Screencapture of Dennis Kennedy presentation videoI was doing some research on lawyering for ecosystems and platforms and found the video of a presentation called “Agile Lawyering inthe Platform Era” I did several years ago. It’s on The Law Lab Channel (along with many other great videos) – definitely worth a visit.

This presentation was a first pass at a topic I’ve thought a lot about and it contains many key ideas I’ve developed since, especially in my book, Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations (available on Amazon).

Would love to learn what you think and whether these ideas still make sense and hold up.

Screencapture of Dennis Kennedy presentation video


[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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Monk meditatingIn connection with the launch of the new Kennedy Idea Propulsion Laboratory Community, I’m excited to announce a new online course that should appeal to most, if not all of the readers of this blog.

It’s called “Productive Personal Quarterly Offsites for Busy Legal Professionals.” The price is $39.99 for members of the Kennedy Idea Propulsion Laboratory Premium Group and $99.99 for member of the limited-feature free KIPL network. To get more details and purchase the course, go here.

I’m often asked how I find the time to do everything that I do and get so much accomplished.

In this course, I share one of my best secrets to outcomes and transformations

In this course, I’ll share one of my best secrets to outcomes and transformations. The course sets out a practical step-by-step apporach I’ve used for several years with great success.

Most people have the problem of being too busy with day-to-day work to find the time and space they need to focus on the big picture and their own personal goals, challenges, and dreams.

This course gives you my plan to guide you to taking an action – a Personal Quarterly Offsite – that will keep you from drifting into the future at the whims of others, and navigate your course through challenging times, stay on that course, and thrive on the other side – over and over again.

In the course, I’m your guide to help you create and produce your own effective and satisfying personal quarterly offsites based on approaches that really work for busy legal professionals. This course is designed for busy legal professionals who truly want to rethink their careers, practices, and lives at this time and who are motivated to find a half-day or so for themselves to focus on their own futures.

This course gives you my plan to guide you to taking an action – a Personal Quarterly Offsite – that will keep you from drifting into the future at the whims of others, and navigate your course through challenging times, stay on that course, and thrive on the other side – over and over again.

The course has five lessons that you can view at your own pace. Each lesson has a helpful worksheet. I recommend that you resist the urge to sprint through all five lessons in one sitting and that you spend some time on the worksheets and the thought processes they encourage.

In lesson 1, I introduce the concept of the Personal Quarterly Offsite and talk about the main features and what you will want to consider.

In lesson 2, I cover preparation and goals.

In lesson 3, I walk you through exactly what to do on the day of your Personal Quarterly Offsite.

In lesson 4, I focus on the vital steps of wrapping-up effectively and creating action steps.

And, in lesson 5, I conclude with some important action steps for you to take as soon as the course ends.

All of which will help you achieve your personal vision, leverage a proven new approach, and do something different and innovative that will set you apart from your peers.

Don’t delay, join the KIPL Premium group (or KIPL Network) and start working on your own personal quarterly offiste today!


[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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DennisKennedy.Blog is now part of the LexBlog network.

LinkedIn Profile. Also, see LinkedIn showcase page for Dennis Kennedy’s books.

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Download my FREE “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law” (PDF).

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I’m so excited to announce my new Kennedy Idea Propulsion Laboratory Community on the Mighty Networks platform.

The KIPL Community is something I’ve wanted to build for many years and I believe I’ve found the best way to do that. I invite you to join in on a transformational journey for innovators in law.

Why am I launching this now? Here’s the Big Purpose:

I bring together innovators, thinkers and doers in law to share our experiences and access innovation resources, courses and projects, so that we can create a collaborative space that provides independence from organizational inertia, freedom to innovate as we want, and support of our professional and personal legacies.

That’s the big picture. What are the details?

The real action will be in the KIPL Premium group – exclusive content, a $60 discount on my new Personal Quarterly Offsites course, discounts on some of my products and services, activities, events, networking, and more. There is also a very lightweight, limited-feature free group to give you a taste of the platform, the community, and a sampling of new content.

What you will find in the KIPL Premium group.

  • Exclusive content – this group will be my primary outlet for my longform content going forward. I’ll also create new content just for this group and post other content not available elsewhere (or that cannot be located easily)
  • Access to the KIPL Premium community – Mighty Networks gives us many ways to connect, communicate and collaborate
  • Regular themes, discussion topics, polls, questions and more to make every visit new and worthwhile.
  • Events, courses, and, maybe, office hours
  • Access to my new ideas and insights into new projects
  • My perspective on the industry as well as perspectives of some of my expert friends
  • Discounts on courses, products and services
  • A place to find the personal and professional transformation and recognition you want and already know that you are not likely to find within the confines of your current organization.\
  • And more

Charter member pricing is $12.99 monthly (or $129.99 annually). I’ll do the math for you – annual is the better deal. As a charter member, I will not increase your price for the life of the community (unless you ask me to do so).

Join today at the Kennedy Idea Propulsion Laboratory Community site.

As I say on the site:

This community is a gathering place for innovators in law who have been influenced by my writing, speaking and other work and who have, in turned, influenced me. It is an experiment and an adventure to see what can grow be creating a community of people wanting to innovate in law. You’ll get easy access to my content, including some new kinds of exclusive content, longer thought pieces and opinions, reviews and commentary, online courses, special events, group activities, and networking. You can learn, share ideas and find people to collaborate with. It’s also a place for you to float ideas, get feedback and make new friends. Ultimately, we all are wanting to create a collaborative space that provides independence from organizational inertia, freedom to innovate as we want, and support of our professional and personal legacies. I want to try to create exactly that as part of my own legacy.

