Why do so many of today’s problems remain unsolved? Often, we have no shortage of viable solutions. Additionally, in many cases we have a critical mass of people committed to solving the problem. Yet despite abundant ideas, energy, and action, the problems persist.

How can we improve? Start by making scientific thinking a habit and using a Mission (or Business-Model) canvas.

Scientific thinking is embedded in lean thinking, as illustrated in Toyota Kata. Many similar approaches can also be reduced, at their essence, to the basic scientific method. The critical point is to identify conclusions and assumptions and recognize that we must experiment to test our ideas for solving problems—we do not know the answers, we must test our ideas and learn from experiments.

Scientific thinking involves more than prototyping and iterating. It’s critical to have a hypothesis and write it down. What did we expect? What actually happened? What will we try next? This is how we learn. (Entrepreneurs like to say “fail fast.” Lawyers have trouble embracing this. Thus, I try to emphasize that we want to “learn fast.”)

We get the greatest value from experiments when everyone has a shared understanding of the mission. There are many advantages of using a Business-Model (or, as described by Steve Blank, a Mission Canvas). A canvas organizes a group’s thinking around the critical issues. It’s also an excellent visual medium for capturing input from individuals and communicating it back to everyone. Additionally, it’s easy to quickly generate multiple canvases, depicting different models. This can be especially helpful to keep participants focused on generating ideas for testing rather than killing ideas before they can be further explored, tested, and improved.

#90minuteBlogPost

Legal industry leaders and analysts seem to suggest that United Kingdom law firms are out in front when it comes to legal innovation and technology adoption. The data my research team and I have assembled for the Legal Services Innovation Index lend some support to this.

Having just launched this project, I wanted to share a few Tableau Vizzes that summarize the LSII data on this topic. As discussed on the LSII website, it’s important to put this data into context and review and understand our methodology and the caveats that we’ve identified. That said, the Law Firm Index provides insight into whether and how law firms are innovating, especially when looking at the big picture, and the Catalog of Law Firm Innovations identifies concrete innovations that law firms have implemented.

We should not expect all law firms to look the same. Most would agree that we need greater differentiation across law firms, not copycat “innovation.” While one goal of this project is to define and generate discussion about specific categories of innovation, it is not intended to suggest that these categories make up the universe of innovation or that all law firms should be “innovating” across all categories. Additionally, we are not directly measuring critical aspects of organizational innovation, such as whether a firm has an innovative culture in which everyone from the bottom to top is engaged in innovation and efforts to continuously provide greater value to clients. All of this deserves further discussion.

We searched 260 law firm websites:

  • Am Law 200 – American Lawyer
  • Canadian Top 30 – Lexpert
  • Global 100 – American Lawyer

Note: The firms categorized in our results as “Global 100” include only those firms not already categorized as part of the Am Law 200 or Canadian 30. For this reason, we added an asterisk to “Global 100*” in the Tableau vizzes. Keep this in mind when comparing the Global 100 to other categories of law firms.

Finally, when comparing jurisdictions, consider that we’ve included only the UK firms that made the Global 100 while in the US we’ve included all Am Law 200 law firms. Consider this when comparing averages.

Again, please review the LSII website for necessary context, an overview, and our methodology. With that said, below I have added a few snapshots of the data.

Figure 1: Average Hits per Law Firm Website by Jurisdiction

Figure 1: Average hits per website with Google searches for innovation categories across law firm websites. For context, review overview and methodology at LegalTechIndex.com.
Figure 1: Average hits per website with Google searches for innovation categories across law firm websites. For context, review overview and methodology at LegalTechIndex.com.

 

Figure 2: Average Hits per Law Firm Website by Jurisdiction, Grouped

Figure 2: Average hits per website for innovation Google searches across law firm websites, grouped. Note that Global 100 does not include those Global 100 law firms that are a part of the Am Law 200 or Canadian 30. For context, review overview and methodology at LegalTechIndex.com.
Figure 2: Average hits per website for innovation Google searches across law firm websites, grouped. Note that Global 100 does not include those Global 100 law firms that are a part of the Am Law 200 or Canadian 30. For context, review overview and methodology at LegalTechIndex.com.

Figure 3: Catalog of Law Firm Innovations Grouped by Jurisdiction

Figure 3: Catalog of law firm innovations. A form on the LSII website allows law firms to submit innovations for inclusion in the Catalog. For context, review overview and methodology at LegalTechIndex.com.
Figure 3: Catalog of law firm innovations. A form on the LSII website allows law firms to submit innovations for inclusion in the Catalog. For context, review overview and methodology at LegalTechIndex.com.

I’m thrilled to launch the Legal Services Innovation Index, Phase 1, Version 1.0:

LegalTechInnovation.com

My student research team and I are looking forward to input and discussion, receiving submissions of law firm innovations, and working to improve this resource.

