Thoughts on formally capturing your mavericks’ contributions.
In a number of partner retreats, I’ve posed this question: “How many of you have thought of some new idea, possible new practice or initiative that has the potential to generate new revenues for the firm?” The usual answer is somewhere in the range of 69 to 83 percent in the affirmative. So what happens to all those ideas? In the vast majority of cases, they are never shared with anyone else.
Why? Aside from the usual critical responses that one would expect to elicit (“We don’t have time to develop that,” “My clients wouldn’t be interested,” “No one else is doing that,” etc.), the reality is that most firms don’t have any formal system for capturing, exchanging and nurturing new ideas. But if your partner’s maverick thoughts can generate new revenues, it may be high time to find the way to gestate and commercialize those ideas. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of firms that have actually initiated an internal venture fund that enables lawyers to put forth their ideas and have them encouraged and financed.
Now, that type of fund might have seemed frivolous during the boom times, but it might be just what a lot of firms need today to encourage enthusiasm, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation amidst the gloom of the current economy.
Patrick J. McKenna consults on competitive strategy and conducts special programs for new managing partners.