“Innovation” is not only the buzz word of this year’s federal election campaign – legal innovation has become infectious among law firms battling it out for pole position in the Financial Times Asia Pacific “Innovative Lawyers” report, published last Friday.
The report is a fascinating catalogue of in-firm and client initiatives taken by AsiaPac’s biggest law firms to stay ahead of the competition and to respond to client pressure and the encroachment of "new law". There are many genuinely uplifting stories of the successes innovative thinking has wrought. As the lead editorial proclaimed: "Success comes from turning orthodoxies on their heads".
We are also pretty clear from the report about why this is happening: "Disruption churns hopes and fears". Innovation appears as a Darwinian response to change.
Some of the most interesting initiatives described were those where leaders had deliberately set out to design change. For instance, Telstra’s group general counsel, Carmen Mulhern, described integrating aspects of "design thinking" into the business’ corporate culture to drive innovation.
As the report notes, "many of the tenets of design thinking — embracing risk and ambiguity, tolerating failure, moving quickly and taking leaps of faith — sit uncomfortably with traditional lawyers". Flip to p. 22 of the report to read more.
This was the message also from the LawTech conference we wrote about in our last blog.
Innovation requires experimenting with numerous approaches, risking failure on some fronts, learning, and moving on. It’s not a position with which most lawyers are terribly comfortable and it’s not a practice generally encouraged in the legal pedagogy. But it’s absolutely vital in the innovation process.
This is why the creation of an “innovation hub” at the College of Law announced yesterday in Australasian Lawyer, is such an exciting venture. In the words of the hub’s founder and director, Terri Mottershead, its aim is to help equip the next generation of lawyers with the skills “to capitalise on opportunities created by industry flux”.
Legal training is often described to be less about “what you learn” than “how you think”. Lawyers are fast learners and great problem solvers. Hats off to the College of Law for providing a forum to encourage new lawyers to think differently about their profession, their careers, and provide opportunities to design, not just respond to, innovation.