Innovation doesn’t just come from processes and technology – people drive ideas and change

It’s certainly an exciting time for innovation and innovators at law firms, with a host of efforts – including firmwide engagement challenges, restructuring internal processes and bringing on board new technology – slowly moving the dial in an industry that has, from the outside at least, seemed resistant to change. But where’s our focus on people and new skillsets?

Without ideas and skills from outside the world of the law firm, we let opportunities to refresh our thinking pass us by. Diversity in all its forms is vital for innovation, but the wealth of perspectives and experiences that those from a non-law or former-law background can bring is often ignored (or confined to a very specialist role).

Among the plethora of talents now available to law firms are technology experts, data scientists and design thinkers – but it’s not just their coding, data wizardry and facilitation skills that we should be drawing on. Often, these individuals have an entirely different way of approaching problems or analysing challenges – and it is those angles that we should be learning from. The same goes for giving lawyers, who often have fascinating backgrounds and interests in everything from music to engineering, psychology to sports science, the space to bring perspectives from those interests into the workplace.

“Outsiders don’t understand how law firms are run” goes the usual refrain. It is time to flip this perspective and accept that the practice of law – and client expectations of it – are evolving; and as a result, a multidisciplinary skill set that complements a firm’s legal capabilities is an often-overlooked prerequisite to legal innovation. And in some cases, a multidisciplinary team can transform how we think about the delivery of legal services.

What if the discourse about legal innovation was about more than legal technology and process improvement? What if utilising the full potential of our people were the innovation?