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.

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.