Erin E. Harrison, InsideCounsel Editor-in-Chief
Erin E. Harrison, InsideCounsel Editor-in-Chief

With May upon us—and the remnants of a particularly long winter (at least for our New York offices) starting to fade—it’s a natural juncture to turn our daily thoughts to the future. Maybe you have an upcoming event that you’re looking forward to, a much needed beach vacation planned for this summer, or a big case just around the corner. The change of seasons can do a lot to refocus our energies and get us thinking about what’s next.

In the legal department, the harbinger of the path to a brighter tomorrow is lit by innovation. That’s not to say that a particularly ambitious project or case won’t be what gets your team thinking about tomorrow, but overcoming that challenge by thinking creatively, pushing through pain, and finding an original solution can crystalize possibilities to see the true potential of your efforts.

This issue of InsideCounsel focuses considerably on that concept of innovation. Sometimes, innovation can come out of a crisis. Phyllis W. Cheng, director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, faced a period of change spurred by budgetary cuts and used that challenge to breed innovation, implementing technology and smart business planning to do more with less (“State of evolution,” p. 16).

Technology is at the heart of innovation, and at the foundation of the latest and greatest technological breakthroughs, you’ll find patents. Some of America’s largest companies, including DuPont and Microsoft, want to promote the connection between patents and innovation. To do so, they have banded together to create the Partnership for American Innovation, with the purpose of bringing awareness to patents and their role in driving the American economy (“Igniting innovation,” p. 40).

For better or for worse, technology has changed the way businesses communicate. With the prevalence of social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it has become far easier for businesses to disseminate their messages to customers. But with innovation in technology comes risks, and the legal department must be intimately involved in developing social media policies to mitigate that risk (“Social contract,” p. 26).

“Innovation” is one of those buzzwords that gets frivolously tossed around by businesses in every industry—yet not everyone is willing or able to practice what they preach. Truly innovative companies and law departments acknowledge that they need to apply the principle across the board, utilizing creative thinking in technology, communication and legal practice. Ultimately, innovation is what drives metamorphosis, not only in the legal department but in all aspects of life.