (3) integrated technology and social media play an important role in the success and growth of law firms.

Not only should employees exhibit interest and proficiency in each of these criteria for originality and value, so should the firm itself. Use them to evaluate employee progress and client management.

Your firm now knows how to enter the contest; but the question is, does it truly know yet how make a difference?



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