So, you’ve heard about what other in-house teams and law firms are doing to inject a bit of innovation into their legal services. The promise of finding a better way to do things can be inspiring. But, how you can make a change when your day job leaves little time to even complete your to-do list?

Innovation takes time and effort in the short-term, but there are substantial medium and long-term benefits. It’s easy just to stick to the tried-and-tested ways of doing things. While this might get your immediate priorities moving along, you will turn around in a year and realise that innovation is still a distant dream. This article will provide some handy tips for GC’s and in-house teams who are looking to ramp up their innovation game.

Rack Up Some Quick Wins

Innovation is a long-term game. But, there are also quick wins that you can implement to win over key stakeholders initially. These wins can convince them of the value of the overall innovation strategy for the business.

Wins in Efficiency and Saving Costs

The amount of time or money that is spent on a project is usually quite easy to measure. This means that they can be communicated powerfully to crucial stakeholders.

For example, if you can point to a recurring task being 50% quicker after you implemented innovative strategies, stakeholders can see the efficiencies that innovation provides.

Subsequently, they might be persuaded that time will be saved if you multiply this process across different components of the workflow. With metrics, you can educate the business on the benefits of innovative changes and inform strategic decisions in the medium and long-term.

Ideally, you want to identify quick wins that don’t require a fundamental shake-up of your company’s culture. Look for changes that require minimal resources but can make a significant change within the business. You don’t need to build a comprehensive solution to every problem you’re trying to solve. Instead, just find a targeted solution that works.

Quick Losses Are Okay, Too

If you go for a quick win and just end up with a quick loss, you haven’t lost out on the value of this exercise. If anything, you will be able to quickly see what doesn’t work without wasting a significant amount of time. You can then recalibrate your approach and shift resources to an alternative plan of attack. This is far less difficult than a slow loss, where a long-term resource-intensive project slowly chugs towards its death.

Innovative cultures both embrace and know how to learn from failure.

Band-Aid Solutions Do Not Work

When you’re busy with day-to-day work, it can be tempting to cobble together a solution for pressing problems. This will prevent the need to implement any sweeping changes that you just don’t have the time for. When a problem arises, looming deadlines and business pressures might make rolling out ‘band-aid solutions’ and saving innovation for another day quite tempting.

At LegalVision, we’re all for minimum viable products (AKA prototypes), but not band-aid solutions. Band-aid solutions are knee-jerk responses to stressful situations. Both band-aid solutions and minimum viable products are usually created quickly. But, minimum viable products involve a small amount of pre-planning and are implemented in a way that allows for the longer term vision to grow.

The processes and systems you’re implementing now shouldn’t just be band-aid solutions. You should ensure that what you’re doing in the next week or next month will complement your long-term vision. If you implement a band-aid solution, you might make your workload more complicated in the future. You will have to undo processes that had been hastily put together to respond to immediate needs, but don’t lend themselves to the business’ longer-term objectives.

Find a Legal Innovation Champion

To implement new strategies which require an initial investment, you need the support of the in-house team and broader business. Genuine buy-in can’t be forced; it needs to be organic. This is where an innovation champion is invaluable. An innovation champion is someone who will lead the way in innovating your in-house team and workplace. You need someone who will not only push your vision but also believes in it.

Know Your Audience

Champions need to be thinking about what matters most to different members of the business. If you frame the solution through how it will benefit a specific team or individual, you will better be able to sell the idea. Communicate the benefits in a language that makes the most sense to the audience you’re selling your vision to.

For example, implementing a specific innovative strategy could save time when drafting standard-form contracts. When presenting this to stakeholders, emphasising the ‘standard-form’ nature of these contracts will mean more to your lawyers (who care about bespoke legal drafting) than to business managers (who care more about how quickly their requests can get the legal stamp of approval).

Run Design Jams

To better achieve buy-in, innovation champions should lead the way by running design jams with the group that will be using your legal service. It is a good idea to have a diverse mix of people in the room who all interact with the process that you’re trying to innovate. If they are directly affected by the innovation, they’re more likely to be invested in your end-goal.

Design jams will help you identify and define the challenges that innovation can solve. Lead with these problems, and the innovative solution will follow. Your in-house team can champion the solution if they talk persuasively about solving the problem.

Run Pilots

A pilot phase that is led by an innovation champion is an excellent way to test an idea or a new way of delivering legal work within your business. Pilots are for a fixed period and have a defined scope.

At the end of the pilot, get feedback from those who directly engaged with the project to learn about areas for improvement.

Start Slow to Go Big

Don’t try and change everything at once. Instead, pick issues to solve and start there. If the problem affects a large area of the business, try and focus on one component within a specific stream of legal work. If you tightly define the problem, you’ll be better able to focus your efforts in a targeted and considered way.

You can then use this to pitch what innovation looks like for your particular business. When you have one win under your belt, you’ll find that new projects get easier and easier.

Let’s say you want to automate standard documents so that you can free up your lawyers’ time to focus on strategic advice. Innovating a new suite of documents requires a lot of legal manpower and hours. You will need to invest the time of having lawyers draft the precedent and carefully map out the documents. But, you probably don’t have a member of your in-house team who can quickly stop all of their existing work to dedicate themselves to an automation project. 

So, start slow. Pick one document. You might want to choose your most frequently used contract as automating this will deliver high efficiencies. Or, you could choose the shortest contract that has the fewest variables or is relatively straightforward. Either way, once you deliver this particular automation, you’ll gain invaluable knowledge to roll out automation across different aspects of the business.

Technology Is Not Always Legal Innovation

The best innovation within in-house teams is enabled by (but not replaced with) technology. So, introduce an innovation roadmap that pays equal attention to processes and workflows as it does technology. While technology is an important piece of the puzzle, it needs to sit alongside reliable processes. Innovation within in-house teams is about challenging the status quo and getting creative with new ways of delivering legal assistance.

For example, let’s look at workflows. It’s an often neglected part of the strategy when tackling innovation. If you’re going to implement a new piece of software for triaging ‘business as usual’ requests, you also need to take the time to map out:

  • the touchpoints between different parts of the business;
  • well designed processes for escalating requests; and
  • which individuals within your team will be responsible for resolving which particular requests.

Key Takeaways

Driving true innovation in the long-term requires discipline and unwavering adherence to the ultimate vision. But, to get innovative techniques off the ground in your in-house team, you should:

  • start slow;
  • look for quick wins;
  • build minimum viable products;
  • collect innovation champions; and
  • look for innovation beyond technology.

If you have any questions about how to implement innovation to your in-house team, contact LegalVison’s Legal Transformation team on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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Amritha Thiyagarajan
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