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Getting to grips with innovation

Getting to grips with innovation

By Zach Moon


Is being tech-savvy a prerequisite to embracing legal innovation? The legal profession is undergoing unprecedented change. Many if not all law firms seem to be investing heavily incorporating legal technology into their services. For law students and young lawyers trying to find our footing in the legal industry, this could be as scary as it is exciting, and at least some of the scare, I believe, comes from misinformation about what innovation really means. This occurred to me after a recent conversation with a fellow law student at a legal tech and innovation conference. When asked about the possibility of working in the legal innovation department at a law firm, she said would make a poor candidate given her technological illiteracy. This was not the first time I had heard such resignation from law students and it made me wonder – what does innovation mean in the profession, and is technological literacy a prerequisite to taking part? The Macquarie Dictionary defines innovation as “something new or different introduced; the act of innovating; the introducing of new ideas or methods”. There is no mention of a need to use technology. While technology provides tools to implement new ideas and methods, it forms only one part of innovation. New ideas and processes are only useful when they solve a problem faced by the target audience, and the process of identifying and understanding problems cannot be done by technology alone. This process requires empathy from innovators and good communication with the target audience/clients to understand what the pain points are, which could be improved through new ways of doing things. This arguably forms the biggest and most important part of the innovation process and is something that cannot be automated at least in the foreseeable future. Decoupling innovation from technology The solution does not necessarily have to be based on technology, and in fact an unnecessary predisposition towards it could diminish the usefulness of the solution to the target audience. This can happen as a result of eagerness to use tech tools and skills in the innovation process, while neglecting to invest time in connecting with the target audience and truly understanding their needs. There are also consequences in failing to critically assess what is going to be suitable for the problem. For example, a company I worked for, would use one email account between all employees for both internal and external (client) purposes, due to its small size. While this worked most of the time, some employees would occasionally miss out on reading an email that was meant for them because it was accidentally opened by another employee and marked as read.

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