“I make innovation less risky and more accessible to the many brilliant lawyers in our firm.” — Anusia Gillespie

I am pleased to introduce today’s guest contributor, Anusia Gillespie, who currently serves as Director of Innovation at Eversheds Sutherland (US).  As demonstrated in Post 128, Gillespie has the full innovator’s tool box:  multiple perspectives (law, design, business operations, technology, and strategy), systems thinking, intellectual courage, astute observation, and the patience and confidence to learn through controlled trial and error.

I was introduced to Gillespie several years ago through our mutual friend Betsy Munnell, who is a former large law firm partner and rainmaker who now specializes in teaching, coaching, BD training, business fundamentals, and career development.  For years, Munnell has brought along several cohorts of promising young lawyers, with a special emphasis on women.  One of the most promising was Anusia Gillespie, a Boston College JD/MBA who — at the time they met — had recently left a lucrative associate position to start a consulting practice focused on growth, branding, and communication strategies for law firms.

As Gillespie told me during our introductory phone call, “I just don’t have the patience to wait until partnership before I can focus on the business side of law.”  Munnell tells a funnier story of Gillespie, during her second year at her law firm, submitting a memorandum to her supervising partner explaining how to use game theory to set the optimal upset price for real estate auctions.

Fortunately, by this time, Gillespie had qualified as a minimum viable lawyer (MVL). See Post 126 (Jason Barnwell coining this term based on his own experience).  She also had the courage, at age 29, to bet on herself.  Impressed with Gillespie’s ability, ambition, and fearlessness, Munnell helped her land a position at Harvard Law’s Executive Education, where she focused on program design, development, and evaluation with industry pioneers Scott Westfahl and Carrie Fletcher.  In her “spare time,” she also co-authored a book with HLS collaboration expert Heidi Gardner.  See Gardner & Gillespie, Smart Collaboration for Lateral Hiring (2018).

All of these experiences prepared Gillespie for her current position at Eversheds Sutherland.

A Change Agent who de-risks and demystifies the innovation process

Gillespie’s core thesis in Post 128 is that, in the year 2019,  legal innovation is still very much a nascent field — hence the Maker’s Matrix©, which situates an internal or external client’s pain point or opportunity in a framework that identifies the key inputs and clarifies the pathway for value creation and ROI.  Although “innovation” is in her former job title, Gillespie is quick to point out that the greatest creativity flows from a properly structured team. Thus, Gillespie is primarily a technical advisor and connector to the massive pools of talent that exist throughout the firm and with its clients and trusted third party vendors.

As someone who is growing an innovative mindset within Eversheds Sutherland, Gillespie is a  change agent who de-risks and demystifies the innovation process, usually for the innovators and early adopters who are the most open to change.  The result is co-creation of new products, services, and solutions.

What are the hallmarks of an effective change agent?  From Post 020:

  1. Making contact with clients (+).  Frequent contact builds familiarity and creates opportunities to establish credibility and trust.
  2. Client orientation (+). Is the change agent trying to solve the clients’ problem or trying to advance their own agenda (e.g., make a sale)? If the change agent is listening, they can learn ways to modify and improve their innovation.
  3. Client empathy (+). A change agent is more effective when she or he can see the world through the eyes of the client.
  4. Homophily with clients (+). Can the change agent look and act like an insider? In the legal industry, change agents with law degrees generally have an easier time because of a common experience and background with most clients.
  5. Credibility in the clients’ eyes (+). Can the change agent fluidly answer tough questions? If the client must trust the change agents’ judgment, do the change agents possess the credentials and background to understand the underlying innovation?
  6. Working through Opinion Leaders (+). Rogers observes, “The time and energy of the change agents are scarce resources.” Engaging opinion leaders is the most efficient path to systemwide success.
  7. Improving technical competence of clients (+).  Clients dislike long-term dependency on change agents.  Thus, effective change agents often make education the cornerstone of their efforts, which builds trust and enables clients to make future adoption decisions on their own.

All of these attributes are on display in Anusia Gillespie’s brilliant essay (Post 128). Enjoy.