I invite you to join me.

Photo by Miriam Fischer from Pexels

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[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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I’ve written extensively about what law departments can do to innovate their panel convergence efforts in recent years, including in my book, Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations. I’ve also made the book chapter on panel convergence available for free here.

There are two key reasons that the panel convergence trend with continue to gather steam in corporate law departments. First, “digital transformation,” in all forms, has become a top two or three strategy at many companies. Second, “innovation,” in demonstrable and concrete forms, is now (and will continue to be) on the annual objectives list for most general counsel.

It is difficult for me to imagine that, in the next 6 – 12 months, any law department using a panel approach of approved law firms will not be re-evaluation the existing list and looking, at a minimum, to thin the herd. I can’t imagine that CEOs and CFOs will tolerate anything else.

I can’t imagine that CEOs and CFOs will tolerate anything else.

For forward-looking legal innovation leaders and top-level executives (especially in corporate law departments) who must deliver on the promise of panel convergence efforts, I am offering my panel convergence advisory services so that you can confidently achieve the potential business benefits and cost savings traditionally associated with panel convergence and supercharge your efforts with innovation deliverables.

You can confidently achieve the potential business benefits and cost savings traditionally associated with panel convergence and supercharge your efforts with innovation deliverables.

FOR LAW DEPARTMENTS

  1. Review existing panel convergence RFP questions on innovation and technology and recommend improvements
  2. Assist with review of RFP responses from outside law firms, including selection firms selection to pitch in person
  3. Help prepare questions for outside law firm pitch meetings
  4. Review pitches and submissions and assist in recommending and selecting finalists
  5. Recommend and scope ongoing review and other requirements for panel firms
  6. Evaluate technology and innovation efforts of existing panel firms and make recommendations about changes to panel

Fixed fee options always available.

Contact me now to discuss your needs. More details here or call me at 734-926-5197.

Download my free 57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law PDF.

+++++++++++++++++

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Like this post? Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

DennisKennedy.Blog is now part of the LexBlog network.

LinkedIn Profile. Also, see LinkedIn showcase page for Dennis Kennedy’s books.

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Download my FREE “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law” (PDF).

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I’m not surprised to see some significant stories recently about aggressive efforts by law departments to trim bloated lists of outside law firms and end up with leaner and more aligned panels. There are many reasons: corporate directives, economic stress, cost-cutting initiatives, reports of NYC associate billing rates topping $1,000 an hour, partners hoarding billable hours and doing and charging for associate-level work, to name but a few.

However, two reasons stand out for me. First, “digital transformation,” in all forms, has become a top two or three strategy at many companies. Second, “innovation,” in demonstrable and concrete forms, is now (and will continue to be) on the annual objectives list for most general counsel.

It is difficult for me to imagine that, in the next 6 – 12 months, any law department using a panel approach of approved law firms will not be re-evaluation the existing list and looking, at a minimum, to thin the herd. For most, the desired goal is to retain in-house talent and not fatten the wallets of partners in outside law firms. If outside firms raise rates again in early 2021, expect this trend to accelerate dramatically. I can’t imagine that CEOs and CFOs will tolerate anything else.

To help you prepare for these efforts (and to improve your existing work on panel convergence), I’m sharing a free chapter excerpt on innovation in panel convergence from by book, Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law. I hope you find that the chapter gives you much to think about and some ideas for paths forward. And, yes, I do help law departments with this process.

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Chapter 43. Panel Convergence

Stories abound these days about general counsels wanting their outside law firms to help them with innovation and technology efforts. My own conversations indicate that the real wish goes a step further. General counsel want their outside firms to bring them measurable value with innovation and technology initiatives that align with their legal and, more importantly, business goals. Even a quick scan of recent survey results from Thompson Hine (https://www.thompsonhine.com/uploads/1135/doc/ ClosingTheInnovationGapPrint.pdf ) will have you agreeing with their assessment that there is an “Innovation Gap.” Only 29% of participants said that their outside firms have brought them “significant” innovation.

Is it possible that an increasingly common practice in corporate law departments is a solution to achieving these innovation and technology goals?

Panel convergence (or, as I sometimes call it, panel consolidation) is now a popular approach in corporate law departments under pressure from CEOs and CFOs to gain control of legal spend. In some cases, making legal spend predictable and more certain can be more important than cost reduction, although fee discounting is commonly associated with panel convergence.

The concept is a simple. A legal department puts out a request for proposals (“RFP”) for firms to pitch for a place on what will be a small and select list of approved outside law firms on the panel. Firms complete what tends to be a very long and complex questionnaire, firms are selected to present in person as part of a “beauty contest,” and finalists are selected.

Only the firms on the new panel list are eligible to receive work from the law department. Not making the panel will have drastic consequences for outside law firms. In most, if not all, cases, the convergence effort results in a dramatic reduction in the number of outside firms used by the law department.

I like to trace the notion of convergence back to quality pioneer W. Edwards Deming, who believed that by reducing the number of outside suppliers (he went so far as to suggest getting it down to one) and working with them to get aligned on business goals, you could achieve excellent business results. In the legal profession, the Dupont Legal Model (http://businessoflawblog.com/2016/07/3-business-insights-learned-from-the-dupont-model/) and Jeff Carr’s ACES model (https://remakinglawfirms.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Univar- Guidelines-and-Procedures-for-Outside-Counsel.pdf) are examples of this approach.

