This study is part of a pilot project to create an index of legal-service delivery innovation. Phase 1, Version 1.0 consists of a Catalog of Law Firm Innovations and a Law Firm Innovation Index, which is based on searches of law firm websites for indicia of innovation. This index is not intended to be a ranking of law firms—at least not in its current form. This index identifies innovation and technology subjects and refers readers to where innovation and technology have been found. It is not exhaustive, but I hope that after a few iterations later versions will be comprehensive.
The data presented on this site must be viewed in their proper context. To obtain that context, carefully review this overview and the introduction and methodology sections that appear below the visualizations on the Innovation Catalog and Law Firm Index pages.
Measuring Innovation to Improve Legal Services and Access for Everyone
This project itself aims to be an exercise in foundational innovation principles, such as those espoused in Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup, Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas, and Ash Maurya’s Running Lean. In essence, identify the problem to be solved, build a minimum viable product (MVP) as soon as possible, get the product into users’ hands to begin learning, and begin iterating through cycles of creating better products.
The problem to be solved is the lack of access to legal services. Experts estimate that approximately 80 percent of the impoverished and 50 percent of the middle class lack access to legal services. Even corporations say that they do not get what they need from their lawyers. There are many opportunities for lawyers to better serve their clients and the public and a growing number of lawyers are seizing these opportunities.
Jim Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation, has suggested that to drive change in the legal industry, rather than ranking law firms on revenue and profit, we should rank and assess law firms on their use of technology. In his May 2016 keynote at the CodeX FutureLaw conference at Stanford Law School, Jim argued that this could accelerate the adoption of technology in law firms and might stimulate investment in the development of new technology that could benefit all who need legal services.
To drive change, rather than rank law firms on revenue and profit, rank and assess them on their use of technology.” – Jim Sandman, Legal Services Corporation president
One year later at the April 2017 CodeX FutureLaw conference Jim again suggested that we assess firms’ technology usage. At that time, no one had undertaken the effort to assess legal industry innovation. It was then that I decided to go forward with this project.
An Index for Legal-Services Consumers and Producers and Law Schools and Students
This index is intended to serve both consumers and producers of legal services. My hope is that clients, including legal departments, will consult this index and engage in deep discussions with their lawyers about how to improve legal-service delivery. Those discussions should include not only how to improve efficiency, but also how to improve quality and obtain better substantive outcomes.
This index is also intended to be a resource for the producers of legal services, from lawyers in legal departments and law firms to technologists, project managers, data analysts, and other professionals across the industry, including legal startups, legal process outsourcers, and alternative legal service providers. Our discussions about legal innovation and technology tend to include a lot of generalizations. One purpose of the index is to get more specific about innovation and technology, including the disciplines and tools driving it forward and the substantive legal areas where we see activity.
This index should also be a resource for law schools and law students. It will help law schools better understand the evolution of the legal landscape, which will help them better prepare their students for the future. Law students can use this index to learn more about how the profession is changing and the knowledge and skills that they should develop for long-term success. The index also aims to provide law students information about the law firms recruiting them as well as a framework for assessing each law firm’s strategies for the future. Again, I caution that this index is simply an initial attempt to measure indicators of innovation and various weaknesses have been acknowledged. That said, the index and this initial information provides a starting point for very important discussions.
Finally, this index should be a resource for improving access to legal services. The various sectors of the legal industry–from legal aid and courts to legal departments and law firms–face challenges that are similar in many ways. These sectors can learn a lot from each other. They could work together on certain problems for the benefit of all. Law schools could play a role coordinating that collaboration, serving as laboratories for innovation and research and development. This provides the opportunity for law firms and legal departments to do well by doing good, partnering with law schools and legal aid organizations to improve legal-service delivery and access to legal services for everyone.
Phase 1, Version 1.0: A Curated Catalog of Law Firm Innovations and Searches of Indicators of Law Firm Innovation
The intent of Phase 1 is to identify legal innovation and technology adoption in the legal industry. Additional components of Phase 1 are in progress. Additionally, the Phase 1 catalog of innovations will be updated periodically, including to add innovations. Suggestions for addition can be submitted through a form accessible from the Catalog.
Plans for Phase 2 and Phase 3 include surveying clients and requesting that law firms provide information about their innovation efforts and technology usage. Future additions to Phase 1 may include additional objective measures, such as the number of project managers, legal solutions architects, technologists, data scientists, and other professionals a law firm identifies on its website and whether the law firm has a chief innovation officer or a person in a similar role. Potential future projects include indexes of innovations in law school, legal aid, legal startups, legal departments, and alternative legal service providers.
Continuous Improvement of Our Legal Industry – Discussions about Innovation and Technology
I’m releasing Phase 1, Version 1.0 of this index to add to and improve legal-industry discussions about legal innovation and technology. My inner perfectionist–a voice empowered during my journey to equity partner in an Am Law 200 law firm–would prefer that I conduct far more research and complete Phase 2 and Phase 3 before releasing anything. But this type of perfectionist thinking is itself a barrier to legal-services innovation. Instead, I will follow the Lean Startup innovation process that I discussed above, striving to continuously improve our legal industry discussions about innovation and technology. (I attempted to capture this approach in Legal-Services Innovation: A Framework and Roadmap for Leveraging Technology.)
I’ve discussed this project with a few dozen recognized innovators in the legal industry, including Jim Sandman. Each of them encouraged me to move forward, believing that this information will contribute to important discussions about the legal industry and legal profession. Rather than attempt to build the “perfect” product in a silo, we must get our ideas out there, test them, receive feedback, and improve them. That’s what I endeavor to do with this project. I look forward to continuing the discussion on my blog, LegalTechLever.com, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.
I want to thank the six Michigan State University College of Law research assistants on my team:
In 2018-19, the following Northwestern Pritzker School of Law research assistants joined the team:
In 2019-20, the following Northwestern Pritzker School of Law research assistants joined the team:
This project would not be possible without their help. You can view their bios on the Meet the Research Team page.
Thank you as well to Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP and Carla Swansburg (Director, Practice Innovation, Pricing & Knowledge) for contributing research that we used to seed the catalog of law firm innovations.
Lastly, thank you to LexBlog, which is contributing the development and hosting of the Legal Services Innovation Index website.
Now, the Research:
Now that you’ve read this overview, please take a look at the research, paying careful attention to the methodology to understand the proper context for this information: