Jan 29 '13
To compete in the changing and increasingly exciting world of legal services, being innovative is essential. But don’t roll your eyes now… being an innovative lawyer doesn’t have to be hard.
The FT recently showcased four leading legal minds who are pushing the envelope of legal practice. These legal innovators shared their insights into what makes a forward thinking lawyer – insights which have allowed them to succeed in a challenging economic environment and to secure some of the most important deals in recent years.
So what are the essential attributes of an innovative lawyer?
- The first core attribute is mastery.
This can then be further broken down. According to Dr Benedikt Wolfers, Legal Innovator of the Year in 2009 and corporate partner at Freshfields, this requires only 3 simple steps. They may be applicable to legal problem solving but with a bit of imagination it is clear how a similarly logical process can be applied to any business matter.
Firstly, you need to know the facts and completely understand them.
Secondly, you need to know the interests and aims of the client. Be familiar with his or her political, economical and technical background.
Thirdly, you need to start thinking legally. Have an intimate knowledge of the law and the basic principles.
Then, figuratively speaking, you need to put those three strands on a blank page before you. On the left of that blank page you should include the factual context of what is going on. Then on the right hand side you should have the legal principles and the client’s needs.
From this point on you should then start to think openly. With a mindset that there positively is a solution to the problem confronting your client.
2. The second core attribute is control.
Jim Rice, partner at Linklaters, said that the greatest challenge facing lawyers today is the need to predict how to stay relevant, useful and needed.
Modern lawyers need a skill-set that allows them to bring about the impossible. A skill-set that allows them to be able to bring a global project to successful completion as smoothly as possible
For this you need the ability to orchestrate. Married to this should be the ability to be in control and to be organised. Because, as a lawyer, the essence of your job to enable and facilitate transactions.
Just as it was in Dickens’s time, being a leading lawyer boils down to the ability to get things done in the most effective manner.
3. Third, innovative lawyers need boldness.
Gary Miller of Mishcon de Reya said that it requires someone who is prepared to explore, try out new things and be prepared to take some risk. He added an important caveat to that last point: clients want lawyers who take managed risks. Boldness is critical for progress.
All the great innovators and explorers throughout history could not have done what they have done without being bold and courageous and willing and passionate to take on that next risk.
To himself, Gary is an explorer.
4. Fourth, to be an innovative lawyer requires diversity.
Diversity of mind. Of skills. And diversity of team members. Lista Cannon , managing partner Fulbright & Jaworski, said that to be innovative requires you to be diverse and open minded.
That means surrounding yourself with people who have different skills and strengths, so that the team can get to the answer in the most effective way possible. She also said that an understanding of different legal systems and varying disciplines is vitally important.
The challenge now is to apply these tried and tested methods into your daily practice. That of course is easier said that done. The key is to lift your regard beyond the immediate work load and to look at the bigger picture. By all means keep the law at the core of what you do but by taking on and applying new business techniques and methods you can begin to improve the way you deliver services. You will not only make things easier for yourself but you will be able to find better solutions for clients at a better price. By taking on new thinking and techniques you will also be able to attract new clients, create new markets and enjoy steady growth.
These are exciting times for the lawyer who tries new things, for the lawyer who pushes the frontier. Those we’ve just seen have shown how to do it. They’ve also shown how accessible new and innovative practice can be. So are you going to do it?