Some of the overarching goals of a panel convergence effort are:

  • “Rationalizing” and “right-sourcing” legal service providers (reducing number of firms and directing lawyers to the law firms (or, increasingly, alternative legal services providers) best suited for types of work)
  • Reducing or controlling costs, including discounts, flat fees, staffing changes, and alternative billing arrangements.
  • Creating long-term relationships with outside firms so they can understand the business and its goals and strategies.
  • Aligning outside firms with legal and business goals, objectives, strategies, and risk tolerance.
  • Maintaining consistent legal approaches
  • Incentivizing outside firms to bring new ideas, innovation, and value to the client
  • Addressing diversity and inclusion objectives.
  • Generating measurable value.

You can probably think of other goals as well.

The results of these efforts are mixed. Reducing the number of outside firms and achieving some kind of price discounting or cost control are probably the most common “wins.” However, my friends in the legal pricing world often say that the discounts tend to be smallish and law firms increase hourly rates to adjust for the discounting.

Convergence efforts are difficult, time-consuming, and can raise all kinds of difficult issues, especially when longstanding outside firm relationships are put in jeopardy. The work on the finalization of the panel can be so difficult that the ongoing follow-up work of pursuing all the benefits of convergence is neglected. I talked to an in-house counsel who said that her law department hadn’t updated the firms on the approved panel in fifteen years.

Other common benefits that seem to take effect are enforcement of entering into specific engagement letters, staffing directives, timing of invoicing, e-billing, and participating in outside counsel management systems.

However, the goals of business alignment, value generation, and innovation often get lost in the process, even though many outside panel RFPs specifically address these issues. Just like firms often answer that they do literally every type of legal work, law departments often let firms get away with saying that they are “great on innovation too.”

In this chapter, I want to take an in-depth look at how panel convergence can, perhaps paradoxically, act as an innovation destroyer if not properly tended, how panel convergence should, if you follow good, often commonsense practices, act as an innovation driver, and suggest some practical action steps for you to consider.

Innovation Destroyer?

An observation, perhaps controversial. Panel convergence efforts do not achieve as much as they could because corporate legal departments do not appreciate the power that they have in what is now a buyers’ market. In simplest terms, outside firms under competitive pressure to stay on a panel or gain access to a panel are more willing to negotiate than you might expect. It is a huge benefit for a firm to get on a panel. If a firm is not on a panel, it is often extraordinarily difficult to get the firm added at a later point. If BigLaw firms will not move enough for corporate law departments, many perfectly capable mid-market regional firms will do so. This buyers’ market observation applies especially to innovation.

There are three points where panel convergence efforts can damage or destroy innovation goals:

  1. RFP creation and solicitation of proposals;
  2. RFP and innovation pitch evaluation; and
  3. Maintenance and review of convergence effort

RFPs

In too many cases, panel convergence RFPs for outside firms run into the hundreds of pages. Even the section on innovation or technology can be lengthy, not on point, and cobbled together from multiple sources. In the worst case, a law department might abdicate responsibility for the RFP language to the procurement or sourcing department.

I’m not sure that inhouse counsel needs to know much more at the RFP response stage than (1) what are examples of what a firm actually has done and are currently working on, (2) what would the firm plan to do specifically for the law department, (3) what people and infrastructure does the firm have for delivering innovation projects, and (4) what data demonstrates the firm’s level of commitment to innovation? If I have answers to those questions, I can probably make a decision about whether a firm passes the initial screen.

When you have lots of detailed RFP questions, you drastically reduce the chance that evaluators, especially lawyers, will read all of them. It’s a simple case of mathematics, especially when lawyers are “voluntold” that they are on the panel convergence project. You also increase the chance that the questions will be too vague, confusing, and even inapplicable.

In other words, they might make things cloudier rather than clearer than you would with a simple and direct approach. If you don’t feel comfortable with your RFP questions on innovation or whether they are working for you, you might want to get an outside second opinion. Similarly, a firm competing for a panel spot might consider the innovative approach of providing the answers to the four questions in the preceding paragraph as an executive summary or infographic.

A second factor in the RFP process is sending the RFP to the right firms and obtaining a large enough sample, especially when the lawyers involved in the process will be advocating for few proposals to evaluate. If innovation is a goal, you could do much worse than starting with the firms on Dan Linna’s Law Firm Innovation Index (https://www.legaltechlever.com/). Look to firms presenting at innovation conferences, firms who have Chief Innovation Officers (https://biglawbusiness.com/new-breed-of-law-firm-execs-drive-innovation-to-next-level), or other indicators of commitment to legal innovation.

RFP and Pitch Evaluations

I see RFP evaluation as a screening process to determine who gets to make a pitch, much like resume evaluation determines who gets an interview. The actual pitch is what gives you the information you need to make a decision.

The process can go very wrong in both places.

The biggest danger at both points is simply taking outside firms at their word. I have no doubt that every single law firm will tell you not only that they are great at innovation, but their future plans on innovation are amazing. Your task is to cut through the fog and obtain data and evidence that you can evaluate and use to make good decisions, or, at the very least, “good enough for now” decisions.

Another danger is trying to make a final decision on the basis of the response to the RFP. RFP responses should only be used to screen for firms you want to make a pitch, which means, firms you want to hear more details from. That is the job you are doing at the RFP evaluation stage.

