Legal

Staid no more

Industries are almost impossible to disrupt from the inside. Winners in the current system have way too much to lose, so it’s hard for them to imagine a vastly different environment or to abandon the strategies that made them successful in the first place. But radical disruption is inevitable –  even in the relatively staid, predictable business of practicing law.

That was our challenge in Law 2023, a year-long project in which we worked with a national team of top attorneys and legal-industry vendors to imagine the impact of sweeping economic, sociological and technological changes on their field. We guided the group as they reckoned with corporate and academic trend-watchers as well as authors, reporters, and designers who embrace disruption.

What emerged were seven rules we believe the winning law firms will follow in the next decade. For example, the winners will develop offerings that transcend jurisdiction.

“As the pace of globalization quickens, the nature of jurisdiction will change,” our report reads. “It’s not just that corporations and other institutions will need to navigate dozens or hundreds of sets of rules and regulations — they’ll also have a significantly greater need to choose among them. These clients will expect their counsel to keep up.”

“The opportunity: Firms will employ technologies to help them rapidly understand how a transaction might play out across all possible jurisdictions. Then, crucially, they’ll use their human ingenuity to craft offerings that transcend jurisdiction, maximizing clients’ freedom to act across the globe in real time. Top legal minds will help regulatory bodies and intergovernmental organizations figure out how to make sure everyone plays fair in this new arena.”

After releasing the report, we continued the work with two of our collaborators, who are launching the industry’s first real legal R&D effort.

New norms and practices

Incubating innovation within an established institution takes more than sticky notes and a special office. It requires understanding the organization’s social norms and carefully cultivating the right kind of deviance from them.

GreenHouse – invited by Akina – helped AmLaw 100 firm Akerman initiate that process.

Key leaders of Akerman had been part of Law 2023, in which we charted the future of the legal industry. Shortly thereafter, the firm launched the industry’s first R&D Council, with whom GreenHouse and Akina worked to develop new norms and practices.

“This effort will help us better anticipate and react to the rapid changes happening in the market while also serving as a catalyst for breakthrough thinking,” Akerman CEO Andrew Smulian said at the launch. “While the formation of Akerman’s R&D council may be pioneering today, we foresee a time in which research and development departments will be commonplace at law firms in order to adapt to an increasingly complex world.”