Law schools teach lawyers how to come up with creative arguments when representing their clients. However, they rarely teach lawyers how to collaborate and innovate to improve the practice of law, or to improve their work environment. Innovation can help foster new ideas on how to improve work-life balance, how to work less and bill more, how to market the law firm and how to improve client satisfaction. New ideas benefit both lawyers and their clients alike.
Here are 5 ways that lawyers and law firms can increase innovation in law firms:
Set Firm-Wide Goals & Share Them With Everyone
If you share your overall firm goals with the entire team, including staff, everyone becomes a part of the equation and can see the impact their work makes to the overall goal. They can see the value of their contribution and will be more inclined to innovate and contribute to its overall success.
According to Dr. Bastiaan Heemsbergen, Organizational Psychologist at Queens University in Canada, transparency is the recipe for innovation. If you have a transparent company, the ideas and innovation will flow.
Have 15-Minute Stand-Up Meetings Every Morning
The goal of a stand-up meeting is to discuss any pressing issues while standing for 15 minutes (or less). You can have it once a day or once a week, but either way it’s a good way to address any immediate concerns, share insights and ideas and improve collaboration.
Also, because they are only 15 minutes long, it forces the team to focus on important issues and share quickly, and also avoids the loss of billable hours while improving collaboration and innovation.
At standup meetings, each person answers the following three questions:
- What did I accomplish yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- What obstacles are impeding my progress?
They create an open environment where teams work together to solve problems, and foster innovative solutions to roadblocks.
Set Up an Ideas Box
If 15 minute meetings would be too difficult to implement (maybe everyone starts their day at a different time, or it’s just not feasible since some people work from home, etc), then an ideas box is an alternative.
You can have a digital ideas box in your cloud or a physical one at the office where everyone can submit ideas and they are shared at a company meeting for everyone to vote on which ones would get implemented. This way any idea can be shared anonymously and people will feel free to share any idea, no matter how radical.
However, you should make sure that: (1) everyone is aware of the ideas box, (2) everyone understands how it works, (3) you follow up on the ideas and implement them strategically, and (4) you encourage everyone to participate. That way you will not fall into one of many traps of failed idea boxes, and will instead ensure its success.
Teach New Problem-Solving Techniques
While meeting your billable hours is important, training your team members on alternative methods of solving problems can have a positive impact and improve innovation. If you pursue a problem from a different angle, you’ll come up with solutions that the one problem-solving method you consistently deploy would not reveal.
For instance, using design thinking instead of the IRAC method would force lawyers to focus on the “client” rather than the “Issue” and attack the problem from that perspective, by empathizing with their client and understanding their situation.
Maybe there are less litigious ways to solve the problem, and finding them may not happen if you’re only focusing on the issue and finding the law that applies to it. When you’re the only firm coming up with a solution that no one else thought of, you’ll distinguish yourself from the competition and win the long game.
Design thinking can help foster new ideas on improving your firm culture, innovating new billing methods and alternatives to the billable hour that would be more profitable and favorable to your clients, and coming up with marketing ideas for your firm; all of which would benefit your firm and clients, and set you apart.
Every time someone comes up with a great idea at your firm, make sure you implement one of them. If someone has a great idea, make sure everyone knows that it’s being implemented, give the ideator credit, and find a way to celebrate it.
There are creative ways to reward creativity. The awards can be personalized and tailored to the innovator to reward the creativity, and can acknowledge the individual or team contributors. You can award points for each innovative idea, buy individualized gifts, or create a culture that acknoweldges innovation and collaboration.
Whether it’s as low key as emailing everyone about it, or something as big as having a party, the innovation should be acknowledged publicly so that other people are encouraged to participate and ideate as well.