By definition, innovation is “the introduction of something new.” While I can’t argue with Merriam Webster, in the legal industry, true innovation goes much deeper than the simple introduction of something new. Legal innovation is all about embracing a culture of change, cultivating engaged employees, using technology and creating loyal clients.

Innovation is a hot topic at every legal conference and is on the minds of every law firm today. It's obvious why—clients are demanding it and they’re leaving law firms that fall behind. Ari Kaplan recently interviewed Kate Orr from Orrick, and her response to why innovation has taken such a central role in law firm operations this past year was spot on. “It’s no secret that the legal profession and law firms are changing, Orr said. "Clients are increasingly focused on how we are delivering our legal services to them."

The why is clear, but the path to innovation is still a little murky. Some firms are addressing the demand by creating entire innovation departments. Others are hiring roles focused solely on innovation initiatives. The 2018 Aderant Business of Law and Legal Technology survey found that almost 30 percent of respondents had someone at their firm tasked specifically with the responsibility of innovation. While large law firms are most likely to have established innovation roles, law firms of all sizes can benefit from these roles. Law firms with dedicated roles are much more likely to deliver innovation, because despite their best intentions, lawyers that must also focus on billable hours will struggle to dedicate enough time to innovation to make true progress.

Every year, RSG evaluates some of the most advanced law firms in the world to identify the winners of the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers awards. They undertake massive amounts of research and spend hours studying and exploring these innovative firms. This research makes RSG uniquely qualified to determine what key components are necessary to build innovation.

The four common themes that emerged during the FTIL research were:

  • Build strong foundations
  • Empower visionaries
  • Listen proactively
  • Prioritize integration

Build strong foundations

Creating a strong foundation for law firm innovation is all about where to invest. While investing in technology is essential to ensure the right tools are in place, investing in people is just as critical. People power innovation and there are several steps you can take today to build on that investment.

Empower visionaries

Before you empower your visionaries, you have to know how to spot them in your firm. Once the visionaries in your firm are identified, they’ll need the autonomy to find creative, new ways to tackle everyday challenges.

Listen proactively

Since the goal of most innovation is to meet client demands, it is only natural that listening proactively to clients is crucial to define exactly what they need. Not only will you discover new ways to improve your client experience, you might also find new opportunities to expand your relationships.

Prioritize integration

Integration makes your solution flexible and adaptable; which can be the difference maker between occasional success and game-changing innovation. Integration makes your technology even more powerful and can streamline the user experience, which will encourage wider technology adoption within your firm.

We are proud to have partnered with RSG to bring you The Elements of innovation ebook which provides more information about these four key elements of innovation and gives practical tips on how to get there. We hope it will spark some inspiration and kick-start your transformational journey.