So far, we’ve received a great response:

If you care about improving legal-service delivery and increasing access to legal services, please take a look and share your thoughts:

LegalTechInnovation.com

In his May 2016 keynote at FutureLaw 2016 at Stanford Law School, Jim Sandman, Legal Services Corporation president, suggested that we rank and assess law firms on their use of technology. He argued that this could accelerate the adoption of technology in law firms and might stimulate investment in the development of new technology that could benefit all who need legal services. This was just one of ten excellent suggestions Jim provided for accelerating technology adoption to improve legal services and close the justice gap.

Click this image to see a video of my talk at the 2017 Legal Hackers International Summit.
Click this image to see a video of my talk at the 2017 Legal Hackers International Summit.

One year later, Jim spoke on a panel at FutureLaw 2017 (41:20 to 56:30 in the video) and again suggested that we assess law firms’ technology usage. No one had yet undertaken the effort to systematically assess law firm technology adoption. Right then, I decided to tackle this project.

This last Saturday at the 2017 Legal Hackers International Summit, I provided a preview of Phase 1, Version 1.0 of the Legal Services Innovation Index. A video of my twelve-minute talk is available on YouTube. It was an honor to immediately follow Jim Sandman’s keynote (starting at 8:25 in the video). In addition to previously providing the inspiration for me to begin this work, Jim provided input and support when I discussed the project with him earlier this summer.

In about two weeks, I will launch Phase 1, Version 1.0 of the Legal Services Innovation Index, consisting of:

  1. a catalog of legal-service delivery innovations that have been implemented by law firms, and
  2. measures of law firm innovation for 264 law firms (members of the Global 100, Am Law 200, and Lexpert 30 largest in Canada) based on searches of their websites using Google Advanced Search.

This release is intended to be a “minimum viable product.” I’m following the “Lean Startup,” Plan-Do-Study-Act process for innovation and product development that I’ve suggested for all legal innovators. This release curates available information, contributes additional analysis and information, and uses empirical methods to measure legal innovation. I’ve discussed this project with many in the legal industry and they’ve uniformly encouraged me to complete this initial research, make the information available, solicit input for improving the Index, and continue iterating to improve the Index.

The Index is not intended to be a ranking of law firms–at least not at this time. Like an index at the end of a book, this Index is intended to identify and categorize innovation and direct users to the places where legal-service delivery innovation can be found. After the launch of the Index, law firms will be able to propose innovations for inclusion in the catalog via a website form. As for the searches, this is but one measure of innovation, which–like nearly all measures–has its weaknesses, but nonetheless contributes something to our understanding.

In my talk, I shared more about the purpose of the Index, methodology, weaknesses, and future plans. I will share much more on these topics here, on my blog, when I launch the Legal Services Innovation Index website.

I want to thank the four Michigan State University law students on my research team:

Thank you as well to Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP and Carla Swansburg (Director, Practice Innovation, Pricing & Knowledge) for contributing research that we used to seed the catalog of law firm innovations.

Lastly, thank you to LexBlog, which is contributing the development and hosting of the Legal Services Innovation Index website.

Again, I provided additional information about the Index in my talk at the 2017 Legal Hackers International Summit and will provide much more information when I launch the Index website. If you have questions, suggestions, or comments, please provide them below, tweet at me (@DanLinna), or send me an email at the address in my MSU bio.

August 15, 2017 update: In the original post, I linked to the session video that began with my talk. I’ve changed the links to a recently released excerpt of my talk at the 2017 Legal Hackers International Summit.

“It’s simple. Nice user interface. I like the questionnaire style.”

Comments like these, you assume, refer to an Apple iPhone, Google Search, or some other product hailed for its superior user experience. When is the last time you heard a client make comments like these when discussing a law firm’s legal services?

Okay, maybe you’ve never heard a law firm client make comments like these, particularly when talking about legal services of any complexity. But that is what I heard from a potential client who had just seen a demo of the Akerman Data Law Center, a client-facing expert system that provides data privacy and security advice. Continue Reading Collaborative Disaggregation: Law Firms Can Delight Clients with the Right Technology

Just as other academic units across universities collaborate with industry partners on research and development projects, law schools can do the same. The timing has never been better. Many lawyers have accepted that they need to engage in innovation projects to improve legal-service delivery. At the same time, law schools continue to add experiential courses as required by the ABA and a few have launched legal innovation and technology programs. These developments have produced many opportunities for law schools, practitioners, and experts from other disciplines to work together to improve legal services.

Conducting research and development that leads to legal-service delivery innovations is one of our foundational goals at MSU Law’s LegalRnD. This goal fits well with our other foundational goals: training 21st Century, T-shaped lawyers and engaging with industry partners to identify needs and problems, work toward solutions, and test, improve, and implement solutions. Continue Reading Law Schools as Labs for Legal-Services Innovation and Research & Development: Examples at LegalRnD

When the State Bar of Michigan invited me to write an article about legal technology, I aimed to make it a call to action with a framework and roadmap for legal-services innovation. Many lawyers and legal-services organizations now grasp that they must engage in innovation to improve legal services. But where and how should they begin? That’s what I attempt to address in Leveraging Technology to Improve Legal Services: A Framework for Lawyers, published in the June 2017 Michigan Bar Journal.

