According to management guru Peter Drucker, “Every organization needs one core competence: innovation.” If Drucker’s words don’t resonate with you, how about this—highly innovative Fortune 500 companies return four times more value to their shareholders. Still not convinced that law firms need to embrace innovation? Then consider the work of the Canadian Bar Association Legal Futures Initiative over the past few years, and its recognition of the issues facing the Canadian legal profession today. On the topic of innovation, the CBA group claims that, “Great opportunities await those who embrace change; opportunities to put clients at the center of our work, to better serve Canadians, to provide new kinds of services, to open up new models of legal service delivery, to work in conjunction with others, and most importantly, to creatively re-imagine what it means to ‘be a lawyer’ in the future.”
Perhaps the more important question to ask is, “Why shouldn’t law firms embrace innovation?” The Ark Group posed this very question and went on to say, “What makes lawyers so special that they don’t need to innovate? Every business in the world needs to innovate in order to gain competitive advantage and survive in the marketplace—and lawyers are no longer an exception to this basic rule.”
So, what is innovation? According to the authors of Agile Innovation, “Innovation is the art of creating new products, services, and business models that address needs that either are not well articulated or do not yet exist.”
Innovation has been alive and well for over a decade at Orrick, a California-based global law firm. In December 2014, the Financial Times, for the second year in a row, named Orrick one of the most innovative US law firms. The firm has implemented a wide variety of changes, which it reports have “enabled us to deliver client services more efficiently. These innovations touch virtually every aspect of our practice and the way we run our firm.”
Orrick’s innovations include changes to its: lawyer talent model; global insourcing centre; approach to fee arrangements; and value-driven client services such as eDiscovery, Document Review and Global Corporate solutions. Why does Orrick innovate? The firm says that it is driven by its goal to provide clients with services of distinctive value, and to better align Orrick with its clients.
The operative phrase that Orrick used for its innovation rationale is “distinctive value.” Distinctive means unique. Innovation is the process that has led the firm to create distinctive services that, in turn, differentiate it as a firm. Today, clients are increasingly cost-conscious, value-focused and knowledgeable. The result is a legal market that is more competitive than ever before. Differentiating your firm in the minds of potential clients is vital for survival. Innovation is the process that can yield distinctive outcomes that differentiate and set your firm above the rest. That’s why your firm should embrace innovation.
About the Author
Kathy Burns is co-founder of Client Intel, a law practice management consulting firm based in Canada. She can be reached at 226.268.7744 or Kathy@clientintel.ca.