“Innovation” is a term that is being thrown around quite a bit in the legal profession. The College of Law Practice Management, an honorary organization where I serve on the board of trustees, annually awards its InnovAction Award to persons or organizations that deliver legal services through extraordinary innovative means. Innovation is certainly worthy of our praise. Frankly, however, the award is almost always given to a recipient who is doing something big, through something that is not only innovative for a specific organization but could also be classified as a unique invention. In most cases the award recipient is not a lawyer or law firm, and when it has been a law firm, it’s usually been a very large one.
Law Practice, and this column specifically, is published primarily to help practicing lawyers with the business of practicing law. A significant percentage of our readers are in small to midsized law firms. It’s my belief that innovation is not only for nonlawyer legal service providers and large law firms but for every lawyer in every law firm who desires to be a successful provider of legal services in the future. As the importance of innovation at my relatively small law firm has been contemplated, we have come up with an interesting way to promote innovation and invention.
Defining Innovation and Management Buy-In
The first step in our process of considering the importance of innovation was to define exactly what innovation is and the difference between that term and “invention.” We decided that innovation does not have to be universal but can be defined as specific to our firm, its market and the position it holds in those markets, while focusing on the specific needs of our firm members, our firm as a business organization and the communities and clients we serve. Therefore, innovation will normally include any meaningful improvement or change that helps us serve those specific needs.