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THE INNOVATION ISSUE

 Table of Contents | Features | Frontlines | Technology | Business

April 2009 Issue | Volume 35 Number 3 | Page 28
FEATURES

INNOVATION: GETTING IT DONE

It was the famed American philosopher and Major League pitcher Jerome Hanna "Dizzy" Dean who said it best: "It ain't braggin' if you can do it" -and he wasn't just talking baseball. Now let's apply that thinking to the business of practic¬ing law and the Sisyphean struggle to do things better, differently, more innovatively.

I n a profession populated by strong, creative and analytical thinkers, getting a great idea is the easy part. It’s the “doin’ it” part that’s the killer. Above and beyond the usual fight to derail any wrong-headed organization, in a law firm those very same strong, creative and analytical thinkers will wear you and themselves to a frazzle attempting to prove that an idea—any new idea—is fraught with danger.

There are a number of reasons why making something great happen in law practice management is so hard. Yes, it starts with those really smart lawyers who demonstrate their competence by finding flaws with everything. (It’s what they do, after all.) But there’s also the issue of time. Changing a system, writing a new policy, learning new skills, identifying improved technologies, figuring out a better way to do something … anything remotely smelling of change … always takes far more time than just letting things run as they are. And time is money in organizations that run on the currency of the billable hour.

And then there’s precedent. Lawyers, paid by clients to identify and protect them from risk, do seem to want assurance that others have “done this before” and that the outcome was good. (Assurance that’s impossible to come by when trying something new, surely.)

So when Law Practice gets wind of a law firm that has done something precedent-setting, we get excited about the creative thinking that went into it. But more than that, we stand up and cheer for the gritty leader-ship and just plain stick-to-itevness that was required to actually get it done—and not just on paper— and make it work. It’s rare, indeed.

We’ve canvassed some old friends of the magazine who are in touch with what’s going on out there. We’ve scoured the Web for signs of innovative life in the business of practicing law. From the profession’s pundits we’ve sought to identify where innovation is lurking, just waiting to improve your life. And we checked back on innovations we’ve reported on in the past.

There’s good news. There is some interesting and creative thinking going on out there. And, more to the point, some are digging in and making new things happen. We’re hoping a good read through this will give you the inspiration it gave us. To quote that other American philosopher, Larry the Cable Guy, let’s “git ’er done!”

About the Author

Merrilyn Astin Tarlton is principal in Astin Tarlton. She helps law firms think and act differently about managing the practice of law. A Past President of the College of Law Practice Management, she serves as a judge for the College’s InnovAction awards and blogs on innovation at www.astintarlton.typepad.com.

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