March/April 2020

Future Proofing

Using Innovation to Future Proof Your Law Firm

Dan Pinnington and Reid Trautz

In this month’s column we talk to well-known and respected legal technologist Dennis Kennedy. Dennis has just published a new book, Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations. His book could fill multiple columns with insights on legal services innovation, so for this column we’ll do our best to get his most practical advice and tips on how lawyers and firms can future proof themselves. 

What is innovation, and is it different for small firms than it is for big firms?

I encourage all lawyers to spend less time trying to reach the perfect consensus definition of “innovation” and more time working on the solutions to problems that lead to innovation. My approach is to use a very standard definition of innovation: applying creativity in practical ways to create or enhance customer value. I also think that innovation should force a rethinking of business models. Innovation is a funny concept in that it’s usually determined by looking backward. The “innovation” usually comes from trying to solve a specific and frustrating problem. Only later is the solution labeled “innovation.” For example, FedEx used bar codes to track packages to solve some specific problems it had. Only later was the use of bar codes considered the innovation in shipping it became. As for big and small firms, I tend to see big firms more focused on efficiencies and process improvements than small firms are. Small firms, on the other hand, will look at both enhancing customer value and changing business models— subscription models, online meetings for rural practices, micro niche practices and much more. Small firms can move fast.

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