My article focuses on a “people, process, technology” framework  for re-engineering legal services, identifying categories of legal-technology competences, and employing “lean thinking,” not only to improve processes, but to create organizations focused on continuous improvement and innovation from the bottom up. My proposed roadmap, however, is less explicit. I plan to develop this further in future posts. For now, I’ll highlight a few key components of the roadmap:

  1. Client Focus – Begin with your clients (the “voice of the customer”). What problems do you solve for clients? Engage with your clients to learn how you can provide greater value to them and work with them to co-create value. Remember, the client defines value.
  2. Lean Thinking – Lean is about more than process mapping and eliminating waste. Lean provides a framework for innovation and empowering everyone in an organization to provide greater value to clients. For an introduction to lean for legal, take a look at the slide deck that Jim Manley and I created for a 2014 presentation (when I was an equity partner at Honigman): Applying Lean Thinking to Legal Services. (Also see Bradley Staats and David M. Upton, Lean Knowledge Work, Harvard Business Review (October 2011)).Plan-Do-Study-Act - https://deming.org/management-system/pdsacycle
  3. Plan, Do, Study, Act – PDSA is the fundamental scientific method as applied for continuous improvement, knowledge creation, and innovation. Lawyers spend the vast majority of their time in “do” mode. Said another way, we lawyers spend our time working “in the business,” but very little time working “on the business.” We spend little time planning to improve legal services and even less time studying how things went after we undertake action to improve. Walter Shewhart from the famed Bell Labs originally developed PDSA, a foundational tool for lean. Many systems for improvement and innovation promoted in books and articles mirror PDSA, with little difference other than terminology. Whatever it may be called, PDSA is an essential element for continuous improvement and innovation. The Deming Institute provides an overview of the PDSA Cycle, including a video by quality-movement leader Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who popularized PDSA. (Some refer to PDSA as Plan, Do, Check, Act, but Deming preferred “study” to emphasize the analysis required, as opposed to a mere “check” of the results following the “do” stage.)The Businesss Model Canvas - strategyzer.com
  4. Business Model Canvas – Use the Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas to quickly capture your legal-service delivery model and communicate it to others. Iterate through various versions of your business model, creating a new canvas for each. This exercise will help you and your colleagues evaluate your value proposition, competitive advantage, and other important elements.

I look forward to further developing these ideas in future posts. If you have any questions or comments about this post or my Michigan Bar Journal article, please comment below, tweet at me (@DanLinna), or send me an email at the address in my MSU bio.

The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) recently posted a Legal Operations Career Skills Toolkit on its “Industry Guidelines” page. The toolkit’s stated purpose is to help “individuals and legal departments evaluate and develop legal operations skills.” Law students, lawyers, and other professionals will find it to be an excellent resource for assessing and building their legal-service delivery skills. While the toolkit serves as an excellent roadmap for a legal operations career, it also offers tremendous insight into the legal-service delivery skills that clients value.

Traditional lawyers and law students should take a close look at the CLOC toolkit. Continue Reading CLOC Legal Operations Career Skills Toolkit: Lawyers, Your Clients Value Legal-Service Delivery Skills

The ABA Center for Innovation shared its mission and launched its website last evening at the Chicago Legal Innovation meetup at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. “We must try new things,” said Geoffrey Burkhart, the Center’s Deputy Director.

The access to justice “crisis” has been known for decades; it is no longer news, Burkhart said. It is well known that public defenders are stretched very thin and far too many lack access to civil legal services. Burkhart voiced concern that we’ve become numb to the word “crisis.” He urged lawyers to take action and “try new things.” On the present course, Burkhart said, “lawyers are squandering a gift.” Continue Reading ABA Innovation Center Urges Lawyers to Try New Things, Identifies Innovative Law Schools

Too much of today’s legal innovation and technology talk focuses on disruption, artificial intelligence, and whether robots can practice law. Interesting topics, yes. But this discussion threatens to distract us from discussing fundamental changes that can be implemented immediately to significantly improve legal-service delivery across the industry.

Discussions about artificial intelligence and the like can make legal innovation and technology feel inaccessible and overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be that way. Lawyers, law students, and legal-services professionals can learn fundamental disciplines and begin applying them today to modernize their practices and increase their personal value in the marketplace. Engaging and empowering all legal-services professionals is important for improving legal-service delivery and thereby improving access to legal services for everyone.

Learning is not compulsory[.]  . . .  But to survive, we must learn.”

―W. Edwards Deming

What fundamental disciplines should be leveraged to deliver legal services in the twenty-first century? While this list could include several additional items, the following five deserve your focus now:

  1. process improvement
  2. project management
  3. metrics, data, and analytics
  4. technology
  5. business of law

Continue Reading 21st Century Legal Services? Lawyers and Law Students, You Can Learn These Skills