Yeah I get it – innovation is the new black, and especially as a digital marketing person I'm supposed to be all about the AI-blockchain-app-cloud-innovative solutions to marketing.
common sense has gone for a walk somewhere, and doesn't seem to be coming back any time soon.
But here's the problem with that: innovation doesn't work in a cultural vacuum. You can't innovate Bruce into turning up to the CRM training session, and you can't innovate Sally into saving documents in the right file.
So here's the big picture: innovation is really just a word for “change”. And implementing any change requires the right culture to be successful, not just the right tech.
Most People Don't Want to Change… Enough
If asked, most lawyers will say that they are all for positive change, innovation and tech solutions to ongoing problems in legal services.
Also if asked, many lawyers will be forced to accept that:
- they type slower than a deceased equine being flogged
- they don't know how to format documents efficiently
- they don't know how to use the practice management software their firm has invested in, and if they do it's about 1/100th of the capability
- they don't use keyboard shortcuts
So, in a world where I could probably have done this entire article by voice activated commands, dictated it and posted it without even looking at my screen or sitting at my computer, we have a bunch of legal professionals who simultaneously say they embrace innovation while not having taken a few seconds to learn that the windows key + D will minimise their windows so they can see their desktop.
What's this tell us? It tells us that rhetoric doesn't align with truth.
Common Sense Has Left the Building
Logically, if all the lawyers in a 100 lawyer firm took the time (which, let's face it, is probably about 5 minutes) to learn and implement a few basic tricks that would save them 5 minutes a day, that's going to have an IMMEDIATE and massive impact on the firm's profitability.
100 people x 5 minutes = 500 minutes per day = 2500 minutes per week = ~41 hours = $12,300 a week (at $300 per hour).
Over a year, that's going to add up to something slightly over $500,000.
Now if I walked into a firm and asked them where they thought they wasted the most money, do you think they'd say “keyboard shortcuts”? Seems unlikely.
They'd probably complain that their PI team spends too much on ads, or that Joe in Mergers and Acquisitions has too many long lunches, or that they pay their support staff too much (unlikely!).
But that's OK – because this firm has an Innovation Officer, whose job is to look into a crystal ball for the next big thing that the firm can do to make more money and keep up with the times.
Indeed, common sense has gone for a walk somewhere, and doesn't seem to be coming back any time soon.
Innovation is People, Not Tech
There is no doubt in my mind that firms who adopt a useful and regular system of innovative decision making and implementation are going to do better in the long term. They mighty not necessarily be the MOST innovative firms, but those who embrace a culture of fast idea generation, analysis, testing, acceptance and implementation.
But the key to this happening isn't the tech – most firms are already a decade behind when it comes to adopting technology anyway.
The solution is the people.
Because most of the time successful innovation in law firms will not depend on coming up with a singular amazing piece of bespoke technological solution – it will depend on regular, iterative and habitual responsiveness to change.
If your firm owners can't accept that, then your firm won't change.
If your solicitors don't embrace that, your firm won't change.
If your people aren't on the same page about change and innovation – then nothing will change.
You can bring in as many policies, have as many guest speakers, go to as many conferences as you like – until the mass bulk of your people embrace a culture of change as the new normal, nothing's going anywhere.
So, am I being too harsh?
Is your firm the rose among the thorns?
Certainly there are nimble, innovative firms out there who are killing it in different ways. If you're one of them let us know how you achieved it!