Innovation and lawyers. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Blogs August 15, 2013


I disagree. Ability to innovate has become more and more important for us lawyers as well. Our environment is changing at an ever increasing speed, our business model is being torn down and replaced with new approaches and ways of delivering similar services, or even different services to fulfill the needs of customers in a better and more efficient way. Lawyers can be and must be innovative as well.

The fifth annual Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition Survey was released recently. Law firm leaders in the US seem to be acutely aware of the changes that the profession is facing.

Some of the key findings of the survey were

  • concerns that the demand for legal work is flat or shrinking in many practices.

  • real pricing pressure from clients.

  • the competitive forces of commoditization and the emergence of lower-priced, non-traditional service providers.

  • aggressive growth in lawyer headcount may no longer make sense.

  • pace of change is increasing.

While the awareness of the need to change is good, the conservative nature of our industry can still be detected to a certain extent in these findings. Indeed, most firms appear to be reactive to external forces rather than proactive. Most are still making incremental changes within the framework of the existing business model, rather than pursuing opportunities to meaningfully differentiate their firms in the eyes of clients.

Having said that, there are many innovative law firms around the world actively trying out and developing new services and new ways to deliver services to improve the customer experience, efficiency and the value for customers.

Financial Times (FT) has been ranking innovative law firms for many years already. This week they released their initial shortlist for the FT Innovative Lawyers Awards 2013. This year’s competition drew on 600 submissions from leading law firms across Europe. You will find many innovative law firms on this list. I am happy to say that Fondia was one of them and we are the first Finnish company to ever make that list. These companies are not just recognizing the need to change but also changing their business and creating new ways to deliver better products and services. The award ceremony will be held in London on October 3rd, 2013 and the FT report will be published the following day in the FT newspaper and online at Stay tuned.

But as any pioneering work, there is a fair amount of “let’s try and see”… In the UK, QualitySolicitors decided earlier this year not to continue with its Legal Access Points in WH Smith stores. WH Smith is a British retailer, best known for its chain of high street, railway station, airport, hospital and motorway service station shops selling books, stationery, magazines, newspapers and entertainment products. QualitySolicitors tried for two years to sell and book legal services in the WH Smith stores but have not found it worth continuing. Instead, QualitySolicitors will concentrate on developing its online services as it prepares to unveil its partnership with the US legal services business LegalZoom. It will be interesting to follow their next moves.

There are many examples of bigger and smaller, successful and less successful, innovations in the legal industry. Our training and education does not remove or stifle innovativeness despite the thousands of – not so innovative - pages of text needed to get our degrees. We just need to have the courage to open new paths and dare to try new things.