In RFP evaluations, you might want to get an outside opinion to help you make the screen on innovation. The odds of any evaluator reading the innovation section in each of 50 several- hundred-page RFP responses are not good. That’s not a criticism – it’s a recognition of reality.

If innovation is a goal of your panel convergence effort, you will want not just examples, but you will want to meet the innovation team. It is reasonable and prudent to request that the firm’s Chief Innovation Officer or head of innovation take 10 – 15 minutes of a pitch presentation. Again, depending on your comfort level, this might be a place where you want to get an outside second opinion. You will ultimately make the final decision, but sometimes it’s good to have someone interpret and validate what you are hearing.

And, lest you forget, you will only get the innovation and technology proposals you ask for.

Follow-up and Maintenance

The panel is announced with great fanfare. Committee members are congratulated and get awards and bonuses. Victory is declared and the convergence team disbands.

Wrong! This is when the real work to make the effort a success begins.

There are many best practices you can find: single points of contact, initial meeting of panel firms, annual summits, introduction of outside counsel management systems, standardizing, and streamlining processes, engagement letters, discounts or flat fee implementation, and the like.

What about in the area of innovation?

Not so much, at this point. And that’s why the panel convergence approach can damage or destroy innovation. It’s the follow-up and maintenance that matter.

Let me use a bit of a gardening analogy to describe my approach to implementing successful convergence efforts. First, we need the gardeners : people who are responsible on an ongoing basis for the work and the results. We need to prepare the soil to give the project the best start and continuing growth. We need to plant enough seeds (definitely more than we think we need) to improve the chances of harvest. Watering and nourishing, of course. Eliminating weeds and pests. Pruning to focus and enhance our results. Knowing what to harvest and what to throw away. And preparing for the next season. You get the idea. I’m confident that you don’t need me to explain the metaphors.

It’s hard work that requires constant attention. It’s easy to see how these programs can actually destroy innovation.

Too often, the innovation piece of convergence is vague or afterthought. Innovation can get orphaned, with no person or group tasked with supervising the efforts. Once firms are locked into panels, an “incumbency inertia” can take hold, especially if there is an attitude of being “too busy” with “real legal work.” By the way, it’s vital to screen that attitude out in the selection process if you can. If there is a standard, it becomes what the other panel firms are doing, which can be a reverse incentive. It’s easy for all kinds of incentives to get reversed and misaligned. As time goes on, diversity of ideas and innovation are decreased, because there is a limited universe of firms.

No one would be surprised to find that innovation efforts drop off the cliff after the first year the panel is selected. Concrete and specific plans, follow-up, and roadmaps must be put into place or you will see “drift.” Far too often, no evaluations, measures, metrics, key performance indicators, goals, or objectives are put into place. There might even be confusion at the basic level of what the firm charges for innovation work or whether it should be charged for at all. Are there systems for tracking efforts and results or giving feedback? Should you be using a formal counsel evaluation tool like Qualmet (http://www.qualmetlegal.com/)? Is there even an intake or workflow tool for innovation projects? Annual meetings with demos and showcases should be required.

There are two final big problems I want to mention. And they are very big.

The first happens when a law department doesn’t ask for the innovation efforts or tech recommendations to be made, even if they were part of the winning pitch. The flip of that, of course, is that the firm doesn’t pursue these efforts or take the initiative. And we are back to the gardener analogy and a single point of contact approach.

Second, and most important, there are no consequences for failure to provide the innovation work. Think back, for a moment, to the earlier story about a firm that had not changed a panel in fifteen years. What possible incentive could there be for those panel firms to change or take initiatives? In my legal career, the biggest surprise has been the unwillingness for corporate clients to fire outside firms that are not producing as promised. In this area, I’d be tempted to give the outside firms, as a first innovation project, designing a project workflow system with metrics, standards, and agreed-upon consequences built into it. And then I would challenge you to hold them to it.

Simply put, if you cannot weed out firms that aren’t delivering, you really don’t have much of a chance of overall success. Your panel convergence process will become a place where innovation goes to die. It’s a buyers’ market out there and there are alternatives, including alternative legal service providers.

Innovation Driver

Here’s my radical, but probably not surprising, proposition: properly done, panel convergence can drive your innovation efforts forward, align business goals, enhance collaboration, and achieve innovation wins and meaningful “return on innovation” with measurable value.

There’s a technique in design thinking referred to as “reversal” or “inversion.” What happens if we flip over our assumptions, change the end user, look through the opposite end of the telescope, and, well, you get the idea.

In simplest terms, if you reverse any of the points in the previous section, you start to move down the path to drive innovation efforts forward. Try it out as a thought experiment. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Oh, wait. I do have an even more radical idea. Outside firms should consider providing innovation services for free and part of their offering to be on the panel.

Here are twelve ways that you might consider using your panel convergence project to drive innovation from your panel firms.

