How do Law Firms Become "Innovative"?

Recently, I’ve had some conversation about the idea of whether a particular law firm is innovative or not. It’s a tough question to answer, in my mind, because it really depends on how you define innovative. Just having innovative technology in place does not make a firm innovative, yet at the same time, even the most creative people can’t be innovative without the proper tools.

To me, it involves having technology, culture, and the people willing to be innovative for a firm to be considered innovative.

So how do you determine whether you have the culture and people to make the investment in tools worthwhile? Is it enough to have conversations with various areas about how they work, or how they’d like to work? What kinds of questions would you ask of attorneys, paralegals and other staff to figure out how they would like to innovate, when they may not know much about the tools available to them? How do you get people talking about innovation, or how they use technology in an open, honest, and forward-looking way. How do you get past “Outlook runs too slow” as the form of IT feedback, and onto the much larger, strategic, questions? How do you get an attorney who’s done the same thing, pretty much the same way, for 10 years, to consider how her clients might want them to be working differently, or how they could be more effective?

Right now, I’m not sure I have answers to those questions, but I’d like to hear from all of you, even if you don’t work in a law firm. Attorneys are my primary focus, especially in dealing with Litigation Support tools, but the same questions would need to be addressed to sales people, accountants, engineers, customer service folks, and on down the line. What questions do you ask to get them to consider how innovative technology might help them do what they do more effectively? How have you gotten them involved in the IT strategic planning process?

Do share your successes, and even your failures, and what you’ve learned from them!

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