Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Structuring For Innovation--Ark Conference

John Alber covered his firm Bryan Cave's journey into innovation in greater detail than I heard before.

Innovation is not accidental.  There are steps you can do and thought changes you
can undergo yourself to foster innovation.

Innovation is the bedrock of what clients like Boeing and Google do.  Innovation for them covers business processes as well as technology and product development.

John Alber pointed to his spiffy albeit conservative Brooks Brothers jacket and tie ensemble as a metaphor for the conservative state of legal innovation.

There are many opportunities to help clients reduce legal spend.  Not just fees, but also insurance, eDiscovery costs, settlement payments, and the like.

IT as Source of Innovation

IT has been the source of some innovation, but innovation is not driven by technology, and IT is inherently conservative.  As with Finance, "one person's innovation is another person's disruption" (Rosabeth Moss Kanter of HBS).

You may have to restructure organizations--(though leading legal tech innovator when at Mallesons Gerard Neiditsch would argue that you can keep existing structures and innovate within that. )

Bryan Cave set up three groups to foster innovation.  Each named around a benefit.

Client Technology Group 

This was a sanctioned and uncontrolled "skunk works" with web developers, business analysts, graphic artists, etc.  They are charged with business process mapping and automation.  They are more change-focused than IT.

They have created decision support systems ("Trade Zone"); a socially enabled intranet; and more.

Practice Economics Group

This was spun out of CTG; goal was to focus on a different mission, more on managing for profitability & success with engagements.  People on the team include web developers, financial analysts, and now attorney project managers.

Goal is to create processes, and then manage them.

They have tools for pricing new engagements; tracking & monitoring engagements; and comparing engagements.  They also created a tool to extract task codes from billing entry before LSA.  Reporting includes intranet and extranet reporting to clients.  

Providing right information in a timely way has measurably increased profitability.  Chris Emerson is its director and is very active in sharing best practices through ILTA and other groups.

They've had high success of uptake with partners of their monitoring systems.  It's taken a long time.   88% of partners have looked at it over the past year at various degrees of intensity. It's a function of focused attention from management committee and has propagated throughout.

Accelerated Review Team

The ART (!) covers e-discovery, due diligence, and the like.

Every partner retreat, practice group meeting hears about success stories.  Separate visibility and naming helps.  Because it's broken out, it is easier to give it credit than to say "this part of the IT group" was responsible for a given success.

In 2004 uptake of dashboard was around 10%.

Key to uptake is getting people at many many levels to buy in. Everyone has to feel they have a stake.

Spectrum sales is one area where these groups have applied their efforts.

They analyzed work flow and tracking, and then extracted rules of decision for these complicated sales from the most experienced attorneys.  They used checklists and decision branches (what happens if you find X problem...).

"Data collectors" become guides for first-level lawyers.  The goal is to let a low-level lawyer do the day-to-day work at a very high level of quality.  Other tools manage the work at a higher level (as with eDiscovery management tools), looking at who is productive, quality of work, and the like.

They started with a few lawyers working very slowly under tight supervision, and then were able to scale it up and get a lot more people.  

The program has "dendritic logic" like that of a document assembly, allows people without FCC experience to analyze leases for necessary clauses and optouts.  Metastorm or Neota Logic can also build system like this.

One big client outsourced all of its spectrum.  Average turn time went from months and months to three weeks.

Tools and processes got applied to many many engagements.  They expanded to financial sector litigation.  With enough information you can produce first drafts of motions to dismiss.   These have reached a high level of complexity.  

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