  1. Use the panel to make it easy for outside firms learning the company’s business, business goals, and how the law department fits into the business. Encourage them to get an understanding of key problems, constraints, budgets, and objectives. The best innovation will be customer-centered innovation. Everything starts here. How will you make that happen?
  2. Make outside counsel put some skin in the game. Jeff Carr’s ACES approach of putting part of agreed-upon fees at risk if business results and value are not achieved is one example, but how might you incentivize the behaviors you want? It might be as simple as putting firms into red, yellow, or green status on innovation, with penalties for lack of effort or staying in the red or yellow category.
  3. General counsel want to move to new technologies, but typically don’t have the resources to investigate and make those decisions. They want their outside firms to share how made their own technology decisions, their experiences, and their recommendations. There are benefits to having firms and clients on the same platforms, especially on collaboration tools. This “want” is often expressed on the in-house side, but rarely acted on by outside counsel.
  4. Start with staffing and workflow innovations, with an eye on cost savings, efficiencies, and “right sourcing” (getting the work into the hands of the right person at the right skill level and price). Legal departments are concerned about paying huge hourly rates for “commodity” work. Would using a litigation support project platform like ClariLegal, of which I am on the advisory board, generate cost savings and free up lawyer time?
  5. Tracking and monitoring projects should be another priority. Helping address those problem areas will achieve real-world benefits and open doors to future innovation projects. Build on small, measurable successes.
  6. Prune the panel list. You cannot freeze the panel for fifteen years. There should be an easy process for adding and dropping panel firms to reflect goals (e.g. diversity), movement (e.g., key lawyer or group moves to new firm), change (law firm mergers), business strategy (move into new markets or product lines), and the like. It is not a great place for an in-house counsel to be when they have to use old-line panel firms to handle blockchain or other new technology issues. A regular in-depth review should also be scheduled with promises tracked and consequences exacted. There is a huge benefit to firms to stay on a panel list and many firms, especially mid-market firms, would be happy to make better offers and better efforts than the incumbent panel firms.
  7. Measurement and metrics. Innovation is not some airy, vague set of new ideas. Innovation should produce practical results. With a panel, you can collaborate with firms to agree on appropriate metrics and how to track them.
  8. Shared goals and objectives. Aligning the law department’s goals and objectives to innovation efforts is a powerful way to set direction and strategy. If the law department knows the business problems its business owners want to solve, and the outside law firms are aligned to solving those problems, the results can be very good for everyone. Innovation should be focused like a laser on the client’s problems. Innovation is fundamentally a client-centered exercise. If the word “value” is not at the top of your discussion list with outside firms, you should be asking yourself why it isn’t.
  9. Connect the people. I like the idea of having “single points or contact” for innovation efforts, with each firm. Consider at least monthly calls, quarterly design thinking or brainstorming events, and annual “summits” where all of the innovation contacts meet and share ideas and goals.
  10. Thoughtfully implement standard innovation practices that fit your culture: proof of concept and other experiments; design sprints and minimum viable product approaches; a portfolio of approaches; collecting stories to share; identifying the right talent; and building on successes. In certain cases, does a firm or law department want to start its own innovation lab or outsource the use of an innovation lab or design group? What outside help do you need and what work should stay as part of your core competence?
  11. As part of the effort, put into place a system of communication, collaboration, and incentives. What happens if we turn a great idea into a product? How do we make this organic and self-sustaining? How do we measure early-stage benefits?
  12. Focus on the “Why?” first. As I’ve said, a common principle in innovation is answer the “Why?” first, then move to “What?” and, only then move to the “How?” I don’t mention specific technologies much in this chapter, because it will be part of the “how.” Your focus should be on first things first.

Isn’t all of this way more exciting than getting a 15% discount on standard hourly rates?

Practical Action Steps

I want to end this chapter with a bunch of practical action steps. Here are some for you to consider:

  • Make a firm decision that you want to want to use panel convergence to drive innovation in legal services. Start with the “Why?” If you get that question answered, your path becomes so much easier to see.
  • Review your panel convergence RFP, especially on innovation and technology, and simplify, simplify, simplify. What do you want to know that matters? Ask only that.
  • Require an outside firm’s Chief Innovation Officer or innovation team to present as part of the pitch presentation. That is who you will be working with on actual projects.
  • Develop a framework and approach to evaluating RFP responses and pitches. Obtain good data and evidence.
  • Request (or volunteer) to participate in design sprints, innovation labs, or productization efforts with panel firms. Offer your problems and issues as experiments for the firm to work on. There’s no harm in asking if participation comes with no charge. Firms need plenty of client feedback on their own efforts.
  • Find ways to get outside firms to put skin in the game. Be creative and see what else is happening in the industry, and in other professions.
  • Measure activity and create a simple set of metrics and key performance indicators to track. Then act upon them and track your results.
  • Be constantly on the lookout for internal resources who would be happy to participate in innovation efforts. Results will be mixed, at best, if you assign unwilling lawyers to participate.
  • See innovation as a process of experimentation and learning. Some things will work and some will not. You can learn from both results.
  • When in doubt, give people logoed T-shirts. We are all humans, after all.

For outside firms, or those who want to be on panels, use the reversal or inversion method on the practical action steps above and you’ll see your own list.

I’ve become intrigued how an often-clunky existing process with mixed results – panel convergence – can, if properly handled, be turned into an engine to drive innovation. Having vision is important, as is being willing to make hard decisions and do experiments. Panel incumbency should not mean entitlement and tenure. There are many firms, with mid-market firms being especially interesting because of motivation and nimbleness, who are able and willing to step up on innovation efforts to provide measurable value for key clients. Lack of action has consequences. The legal market says that it is ready to innovate. Let’s see firms and law departments prove it.

 

PRO TIP: Outside law firm panel convergence efforts, if properly understood, provide some of the best opportunities for innovation success.

