The frenetic pace of change in today’s world has led to intense discussions and speculation about innovation trends and disruption across all industries and walks of society. Legal services are no exception.
The tsunami of disruptive changes will inevitably take few pioneering innovators to unforeseen heights. At the same time these forces will create havoc among those that resist the potent forces of change. The risk-reward equation is more favorable since the handful of innovators in the legal space have little to lose and a lot to gain by treading on the less trodden path of innovation.
The next questions that arise and which this series of posts deals with are as under:
- What are the areas where innovation is currently taking place in the legal services space?
- Which are the Top 10 Words that encapsulate law firm innovation?
- What are some of the upcoming innovation trends not on the mainstream radar?
Top 10 Words
In this 10 part Series, we look at the Top 10 words that most aptly describe innovation trends in law firms. The Top 10 words are drawn from the most frequently used words in the “Business of Law” section of the recently released FT Innovative Lawyers report. While these are specific to law firms in Asia Pacific region, the same can be extrapolated to Europe and North America as well.
I recently attended an event in Hong Kong that witnessed the release of the 3rd FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers Report by Financial Times in association with their research partner, RSG Consulting.
The report has become the leading, if not sole, barometer for innovation in the legal ecosystem. It showcases the leading innovative projects and innovation trends in the region. In fact, there are more Google searches for “FT Innovative Lawyers” than for “Innovative Lawyers” and “Law Firm Innovation” combined! The discussions at the event sparked a chain of thoughts that led to this series; trying to unravel the mysteries of law firm innovation.
The report broadly covers Business of Law; Corporate and Commercial laws; and Finance laws. In order to extract insights that are applicable to readers of this forum, we will focus exclusively on the “Business of Law” section.
The methodology is fairly straightforward. I have extracted the most frequently used words that throw light on an innovation trend using Natural Language Processing. Sub-themes or words that amplify the trend have also been highlighted, but the results are based on the dominance of the primary trend.
Overview of Top 10 Innovation Trends
Without further ado, here are the Top 10 words that encapsulate the innovation trends.
The size of the bubble indicates the number of times the word was used in the report. The bubbles placed vertically below the primary bubble represent the secondary trends within the main category. The secondary terms will be explained in later posts dealing with the respective primary trend.
We will now deep dive one by one into each of the trends in the next few posts. Let us start peeling the layers of the innovation trends with the first of the Top 10 words – Technology !
Innovation Trend #1 : Technology
The tectonic changes in the technology landscape are fueling innovations in the most significant ways. Consequently, it is not surprising to find that a separate “Business of Law – Technology” section was carved out for the first time in the report. This in itself speaks volumes of the obvious impact that technology is already having on the innovation ecosystem in law firms.
Innovations Driven by Technology
There is a wide array of components that find a significant mention in the discussion around technology. The sub-themes include creation of apps, systems, portals and leveraging the ubiquitous cloud services.
It does appear though, that presence of basic automation and practice management systems is taken for granted and the need of the hour is to push the pedal further on technology driven innovation.
Quite clearly, it is a loud warning bell for firms that do not have the foundational components in place including a document management system, practice management system, etc.
However, despite the massive impact of technology on the innovation landscape, the technology dispersion is not very high. There are regional as well as functional inequalities.
- Regional – The firms headquartered in Australia, UK and US dominate the technology honors list. In fact, our firm’s innovation on Digital Learning was the only project implemented by a firm headquartered in the Asian continent to be featured in the report. This is consistent with the constant rumbling that we hear about many organizations not successfully leveraging technology, or worse, living in a state of denial. Technology can be a great leveler and also create disruptive disparities – the choice is yours !
- Functional – Technology was mostly used for automation and standardization through creation of systems, apps, portals and workflows. Our project was also the only instance of an innovative “Learning” initiative (as opposed to training) featured in the entire report. In an era where the disruptive forces of technology are playing havoc, there is an opportunity to leverage technology to expand our frontiers through Digital Learning. The infinite capacity of the human mind; enabled by today’s technological prowess; can create unimaginable powerhouses. You only need to re-imagine !
Technology – The Road Ahead
The raw power of technology in today’s times creates limitless possibilities that are rapidly moving outside the comfort zone of a vast majority. The pioneers are not those who leverage technology to automate existing processes by converting analog to digital. Rather, it is the time for those who can re-imagine the world and harness the potential of technology.
Let us look at few such examples.
The discussions around use of robotics in professional services is gaining rapid popularity fueled by advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing and supported by massive increases in computing power. Our firm’s initiatives (despite being a services player) in the area of IoT [Internet of Things] were recognized early this year by the country’s leading technology platform.
There is a significant human angle to the power of technology. Technology’s impact on the Future of Work may relegate several human skills to oblivion or redundancy. However, digital learning gives us new hope. It is time to re-imagine our own skills and leverage technology enabled learning opportunities to thrive in the disruption caused by technology. As I mentioned earlier in 5 Lessons Learnt as CEO , it is time for the Rise of the Autodidacts [meaning of autodidacts] to thrive in this VUCA world (volatile uncertain complex and ambiguous).
This is indeed the perfect opportunity to challenge our assumptions and limiting beliefs and to re-imagine and re-create the world.
Let’s start with ourselves.
How would you re-imagine yourself in a technology driven world?
Coming Up Next:
Innovation Trend #2 – Management
<One Firm’s Trash Is Another Firm’s Treasure>
About the Author
Rajiv Maheshwari has around 20 years of experience across several knowledge industries and is the CEO of Anand and Anand for the last 5 years. Rajiv’s leadership has helped the law firm (a leading IPR firm) earn recognition in the fields of Technology, Big Data / Analytics, Innovation, Client Service and as an “Employer of Choice”. The views expressed in this article that was first published here are personal.