In this podcast, Charlie de Rusett, co-founder of Idea Drop, speaks with Ben McGuire, COO of Innovation at Simmons & Simmons, about innovation and its importance within the legal sector. The legal industry is facing many external and internal challenges and has to think creatively in order to keep up with the competition as well as with the new generation of lawyers.
Being an old and very mature sector, it can’t change overnight. However, lawyers and partners should try and be open to new ideas, new projects and realise that those ideas won’t be perfect 100% of the time. The most important thing is to make sure that all the learnings from failures are taken on board in the future.
Listen to the full podcast here:
You can watch a short video of this episode, which highlights some of they key points that Ben talks about in conversation with Charlie here:
Below you can find a transcript of this episode of Innovation Insights with Ben McGuire:
Charlie de Rusett:What does innovation mean to you?
Ben McGuire: As far as we are concerned, innovation is really about releasing value or finding new value. And for us at Simmons that is absolutely for our clients, so the purpose of the innovation grit, which is clearly stated, is to generate, develop and execute new value streams for our clients. That can come from a number of areas: products and services, particularly which are co-created with clients or it might be by releasing value from inside the firm by making our sales more efficient, increasing the quality of our service and so on.
C. d. R: With millennials now fully integrated into Simmons & Simmons, What does that mean to the firm and how do you embrace a different form of creativity to what had historically been in the sector?
B. M: I think it is really interesting. There are two or three things we are focusing on: first of all we need to address our career proposition, because there are different expectations from future generations of lawyers. They come from behind us and they work till they are 70, they probably want more than 1 type of career, they might want to move out of their profession and back in, long breaks, etc. But certainly it’s already already evident, that there is an enormous amount of energy and creativity in those individuals.
But the difficulty for a law firm is that we are essentially in a mentor-apprentice relationship quite a lot of the time. And there is often not enough room for experimentation, exploration and reflection on how they work. So, how do you get to that? Well, you have to start being creative yourself about how you allow people to do this. And we’ve already got 2 or 3 exemplars really: trainees, junior associates, business professionals who are sort of doings things in their own time. But you can’t expect that of people. So the key for us is to really find some space for that.
C. d. R: One of the problems in any global organisation is the transfer of knowledge, knowledge being success and a better way to do things, but also the failure that you learn and embrace from these types of exciting innovation projects. How is knowledge transferred from some of these initiatives that you are doing? And how do you see that improving in the future?
B. M: We’ve had a very successful product launched last year and it was about 8 weeks from flash to bang. Technologically it’s very simple, legally it’s unbelievably helpful and has generated an enormous subscription really fast. But it was still really hard work for the partner that led that. So we would make a video which would be easily put round the firm so people can see what the experience was with all it weaknesses. And we just have to be open to the fact that the system isn’t perfect, and even though this product was really successful, there were parts of it which were really hard. I couldn’t really find the person to get this through, so I started to get really frustrated at this point of the process. And you need to just make sure that is socialised, then you take it on board and improve it the next time that you do it.
C. d. R: In you opinion, what does the next decade look like for law firms innovating?
B. M: I hate answering this question, because you are obviously a massive hostage to fortune, but I do have a view. I think technology will be critically important, but the people who really make a difference in this market will be the ones that significantly change their approach to service delivery business model, while maintaining quality of the value proposition. Technology will be core to that, but so will be people and so will be processes.
We need to completely understand our clients and start to work with them much more closely. Our platform needs to be robust, adaptable and agile and talent needs to be focused on these outputs in our strategy. And here we need to be taking into account the things which we said about career aspiration, too.
C. d. R: Thank you for all you insight, Ben, It’s been an absolute pleasure.