Posted by: johnocunningham | May 22, 2017

What’s New in Legal Service Innovation?

Law firms and corporate law departments are finally taking calculated risks to become innovation leaders in the increasingly competitive field of legal service delivery, and some of those risks are paying off in a big way.

That is what Professor Gabe Teninbaum, the Director of the Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation at Suffolk University Law School, told an audience of global firms and consultants at the 2017 LSSO RainDance Conference in Dallas on May 10.

Some of the innovations that he highlighted include:

  1. A 2,500 square foot “innovation laboratory” that Reed Smith has opened as a space dedicated to bringing firm professionals together to develop innovative ideas for the benefit of clients. Alex Smith in London has become the firm’s innovation leader after a stint as “innovation manager” at LexisNexis. The firm also has “innovation hubs” in London and New York that are dedicated to hatching practical ideas pertinent to: a. new and developing areas of law (such as law and regulation related to drones or self-driving cars); b. new ways of delivering legal services to clients in ways they favor; and c. methods of streamlining legal processes for faster and less expensive legal service delivery.
  2. CS Disco, the fastest growing e-discovery technology, which was initially developed at a litigation boutique in Houston that does a lot of IP litigation. More than 400 firms and 50 of the AmLaw 200 use this lawyer-developed technology now.
  3. The Founders Workbench, pioneered by Boston’s Goodwin Procter, a legal resource that helps fledgling entrepreneurs to get started in the formation, operation, hiring, and growing of their businesses.
  4. Littler Mendelson has hired a data director with MIT Sloan School experience to help the firm utilize “big data” to serve its clients better, following up on its CaseSmart system for better HR  and case management.
  5. Bryan Cave has launched TechX, an incubator to foster the testing and mastery of new legal technologies, utilizing among other things, free one-year tech trials where tech providers allow the firms and its clients to get used to various state of the art technologies with the help of some coaching.
  6. The General Electric law department has created a kind of in-house “Yelp” for lawyers, which allows lawyers to rate and rank law firms and lawyers as service providers, sharing information about particular types of cases and results.
  7. Verizon’s law department undertook process improvement training and applied it to their contracts approval process, streamlining the time for approvals and improving the consistency of the contracts, resulting in an estimated savings of more than $20 million per year.
  8. Liberty Mutual and Fidelity Investments have brought IDEO-type “design thinking” into their legal operations, constantly focusing on the development of systems that are easier and better for corporate clients to use when interfacing with the law departments.
  9. Kia, the Korean carmaker, has a legal department which now tests the software skills of outside lawyers and firm professionals, providing them with “up-training” as necessary to improve speed and results before Kia takes an engagement with a firm.
  10. Baker Hostetler is now using ROSS, a form of artificial intelligence derived from IBM’s Watson, to sift through thousands of legal documents and public records to pluck out helpful information pertinent to every aspect of a piece of litigation (initially, they are focusing on bankruptcy cases).

Teninbaum says that leading-edge firms are just starting to hire Chief Innovation Officers and directors in charge of surveying what the competition is doing to win the battle for clients, just like corporate clients have done for a long time now.

Looks like there are more changes coming, and a lot of excitement on the horizon for law firms.



  1. […] Actually, I think law firms are listening to clients more now than they ever have, though improvements are still needed. Firms are also innovating, as previously cited on this blog.  […]

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