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11 Apr 2017

Have We Reached Peak Innovation in Legal?

Graeme Grovum

Of late, a number of signs have surfaced which indicate to me that we just might have…

Let’s take a closer look at three of these:

1. Saturation

We’ve been saturated recently by the (seemingly) sudden explosion of technology subsets, each with its own set of futurists, hack(athon)tivists and idealists. Where we previously had Tech, we now have LegalTech, FinTech, InsurTech, RegTech, MedTech, EdTech, Etc(Tech).

Do these subsets actually indicate newly specific problems to be solved, or are they just newly specific markets being targeted?

2. Disillusionment

Aly Háji’s article “The Illusion of Innovation at Canadian Law Firms“, highlights the uneven perception of innovation between senior lawyers (who feel innovation initiatives are successfully being implemented) and junior lawyers (who are not seeing tangible outcomes within their firms). While this is a Canadian paper, there is little doubt that its findings also apply more broadly.

3. Snark

Janders Dean’s humourous take down of AI-based contract analysis in its April Fools’ Day announcement of Invisi-Trac plays on a naturally cautious industry’s fear that, perhaps, we are being sold the emperor’s new clothes. Could this be a warning that another AI winter is coming? Maybe, but I’m optimistic that the message is somewhat premature.

Each of these three signs – SaturationDisillusionment and Snark – indicate to me that cynicism is growing.

The legal industry is tired of hearing about the promise of innovation – we want the benefits of innovation, damn it!

But the problem is that innovation comes at a cost: change. This is too high a cost for many, which is why we often find ourselves talking about change but not making it.

As Tim Kastelle puts it:

“Too many people want to make their organisations more innovative without going through the pain of actually changing anything. This does not work.”

Have we crested the Peak of Inflated Expectations? Are we now descending into the trough of disillusionment? (Gartner identifies these stages in its Hype Cycle, which I quite like even though it is derided by ‘cycle purists’ as, amongst other things, not being a cycle. (Gasp!))

I think we might be, and that’s okay.

We need to be disillusioned.

Disillusioned of the notion that change can occur without effort, and that change can be effected without impacting the status quo.

But let’s not forget that disillusionment also leads to cynicism.

Innovation requires an optimistic mindset, and cynicism is the enemy of optimism. Innovation is not a job, nor a product, nor a technology. Innovation is a mindset – a belief we can improve and a desire to discover how.

So let’s not lose our optimism.

At Corrs, our open innovation philosophy keeps me optimistic. Simply put:

We believe that by partnering with others we can deliver better outcomes than either of us are capable of on our own.

A pretty simple statement, but not an immediately obvious approach.

I’m looking forward to discussing Corrs’ open innovation philosophy at the upcoming Legal Innovation & Tech Fest May 01-02 2017 in Sydney.

I hope you can join me.

About the Author

Graeme Grovum

Graeme Grovum is Head of Innovation at Corrs Chambers Westgarth. He leverages his deep understanding of legal processes and love of new technologies to deliver exceptional results in unexpected ways. Graeme’s understanding of how technology can improve legal practice led to the release of Corrs’ award-winning iPad app CaseFolio.

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