Courage + Logic + Support = Eventual success as a legal innovator


Below is an excerpt of my forthcoming book, A Simple Guide to Legal Innovation (ABA 2020), which I am very excited to share with Legal Evolution readers. 

Over the years I have had enough first-hand learnings about the challenges of trying something new that I wanted to pave the path for others to have an easier time. Specifically for law firm leaders, there is so much confusion on what corporate clients value and expect, coupled with sensational legal press, that it is no wonder there is disappointment and frustration on all sides. 
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For frustrated legal innovators, one of the missing pieces might be found in this new book on trust.


Todd Henderson and Salen Churi, two law professors, have written a deep analysis of trust — its cultural history, social mechanics, economic elements, and of course how it relates to law and regulation.  As they put it, the goal of the book is “to establish trust as a lingua franca for discussion of issues that are often thought of as discreetly political but actually needn’t be” (p. xvi).

The inspiration for their effort was Uber, which I will discuss a little more in a minute.  But while the book covers a great deal of ground — from securities regulation to dinner parties to the Hanseatic League — it does not pause to unpack the implications for lawyers themselves.  I’d like to do a little of that below, because the margins of my copy of The Trust Revolution are full of graffiti on that topic.
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Law firm innovation takes many forms. We need a tool to de-risk and demystify the process.


The above graphic is the Maker’s Matrix©, which is a tool I created to more efficiently categorize, prioritize, and resource innovation projects.  This is because innovation in law firms is a nascent field with lots of hype and headlines but remarkably little structure.  See, e.g., Bruce MacEwen, “Who’s your Chief Innovation Officer, ” Adam Smith, Esq., Nov. 13, 2019.  That’s okay, though.  I’m happy for the opportunity to figure it out.
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[click on to enlarge]

One-to-many legal solutions are built by teams of multidisciplinary professionals. It’s time to build a legal talent supply chain.


The above graphic is a map of the human capital needed to create “one-to-many” legal solutions (Human Capital Map).  It’s a dense graphic on a complex topic. To explain its structure and the key insights it provides, I’ll cover the following topics:
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“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”    — Albert Einstein


The members of the Delta Model working group imagine a world, not too far off, where law schools, legal employers and clients all share a common touchstone for lawyer development.  For the last two years, we’ve been working on such a touchstone, which we call the Delta Model.  Our current version is expressed in the graphic above.
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No matter what happens, we’re all going to learn something.


In 2014, I was invited to lunch with Joe Andrew, the chairman of Dentons, in his DC office.  The invitation came from John Fernandez, an Indiana Law alum who joined Dentons a couple of years earlier after two decades in government.  Joe and John came up through the ranks together in Indiana Democratic politics, with Andrew eventually becoming Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party (from 1995-1999) and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1999-2001).
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Source: Randall Kiser, DecisionSet

American law firms are threatened by acute needs and limited capabilities in three domains: leadership, meaning, and service.


Media attention shifts rapidly from law firm profitability to gender bias and from technology to new lateral partners. Yet, if we pull back to conduct a deeper analysis, what we observe is a law firm sector grappling with three interrelated threats that are seldom the focus of sustained attention:  insufficient leadership, attorneys’ lack of meaning and purpose in their work, and client service. As shown in the above graphic, these three domains are the linchpins of law firm performance and sustainability.
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