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[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Like this post? Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

DennisKennedy.Blog is now part of the LexBlog network.

LinkedIn Profile. Also, see LinkedIn showcase page for Dennis Kennedy’s books.

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Download my FREE “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law” (PDF).

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

CLTI Announcement image

From the press release:

MSU Law’s Center for Law, Technology & Innovation Under New Interim Leadership
Dennis Kennedy will lead MSU College of Law’s Center for Law, Technology & Innovation (CLTI) as its interim director.

Professor Kennedy has been a member of the faculty at MSU Law since 2018, serving as an adjunct professor of law covering topics such as entrepreneurial law, technology, and legal service delivery.

His appointment follows the departure of the previous director, Carla Reyes, in 2020 who led the Center during her time as a professor of law at MSU. The Center’s mission is to develop ways to bring the law to everyone through the work accomplished by law students and other academics in its three complementary arms: the LegalRnD Lab, the Innovation Hub, and the Emerging Technology Research Node.

Professor Kennedy’s vision for the Center moving forward is to build upon the groundwork of his predecessors and to continue the legacy of a program that he’s admired since before he joined the faculty.

Looking forward, I want to continue to raise the bar on performance and increase the CLTI’s visibility, so that any conversation about programs in innovation or technology in law must include Michigan State.

“I want to maintain the momentum of what’s been created because this program is so highly respected and well known,” Professor Kennedy said. “Looking forward, I want to continue to raise the bar on performance and increase the CLTI’s visibility, so that any conversation about programs in innovation or technology in law must include Michigan State.”

The CLTI was founded at MSU nearly a decade ago as the ReInvent Law Program (later renamed Legal RnD) and since its inception it has been enriched by hundreds of alumni who are contributing scholars in the fields of intellectual property and legal technology today.

Thanks to the experiences we are able to offer, our students who emerge from this program are often already known in the legal community and go on to have exciting careers in law, sometimes in areas that haven’t existed before.

Professor Kennedy is eager to continue investing in the Center via the creative alumni and students who are essential to its history and future success. “Thanks to the experiences we are able to offer, our students who emerge from this program are often already known in the legal community and go on to have exciting careers in law, sometimes in areas that haven’t existed before. They’re great ambassadors for Michigan State. Continuing the engagement with current students and alumni is critical to the success of the CLTI.”

Read more about the CLTI.

Looking forward to getting started. And still getting used to being called “Professor.”

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[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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Microphone photoI’ve been doing a lot of podcasting and “Zoomcasting” lately and wanted to collect links to them all in one place in this post.

The Kennedy-Mighell Report Podcast

Tom and I have done some great shows on some cool topics lately. We have some great stuff planned for the next few months, so it’s a great time to subscribe to the podcast. This list takes you back to the beginning of the pandemic era and is also interesting as a time capsule.

Second Brain Project: Capture, Part 1

Where the Heck Are We? — 2020 Mid-Year Reflections

Eureka! — The Beginnings of Dennis & Tom’s Second Brain Project

Moving from Idea to Action

Top Tips & Tools for Better Online Presentations

Video & Audio Quality Matter — Make Your Remote Work More Professional

Wellness Tech: Self-Care While Sheltering in Place

Good Tech Spending Decisions in Tough Economic Times

A Remote Working Guide to COVID-19 and Beyond

Key Takeaways from TECHSHOW 2020

Coronavirus Looms – Can Technology Replace Travel?

All Things Microsoft! — Tools & Tips for Lawyers with Ben Schorr

Guest Appearances

Making the Most of Your LinkedIn Profile with Dennis Kennedy and Allison Shields

TSLP Podcast #11: From Mobile to Desktop, My Conversation with Entrepreneur Dennis Kennedy!

Law Insights with Bob Ambrogi and Dennis Kennedy 7.1 (Video)

Tips and Tools to Maximize Your Personal Productivity (Video)

Legal Tech: Where to Spend and How to Leverage During COVID-19 (Video)

Working Remotely During COVID-19 (Video)

Check them out! Lots of good stuff in this batch. And all free.

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[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Like this post? Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

DennisKennedy.Blog is now part of the LexBlog network.

LinkedIn Profile. Also, see LinkedIn showcase page for Dennis Kennedy’s books.

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Download my FREE “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law” (PDF).

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Legal Innovation as a Service Logo

Corporate legal departments and law firms have reached the point in the pandemic where they must start to move beyond triage to the first steps to moving forward.

The path from where we are to where we want to go starts with a solid understanding of where we actually are.

And there is no time like the present.

The path from where we are to where we want to go starts with a solid understanding of where we actually are.

For forward-looking legal innovation leaders and top-level executives (especially in corporate law departments) who must evaluate existing and planned innovation projects and portfolios quickly, independently, and economically, I am offering LIaaS assessment services so that they can confidently make fast and prudent decisions.

I’m now featuring two of my LIaaS (Legal Innovation as a Service) offerings targeting at the assessment phase:

A. Reality Check – Review current or proposed innovation project portfolio and assess whether what you are doing makes sense in the real world (US$7,500)

B. Second Set of Eyes – Thorough review of your current or proposed innovation project portfolio that digs deeper into projects with a more detailed analysis (US$15,000)

More details here or call me at 734-926-5197.

Download my free 57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law PDF.

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[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Like this post? Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

DennisKennedy.Blog is now part of the LexBlog network.

LinkedIn Profile. Also, see LinkedIn showcase page for Dennis Kennedy’s books.

