And we don’t just mean the loss of face-to-face meetings or the switch to remote work. The pandemic forced the legal sector into a paradigm shift. It was the much-needed catalyst that finally challenged the way things have always been done. The race then began to deliver more efficient and effective legal services in a decentralised hybrid environment.
Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. Innovation, too. Because as Alison Laird – Senior Director at Morae Global – explains, firms’ future success won’t lie solely in their skill or work ethic. But in their mindset – and their ability to manage and embrace change.
Remember that it’s not just about the processes, but the people
When people hear the word ‘innovation’, they tend to automatically think ‘technology’.
But conflating the two concepts overlooks a third, arguably more important element of the trio: people.
Because while technology is a great tool to support innovation, it should never come before getting your staff involved – and engaged – with change. Innovation initiatives are a success because of people, not technology.
An innovation culture is something your team needs to cultivate. And that starts with your people.
“There’s some great technology out there that will help us do things better,” Alison says. “But you need to bring the hearts and minds [of your team] with you on any journey of process change.
“Unless you do, it doesn’t matter how brilliant the tech is – if people don’t use it, or use it to its full potential, it’ll fail or reduce your ROI.”
Through this lens, technology isn’t the ‘final piece of the puzzle’, or the end goal. It’s a tool – one which focused, future-oriented legal teams can wield to great effect.
“It’s really about looking at those three elements together,” Alison says: “The people, the process, and the technology. You always start with the first two.
“Look at who’s involved and who’s going to be impacted by the change. Then, take a deep dive into the process – and how you can improve it.”
Innovation is a journey – so bring your clients along for the ride
Innovation doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
By its very nature, innovation is creative and collaborative – so why not invite your clients to take part?
To embrace change, your firm needs to be taking a holistic view of it. How can you build your clients into the innovation process – to use their insights not only as feedback, but as the foundations of a fresh, forward-thinking approach?
“It’s about getting all those different parties into the mix when you’re developing any innovative product, service or solution,” Alison says.
“You need to create an environment – both internally and with clients – where it’s okay to try different things, and to experiment. It’s about embracing the mentality it’s ok to fail. By experimenting you build a safe space to learn and create new solutions.”
By involving your clients in testing new technology and ideas – be they document management, client onboarding, or virtual meetings – you put everyone on the same page. You’ll foster deeper relationships with your client base and boost your firm’s agile problem-solving reputation.
And as Alison affirms, the results speak for themselves.
“Some people say they don’t want to give something to a client if it’s not finished. I say that actually, you do! Ask the client along the way how they think something would work or be received, or how they feel about a particular solution – before you implement it.
“Incorporate their ideas and feedback and you’ll get a much better product in the end that will be embraced and adopted.”
Don’t fight change – roll with it
With COVID-19, firms were thrust into new ways of working. But innovation isn’t just about adopting new tools or platforms.
First and foremost, it’s about equipping your firm’s team with the psychological infrastructure to embrace innovation.
To do this, your firm can employ change management strategies. Analyse the reasons, resources, risks and returns involved with change. Get your team involved. And ensure everyone understands – and buys into – the new approach.
From this fertile organisational soil, the green shoots of innovation can begin to grow.
“Going forward, it’s got to be more about change management,” Alison says. “About how well law firms and legal service providers can manage a changing world – alongside their client expectations.”
And within this attitude to change, Alison highlights, lies an exciting future.
“With innovation comes lots of opportunities to be better. We can improve the accessibility of legal services, access to social justice, and deliver better client services.
“We can make change – and innovation – work for everyone.”
Innovation requires investment – and imagination
The tidal wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to recede. But that doesn’t mean your firm’s mindset of legal innovation needs to go with it.
With so many new platforms and processes changing how we work, innovation isn’t a nice-to-have – as Alison explains, it’s a necessity.
“Clients aren’t willing to pay junior staff to sit there scouring stacks of documents, looking for specific clauses. Not anymore – not when there’s machine learning technology that can do the same thing in seconds.
“If firms don’t adapt and change, they won’t get the work.”
Automation and digitalisation are the bricks and mortar of the legal industry’s future. But they’ll be built on inherently human foundations – the ability to embrace change and adopt an innovative growth mindset.
Positive change, however, doesn’t come instantly. Or easily.
“Innovation requires investment,” says Alison. “It needs time, and it relies on the right framework and mindset; a desire to try something new.
“What does that look like at your firm? You’re only limited by your imagination.”
Interested in innovating?
Learn directly from Alison Laird, your Teaching Fellow, with The College of Law’s 12-weekInnovation program. This program is available as a short course or subjects in our Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma or Masters of Legal Business programs.