Janders Dean Horizons - looking forward

Janders DeanOn the (ominously) dated Friday the 13th, Janders Dean held their exclusive, invite-only ‘Horizons’ conference in London. Determined to actually inspire delegates, the conference brought world-leading experts from a diversity of backgrounds together to look at innovation in the legal industry.

From established law players to small start-ups, Horizons was unashamed in only inviting the most innovative and progressive thinking speakers. And sure enough, the faculty at the event presented some of the most interesting keynotes and speeches on legal innovation so far this year.

Future-Forward Organisations and Disruption

How many people look at children’s playgrounds and think: law firms should be more like this? Claire Burge thinks the future of successful organisations will model the structured chaos of the playground. A central theme throughout her talk was the need to unleash your ‘humanness’ by giving people space and freedom.

Beyond the abstract ideas, Claire gave some very practical suggestions for how organisations can ‘unleash the humans’. By adopting more agile working methodologies, creating lighter leadership structures and changing fixed mind-sets, law firms can create a more effective workforce. She ended with a powerful challenge: if any part of your job can be done by a robot in the future – it will be.

Mike Rebeiro followed Claire’s talk with a more strategic look at the near and long term disruption of the legal industry. He weaved a challenging outlook for the future: a perfect storm of disruption – globalisation, liberalisation and costs pressures. In this upcoming time of tumult, there will be a greater need for successful law firms to innovate and thrive. But the legal industry is a traditionally sluggish industry to embrace change.

There are a number of significant and entrenched barriers to innovation in the legal industry. Law firms, partly due to the nature of their work, are incredibly risk adverse. This leads to a lack of innovation culture (where it is OK to fail and experiment). At a structural level, the equity model means that investment decisions by partners are focused towards maximum profit on yearly basis – not long term thinking. Additionally, the hourly fee means it pays to be inefficient.

The impact of technology on the legal industry will create a new range of challenges and opportunities. Technology is increasingly leading towards the automation of commoditised tasks. This means efficiencies but also a challenge toward existing structures and this shift might well change the shape of legal careers. The issue of knowledge disintermediation will also directly affect the legal landscape of the future. Mike ended on a quote from Viktor Mayer Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier: ‘If we are not brave enough to disrupt our business model, others will’.

Innovation, Engagement and Transformation      

Following the morning keynotes, there were a number of speeches from leading innovators in the legal field.  Kate Sullivan from Lonely Planet talked to the audience about how her organisation uses agile methodology for their in-house legal department. The fundamental principles behind their ‘agile manifesto’ are: the customer is highest priority, business people and lawyers must work together and you need to build projects around motivated individuals and with a real priority on face-to-face meetings. At the heart of Kate’s insights was the idea that transformation can happen without using fancy new software.

Candice Nichol discussed her journey and perspective as an associate leading an innovation project at Simmons & Simmons LLP. Her key takeaways from the experience was: creativity requires time and space, we need a mind-set accepting of change and that small and simple steps lead steadily toward an end goal. Archana Makol from BT Law Ltd talked about their experience in establishing an innovative subset of their legal department. Based on specific high-frequency claims, BT Law Ltd was set up to experiment different working arrangements where there were lots of small and repeatable tasks that didn’t require lawyers. With over twenty thousand claims now processed, ‘Arch’ was able to talk with authority and insight about innovation in the legal industry.

Monica Parker, founder of HATCH consultancy, talked about the move from return on investment to a new metric, return on engagement. Why the shift? 71% of workers are not engaged, 18% are actively disengaged and undermining their co-workers and one third of workers are looking for other jobs.

Monica asserts that the real elephant in the room is mental health and this is particularly true of lawyers where three out of four workers are burnt out or close to being burnt out. To combat these serious engagement issues, we need to give workers motivation. 94% of workers will be better engaged if they feel their job has meaning. We also need to give workers greater control and autonomy.

In a Cornell longitudinal study, teams given greater autonomy grew four times than those with tight to-down controls. The challenge: break down silos (emotional and operational), give people time to think and give them greater autonomy.

The final session of the day was a keynote by Kim Craig from Seyfarth Shaw on optimising the delivery of legal services. In the context of high turnover of legal decision makers, a 15 year low in industry-wide client satisfaction levels (with client retention to follow), how do law firms respond?

A small group of firms bucked this trend with a 95% retention rate. Their common thread? The client experience was a vital component to their strategic thinking. Again, the audience heard of the need for innovation culture and to walk in the shoes of clients. Kim’s keys to change were:

  1. Prioritise the client experience
  2. Think and design outward-in
  3. Get in front of the client, in-person
  4. Rethink your client team
  5. Different is good

It was a packed day crammed with insight, discussion and a real buzz about practical innovation. LexisNexis also hosted a legal service design jam at the event, where three teams of lawyers and professional support thought leaders were gathered together to tackle a variety of future-orientated legal ideas using a Service Design methodology. The goal of the design jam was to challenge conventional thinking in law firms around their people, processes, and technology. More on this to follow…

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