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Download my FREE “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law” (PDF).

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Biggest Disconnect in the Legal Industry?
(COVID-19 Version)

We seem to be living in a time when what is most important today already seems like old news tomorrow. It’s difficult, on so many levels. The seeming comfort of a “return to normal” appeals more than the discomfort of change and innovation. However, either/or is a false choice, and we all know that.

Like you, I’ve spent many hours on online videoconferences in the last few months. Since I retired from Mastercard, my Zoom calls have not been so much about specific work issues, but with groups of legal innovators—in-house counsel, outside counsel, legal tech vendors—intimately involved in the efforts to cope with the current crises.

What can you do, today, to bridge the biggest connect in the legal industry with your best clients?

This vantage point has given some unique insights. The title of this article refers to the most important one.

I found myself using the phrase “the biggest disconnect in the legal industry” a few years ago. On my recent Zoom calls, the comments that led me to use this term have reached a crescendo.

I routinely hear outside counsel say that they wish in-house counsel talked to them more about what they need so they could collaborate better. At the same time, I hear in-house counsel say that they wished their outside counsel talked to them more about what new things they could bring to the table to help them so they could collaborate better. That, simply put, is the disconnect.

AND THOSE CONVERSATIONS STILL AREN’T HAPPENING!

When I ask why people are not making the initial contact, I hear a lot of reasons: waiting for the other group to make the first move, too busy, too afraid, and many more. Mostly, I get the sense that lawyers don’t want to admit (or show) that they might not have answers for everything, even in these times. One word: fear.

I see regularly in surveys of Chief Legal Officers that the most common answer to the question “What innovation did you outside counsel bring to you?” is “none.”

In a recent Zoom call, a large group was asked if they had a vendor who had delighted them recently. There was one answer. Someone’s outside counsel had called and told them that they did not need to pay invoices until 2021 if they didn’t want to. While that would have delighted me, other law firm representatives on the call said they didn’t see how they could do that. None indicated that they had reached out to clients in innovative ways.

On the same call, in-house counsel spontaneously started complaining about all their outside firms sending them emails about how to revise and renegotiate “force majeure” clauses. Although there was laughter, there was a sense of great frustration about firms guessing what in-house counsel might think was important rather than talking with them. If you are an in-house counsel trying to help your company survive the current crises and thrive on the other side, force majeure clauses are not at the top of your list.

In one sense, the threshold for outside counsel innovation efforts is quite low and the opportunity to differentiate from other firms is there for the taking, simply by taking initiative. In another sense, however, the examples illustrate the desire of in-house counsel to see their outside firms take the lead in innovation and technology initiatives and their disappointment with the perceived lack of leadership.

Another example of a legal technology “solution” that outside counsel like to advocate is “contract lifecycle management.” Yes, there is a need, but those projects are not at the top of the in-house priority list, are nightmarishly complex to implement, and involve many moving parts within a company’s existing IT and procurement structure.

If, instead, the innovation process ended with a pilot project of a dashboard of highly relevant data, an expertise locator, or a list of places where routine legal review could be eliminated, you would have delighted in-house counsel. Each of those address pain points, solve business problems, and are easy experiments. Each of these also illustrate how you have come in to listen, discover and suggest some options that have worked elsewhere, not to sell a pre-conceived innovation “solution.” And they provide value to the client.

And, if you initiate them, your firm is likely to stay on the panel list when the inevitable panel convergence efforts begin again.

Many lawyers hate to “sell.” Most in-house counsel hate to be “sold to.” The good news is that pitching innovation efforts should not involve selling in the classic sense. It should consist of many of your best lawyering skills: asking good questions, active listening, investigating, getting to the core problem, looking at options, and patience. You want to understand what the client wants before you jump in with a solution.

While there are many definitions of innovation, most of them emphasize “customer-focused” or “customer-centered” problem solving and a focus on desired outcomes. Your client has the problem to solve. Your goal, and your role, are to help your client solve their problem and eliminate their pains and achieve their gains.

Think Yoda, not Superman.

The client does not need or want you to swoop in and save the day with these initiatives, or for you to try to prove that you are “the smartest person in the room,” a term in-house counsel do not use as a compliment when talking about outside counsel. You can do that when handling important legal work. Instead, clients want to be the heroes of their own innovation stories. They want a guide with a plan to help them win the prize while avoiding disaster. Think Yoda, not Superman.

And, if you initiate these efforts, you and your firm are likely to stay on the panel list when the inevitable panel convergence efforts begin again soon.

With that in mind, what approaches work best when discussing innovation projects or processes with a client?

1. Bring it Up First. Since outside firms are known for NOT bringing innovation ideas to corporate counsel, simply initiating the conversation might be a differentiator for you. If you put innovation in the context of improving the relationship, controlling or cutting legal spend, or a new benefit for key clients, you will have a winning combination. Offer to listen. Offer not to charge for the meeting. If I weren’t retired and an outside counsel came to me and offered to have this kind of meaningful conversation at no charge, I would probably insist that they bill me for the meeting at the end because I perceived the value of the conversation and appreciated the effort. Do whatever it takes to get on your client’s calendar. My bet is that you will be surprised by the receptivity you find.

2. Understand Your Client’s Internal Goals and Objectives. In-house counsel and law departments have annual objectives and goals. Understand what those are and make the part of the equation. Visible achievement of annual goals will always be a desired gain for your client. As an example, do not assume that a US client’s goal is to craft a great “we care” Black Lives Matter message; the real focus is on meaningful action steps and progress. That’s here your assistance and guidance become valuable.

