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Highlighting Innovation Among Lawyers

Ron Friedmann at Strategic Legal Technology directs our attention to the annual Innovative Lawyers edition from London's Financial Times. This collection of articles highlights law firm innovation (no, it is not an oxymoron) in such areas as billing and fees, human resources, management, client services, IT and marketing. The array of innovation is surprisingly broad, but the lead article zeroes in on a single area of innovation -- legal process outsourcing.

But the trend that is having the most impact on the thinking of the partners at top law firms, according to the research for this report, is the impact of globalisation and its intersection with people and technology. In particular, the way in which legal work is resourced and the location in which it gets done is coming under greater scrutiny. Outsourcing to India was the theme of many top-ranked submissions both from company legal departments and private practice. Although business process outsourcing is a mature business, its sister, legal process outsourcing (LPO), is still an infant.

But LPO may have a huge growth spurt as top corporate clients in the US and Europe cut costs. For example, in the European general counsel section, both Deutsche Bank and BT cited their outsourcing and off-shoring initiatives to India as significant innovations. Cost pressures, always intense for general counsel, have intensified as the financial implications of e-discovery work, which involves scrutinising electronic paper trails and requires armies of associates, hit home.

In the marketing arena, another article in the FT report suggests that a law firm can fuel growth by showing itself to have a conscience. The piece points to Clifford Chance, which undertook an International Climate Change Survey with the objective of informing and influencing governments, regulators and business leaders. "The bigger law firms are following a path, which clients want us to go down, to have a moral conscience and contribute to the major issues of the day," Nigel Howorth, co-head of the firm's climate change group, told FT. "With this report, we are seeking to put something back into society. If we are involved in the debate, we can help shape it for the benefit of our clients."

For Friedmann, another finding that stood out was that firms are recognizing that non-legal talent can make valuable contributions to how a firm's business is run. A critic of what he sees as a caste system within law firms, he was glad to see the FT refer to "non-legal staff" rather than use the demeaning label "nonlawyer."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 20, 2008 at 12:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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