Posted by: johnocunningham | January 25, 2013

Lawyers: Unlock Your Creativity

I am often amazed at how many law firms, despite the enormous amounts of grey matter within their walls, seem so culturally resistant to the unleashing of their indigenous creative energy.

Of course, the application of creativity – to process engineering, to organizational charts, to the office environment, or to the development of better ways of getting things done – always involves risk. Change necessarily comes with risk, but less risk than the inability to change while the world around you is evolving faster and faster all the time.

Law firms now are under competitive threat from accounting firms and other professional service firms that are “encroaching” on their territory by offering packaged solutions to avoid, mitigate or resolve legal problems. Law firms also face competition from technology providers who are figuring out ways to automate litigation discovery,  transactional due diligence review of documents, and other components of legal service delivery.

Some lawyers and firms are getting ahead of the curve, partnering with leading-edge providers, or developing their own creative approaches to reducing costs while increasing speed and reliability. These firms are getting creative with their approach to systems and process improvement, and to the ways in which they utilize the brain power within their walls for solving all kinds of client problems collaboratively.

To understand what kind of cultural environment it is that fosters creative designs and solutions that really work, check out the musings of David Kelley, head of Stanford’s school of design and Chairman/founder of IDEO, a company that helped to design revolutionary Apple products, industrial robots, and literally hundreds of ordinary household products that we love to use today.

Earlier this month, Kelley told Charlie Rose of CBS’s 60 Minutes that creative solutions in the modern era very much necessitate watching how users or customers function, listening to them, engaging a “solutions” design team to address specific problems they are having, and rolling out prototypes for testing before a new product launch.

Kelley made it abundantly clear that there is no such thing as pure creative genius. The modern creative revolutions we see are just the product of hard work, collaborative engagement, and the adoption of a culture that encourages everyone to take ownership of solutions – sounds like something that law firms could do with the right leadership.

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