3. Pitch Pilots. Upwards of 90% of innovation projects fail or drastically change from the initial concept. That’s a good thing. It’s part of the innovation and start-up process. The more pilots, the better. Pilots give you and the client prototypes to test, examples of possible projects to share with others, and quick wins that build momentum. Pilots show off your creativity, business acumen, and understanding of client goals.

4. Bring the Whole Team. Get the right teams talking, especially in panel convergence presentations. If a law department has a Chief Innovation Officer or innovation lead, they will want to meet and talk with their counterparts. Your client will want to hear from the people who can answer their specific questions about process improvement, project management, productization of services, and other innovation initiatives. From my experience, in-house counsel does not want a return of the days when a senior partner unfamiliar with the details is in charge of pitching a service offering he clearly does not understand.

Innovation initiatives from outside counsel have moved from nice-to-have to must-have. Law departments are looking for help to show innovation results to their C-suites and meet corporate and department goals and objectives. Increasingly, company survival is at issue and legal budget and personnel reductions are likely on the horizon. Think about it: if you were a general counsel under orders to cut costs, wouldn’t you try to keep your own team together and reduce spend on outside counsel who do not bring anything new to the table?

Let me re-emphasize one key point. In-house counsel will be looking for guides who give them plans to achieve what they need and remain the heroes of their own stories. If you can provide that, you will cement long-term client relationship and open the doors to new legal work as a preferred law firm and a valued partner. What can you do, today, to bridge the biggest connect in the legal industry with your best clients?

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This post is part of my #blogfirst approach to writing and publishing articles.

Download my free 57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law PDF.

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[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Like this post? Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

DennisKennedy.Blog is now part of the LexBlog network.

LinkedIn Profile. Also, see LinkedIn showcase page for Dennis Kennedy’s books.

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Download my FREE “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law” (PDF).

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Joanna Goodman recently asked me for some tips on how firms can go about balancing the need to control costs and manage the expectations of their partners and staff with investing in innovation to retain and win business and maintain competitive advantage as lockdown is lifted.

What should firms’ (especially mid-sized firms) priorities be for driving and leveraging innovation?

A few of my tips appeared in her great new article, “The Great Leap Forward,” in the Law Society Gazette.

I wanted to share all of the tips I came up with in this blog post. It’s part of my #blogfirst approach to writing and publishing articles.

Portfolio – Innovation efforts must be looked at as a portfolio. As in your financial investments, diversifying across asset classes, risk/reward, and investment horizons becomes essential. If you invest only in “low-risk” innovation categories and projects, you will not be diversified and your risks will actually increase and outcomes, for you and your clients, will not improve.

Client involvement – Innovation success is directly related to the amount of client involvement. Period. Firms that don’t talk with clients in depth often create products, services and improvement that are not what their clients want. Every survey of chief legal officers shows that clients are looking at you to initiate those conversations right now. Taking this approach can be a big competitive advantage for mid-sized firms.

Scientific method – Innovation involves experiments, testing, hypotheses, evidence-gather, learning from mistakes and missteps, and the like. That’s the scientific method we all learned in school. Innovation is not magic – it’s a practice and a discipline that can be learned and repeated.

Guidance – Our current crises have stressed our assumptions, our efforts, and ourselves. Projects that made sense at the start of the year likely no longer makes sense as conceived. At the same time, everyone involved in them are having difficulty seeing the bigger picture and the changes needed. Getting some fresh eyes from the outside – clients or others – will make a world of difference. A reality check can be a big help.

Retention – Innovators want to work on cool projects that show results. If those dry up and salary cuts occur, your innovators will be looking to leave the first chance they can. If you can put your innovators on projects that excite them, even it’s only one or two of them, your chances of retaining them will increase dramatically.

Microniche practice areas – If I were to suggest one area that mid-sized firms take a hard look at, it would be developing new cross-departmental microniche practices, especially those that anticipate where you clients are looking to be in a few years in technology, supplier and customer relationships, e-commerce, a changing legal and regulatory environment, and much more. Be the guide and the partner, with your clients’ biggest business needs on your radar. Yes, that means talking with clients on a regular basis.

De-risking – There’s a term I like and use a lot lately in connection with innovation efforts. It’s called “de-risking.” It combines both the portfolio approach and scientific method. How can you use evidence, testing, and flexibility to make innovation projects more likely to succeed? There are approaches out there that help you do this.

Three stages – Most firms are looking at three stages to getting through the current crises- surviving, restarting, and thriving in a new future. Obviously, most of the attention is being focused on the first two stages. Innovation, especially incremental innovation and process improvements, is certainly possible in the first two stages. However, your most important innovation efforts need to be directed at the third stage. Unfortunately, that’s where many firms are currently looking to drastically reduce or eliminate efforts. The negative consequences are both predictable and avoidable. Firms need to show clients how smart they really are and that they plan to be along for the long haul.

There is so much innovation opportunity in the mid-sized firm space! Concentrate on a few of these and see what you can accomplish. Let me know if these help you.

Download my free 57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law PDF.

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[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Like this post? Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

DennisKennedy.Blog is now part of the LexBlog network.

LinkedIn Profile. Also, see LinkedIn showcase page for Dennis Kennedy’s books.

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Download my FREE “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law” (PDF).

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.