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.

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