Client demands, financial pressure to do more with less and the increasing sophistication of technology are driving law firms to innovate. While this is not new, we are seeing a growing demand for those who can aid and even lead these developments.

Indeed, our own research has shown that over three-quarters of the top 35 law firms now employ a business services professional with an innovation brief. At Totum, we saw this shift coming and responded by launching a dedicated function to focus on a growing number of emerging business services roles in law. A significant area of our focus here is innovation, as well as legal project management, process management, change management, business analysis, and so on.

But while titles such as Innovation Manager are becoming more popular, it is clear to us that these – and other newer business services titles – cannot thrive in isolation. Indeed, firms need to be careful that by setting up a dedicated innovation team, it doesn’t just become the means for others to park (and forget) innovation issues. Innovation managers are the conduit to enable innovative ideas to flourish –success requires proactive input from across the firm.

Client-centric approach


Innovation teams need to work closely across the firm, and particularly with lawyers who can harness their close relationships with clients for that all-important client-driven innovation.

But at the same time, we are seeing a shift from a lawyer-centric approach in both client management and innovation. We have noticed how far business services professionals are now directly involved with clients. In progressive firms, for instance, it is not unusual to find pitch teams that consist of BD, finance and IT representation.

Such professionals are also often now named in on-going client programmes allowing clients to get in touch directly and be part of an engagement team – in a way that enhances the overall relationship.

This then links into the innovation function. Clients want to be involved in the innovation process – and they want it to be tailored to their specific needs.  Law firms are increasingly recognising the value of having the right contact in place who has both the time and the incentive to deliver this level of personal innovation – and who can act as a hub, also linking individual ideas and efforts into more concerted and effective firm-wide endeavours.

There is a growing case (and willingness) to park this responsibility with business professionals who can dedicate the time to innovation, pulling in lawyers – and other functions – as necessary to achieve the best outcome.

Coordinated innovation


In fostering a culture of innovation, law firms face challenges – who should be at the vanguard in driving new solutions forward, who will implement them, and ultimately who is responsible for ensuring they deliver? Breaking out of silos is crucial – good ideas can come from anywhere, and implementation often requires expertise – and buy-in – from different departments. There also has to be an acceptance that innovation comes out of both success and failure. There are no breakthroughs if firms are not willing to experiment with (and invest in) new ideas – some of which will work, others that will not.

But there is growing momentum to think more collaboratively and creatively, and it is driving a wider trend: a move among firms to blur boundaries between departments and take a holistic view that may start with a desire to be seen as more innovative or client-focused, but before long becomes a wholesale review of how the business is managed. In providing a joined-up approach to innovation and other areas, professionals in business services are not just harnessing new ideas for the odd important client – they are changing the way that law firms think and behave.

If you would like to know more about opportunities to promote innovation in law, please contact Julius Reeves, who heads up our function dedicated to emerging business services roles in law.





Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.