Posted on Nov 12, 2020
Today, an increasing number of lawyers and law firms understand the importance of legal innovation. But why are many still hesitant to embrace it? In our latest blog post, we explore three key reasons for this phenomena.
Lawyers conflate innovation with legal technology
What do you think of when you hear you need to “innovate”? More often than not, lawyers think about technology when they think about innovation. But the reality is that legal innovation is a much broader concept.
Innovation is about adjusting the interplay of people, processes and technology to solve a problem or create value – either for the firm or its clients. Technology can play a part in this, but it does not need to be involved for something to be considered innovative.
The fact that some lawyers conflate innovation with legal technology may explain why they are hesitant to embrace it. But once we get beyond this misunderstanding, it opens up new possibilities.
Lawyers are cautious and risk-averse
Innovation involves coming up with new ideas, testing, improving and retesting. It can also involve a certain degree of risk and failure. However, most lawyers don’t like taking risks. Studies show that lawyers tend to have personality traits that make them less open to trying new things. This aversion to change – and risk - is generally helpful as lawyers are trusted to manage some of the most important issues in their clients’ lives.
But there are also some strong arguments for lawyers to overcome their natural tendency to avoid change and the risks. The most compelling of these is that avoiding change also means you’re missing out on opportunities to improve your practice – and the service you provide to clients.
Instead of focusing on risk, try reframing the issue to focus on value. Ask yourself, what value could innovation create for your practice or your clients? Will it allow you to spend less time on administrative tasks, freeing you up to expand your practice? Will it improve your client’s experience, leading to more return business and referrals? Will it create a better work environment for any staff you employ, improving productivity and reducing turnover?
The value of implementing any innovation should be greater than the risk and costs involved. Lawyers are already great at considering the risks – but it’s also important to balance this by considering value.
Lawyers are Time-Poor
For lawyers, time is money. Each minute spent on non-billable work represents lost revenue. This is why the time required to implement innovation is such a significant barrier for lawyers.
However, failing to invest any time at all in innovation is highly likely to result in losing productivity, efficiency and competitiveness. There was a time when PCs and smartphones were brand new technologies, and lawyers had to spend significant time learning how to use these. Today, these are an integral part of every lawyer’s practice – and most of us are dependent on them. But what would a law firm look like if lawyers had resisted adopting these technologies? It’s safe to say this firm would be much less efficient – but more likely it would go out of business.
If there are significant benefits to be gained in adopting a new system or legal technology for your law practice, don’t let time be an obstacle. Investing a little time now could mean saving a lot more in the long run.
There are a number of factors why many lawyers still hesitate to engage with legal innovation. But it’s important to remember that at its core, legal innovation is about solving problems and creating value – for you, your clients and your practice. When this value outweighs the investment, it’s time to act.
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