If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That’s the default in many organizations, applied to everything from internal processes to product and service offerings. In some cases, it’s a sound approach, but as Ron Friedmann points out, a different motto may be more effective in these tumultuous times for Big Law:
“There’s a way to do it better—find it”
After his participation at ILTACON 2019 in Orlando, Ron came away with some new ideas and trends, but no big surprises. He has shared his impressions in multiple updates, summarized here with links to the originals below.
(For those unfamiliar with ILTACON, it’s the annual conference of the International Legal Technology Association and a leading showcase of legal technology and innovation.)
Three themes that emerged from ILTACON 2019
According to Ron, the big themes this year were platforms, artificial intelligence and innovation:
- Platforms: Ron mentions the growing volume of legal tech product categories and brands causing CIOs either to suffer or ignore some of them. He identified HighQ, as it was just acquired by Thomson Reuters, as well as Reynen Court, which bills itself as the “Single Platform for Legal Technology.”
- Artificial Intelligence: While Ron skipped the AI sessions this year, he was impressed by the short demo he got from Blue J Legal founder Benjamin Alarie in the exhibit hall.
- Innovation: Ron’s Innovative Thinking Workshop had competition from many sessions with “innovation” in their titles. Continue reading for more about this and another innovation session.
We’ll be certain to write more about these topics in the future, as Ron suspects they will remain themes for some years to come.
Legal disruptions challenging firm status quo
Ron says he resisted the impulse to ask for evidence about disruption during a session on legal disruption as he believes that “disruption is more to expectations than to the business model” at this point.
Following are some of his key takeaways from that session, “Is Disruption a Threat or an Opportunity?”:
- Technologies young lawyers want to use: CIVICS.com founder Dazza Greenwood shared the standouts of mobility, collaboration and web-centric platforms, all encompassed in tools like Google Docs and Slack, which raise security questions and other implications.
- Innovation in a vacuum: Chief Legal Innovation Counsel Farrah Pepper believes that innovation without specific needs and problems to solve is arrogance, as it’s likely happening without context or careful listening.
- Voice of the client and multi-disciplinary teams: Chief Innovation Officer Katie DeBord said that it’s easy to underestimate where people are on the spectrum of tech knowledge about tech, which is why it’s important to include diverse voices and input.
Legal innovation, step-by-small-step
Ron reported on these innovation initiatives taking place at the firms of the presenters from “Organizing for Innovation”:
- Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP has a post-merger formal innovation department with leaders for expert systems and automation and innovation solutions.
- Fish & Richardson has no formal innovation program, making the decision not to use the word innovation because everyone at the firm innovates.
- Baker Donleson reorganized their innovation focus in 2019, covering legal process engineering, legal technology, legal data and other areas.
- Burns & Levinson has an innovation team of one, working closely across departments in determining a real problem in need of a solution, focused on process improvement, practice tools, collaboration and case management.
And from Ron’s “Innovative Thinking Workshop” that he co-facilitated with Cheryl Disch and Joshua Fireman, about 75 people attended working through a structured set of questions. The big finding: just how many different approaches firms are taking to innovation. The results will be compiled and made available in the future, meanwhile we include a link to the ILTACON recording at the bottom with other relevant links.
Baker McKenzie Director of Pricing Strategy Jae Um described the status of legal innovation in her post-2008 analysis of the Am Law 100 as follows:
“The tired urgency to this conversation about legal innovation.”
Yet over ten years later and from ILTACON 2019, it appears that law firms are moving the conversation from tiresome talking to priority and action, trying many different approaches. We will see in the months to come how these approaches are working.
Links from ITLACON
Jae Um’s article on post-2008 Big Law: