Legal Innovation Index Awards address by Dr George Beaton
22 August, 2015
This post is a précis of an address at the Legal Innovation Index Awards by Dr George Beaton.
Courtesy of the hospitality of LexisNexis® Pacific and Janders Dean, I spoke at the Legal Innovation Index Awards in Sydney on August 20, 2015. Over 100 people gathered to celebrate the winners from a very high quality, hotly contested field of 16 organisations and 8 individuals. Here’s a précis of what I said.
The Legal Innovation Index Awards in context
Judging these Awards for innovation needs to be placed in context. Law is a globally conservative profession (some U.S. Courts still require depositions in WordPerfect). Law firms and practitioners are inherently risk-averse (how often does one hear ‘We won’t try that unless at least ten others have already successfully done so’). Private practice is still comfortably profitable and secure, and in-house positions are well-paid. The great majority of lawyers and their firms don’t sense any burning platform.
Add to all this the partnership structure of most firms and the partnership culture of all but a small handful of firms, and you have a recipe for trenchant status quo-ism.
Bells are ringing
Nevertheless, bells can now be well and truly heard. The ringing heralds threat and alarm – and opportunity and joy. The signs are clear, a buyers’ market is becoming entrenched. Beaton’s and others’ research shows buying power is being overtly exercised by both B2B and B2C clients. This means prices are inexorably falling and clients’ expectations of choice and client experience are progressively rising.
The glass is half empty for those who won’t look over the near horizon and act before it’s too late. Gloom and nihilism are setting in for these. And it’s half full for those who get up early in the morning and sense where the future lies. Optimism and innovation abound; opportunities are endless.
The finalists and winners in the LexisNexis® Pacific Janders DeanLegal Innovation Index Awards were inspiring in two ways:
- The myth that large BigLaw business model firms are stuck and can’t innovate, even disrupt themselves, was decisively dispelled. The variety and creativity of the BigLaw submissions were electrifying.
- The visionary start-ups and NewLaw case studies were a real pleasure to read and try to discriminate amongst. All deserve to win, both organisations and individuals.
Innovations fell into two broad categories:
- Technology-enabled, both substituting for lawyers and enhancing lawyers’ productivity, and
- Business model-related, with traditional firms adopting elements of the NewLaw business model Beaton has described in ‘NewLaw New Rules‘ my e-book published in December 2013, and start-ups pioneering new ways for lawyers to work and learn.
In particular, I was struck by the entries that focused on community benefits, looking beyond clients as a matter for which instructions have been received, and seeking to meet broader needs. I likened this to the preventative medicine movement. In the preventative medicine paradigm, the practitioner does not focus on the individual patient, ‘the woman in bed 11 with hepatitis B and an interesting liver function’, as I analogously put it drawing on my long distant medical practice background.
Rather, the focus in the preventative paradigm is at the community level through health promotion and disease prevention. This mind-set shift has taken many decades to gain traction in medicine. It is only just starting in law, with movements like ‘do-less-law‘ <first promulgated by Ron Friedmann> and ‘Next Law‘ <an idea being fostered by Jeff Carr> heralding the change.
Congratulations to all in the Legal Innovation Index Awards
Congratulations on behalf of all the judges to all entries and to those named as Winners. Creativity and professional client-centricity were the real winners tonight.
On the evidence tonight, the next generation of the profession is in very good hands. That’s good for society, clients, and the profession itself.
Contact me if you’d like to pursue the conversation – and understand how your firm can benefit by being more innovative.
This post was written by George Beaton, a partner in Beaton. George is also on LinkedIn and tweets at @grbeaton_law and @NewLawNewRules.
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