Posted by: johnocunningham | December 22, 2016

One Law Firm’s Effort To Drive Innovation Rather Than React To It

The big corporate clients that every law firm covets have run laboratories and so-called skunk works groups for a long time in an effort to breed game-changing innovations, and now at least one big law firm in America is following suit.

Reed Smith announced earlier this year that it was launching two innovation “hubs” — one in London and another in New York City — where its lawyers can convene, share ideas and execute on innovation in three areas:

  1. new areas of the law,
  2. new ways of delivering client services and
  3. streamlining internal processes to become more efficient.

The firm is also hiring Alex Smith, a London “innovation manager” from LexisNexis, who will lead and facilitate the firm’s innovation projects. One of his first projects will be to develop an app that the firm initially declined to publicize, but which is tentatively set to be rolled out in 2017.

If law firms are to survive in future competition with outsourcers, technology alternatives, and even fast-growing corporate in-house departments, they will have to innovate with efficiency and speed. Reed Smith’s big move could put them out in front if the firm embraces the products of its own “laboratory.” I hope that they do because history is littered with corporations that lost billions by blowing off their own innovations. Kodak sold patents on digital photography because it might kill their film sales, Xerox sold much of the early technology developed for PCs because it did not fit their core business, and IBM dismissed plans to build an outsourcing solution for the data processing needs of banks, health care institutions and other data dependent companies, resulting in the creation of  a multi-billion dollar competitor, Electronic Data Systems.

It will be very interesting to see what Reed Smith’s innovation hubs can deliver and to see if the partners embrace the changes. Kudos to them for being bold enough to make the effort !


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