• Analyze research/pick one problem. After the teams have done all their research, both internal and external, the next step is to analyze it all. This typically involves several meetings to discuss what was found and identifying recurring issues in people's responses. From this analysis, it should become clear where the major opportunities for improvement exist. Given everyone's expertise, paired with any firm wide directives, the team should identify all the business problems, but should pick one to focus on.
• Ideation. After the business problem is identified, ideation entails coming up with as many ideas as possible. Out-of-the-box and far-fetched ideas are encouraged because this might lead people down a path that would be completely ignored if one's thinking remains in constraints. Creative ideas could spawn smaller, related, more viable ideas to the problem. Depending on a firm's available resources, this process might vary from firm to firm, but in the end, the best, viable idea is chosen to meet the identified business needs. The ideas do not necessarily have to involve a technology solution. For example, an existing process could be improved upon by having more frequent meetings. However, often technology can facilitate many business processes in some way.
• Quick prototyping. After a solution is found, the best way to prove that it is a true differentiator is to implement the solution as quickly as possible and test it on the users. Results, usage and effectiveness should somehow be measured to show the true value of the solution. But in the end, the solution must directly touch the practice in a way and the benefit must be felt immediately. If at minimum, the prototype provides such value, the solution can always be improved upon with the next iterations.
• Iterate and improve.Assuming that the first prototype of a solution is successful, improvements can be made in regular intervals. The core functionality of the solution to meet the business problem identified in the first place is maintained throughout the iterations and the solution just gets better with small improvements. Continuous feedback from users will drive these improvements.
There is a sea change happening right now in the legal industry and disruptive innovators such as LegalZoom are already making their mark. However, the opportunity for continuous innovation, providing efficiency and value exists for firms to maintain market share. While it is not easy to evoke change in any enterprise, having a framework in place and simply giving employees across the firm the time to participate are the first steps to join the phenomenon, rather than be a victim of it. •
Widjaja is a practice innovation analyst at Reed Smith. He assists litigation practice groups in finding and implementing technological solutions.