Law firms never used to ‘incubate’. Now they’re incubating all over the place. And they’ve got new offerings with sexy titles like MDR Lab, Cooley Go, Foley & Lardner’s Catapult, Ballard Spahr’s BASE and SING, DLA Piper’s NEST. Gone are the days when off-shoring, new CRM systems, contract lawyers, new billing structures and electronic settlements were seen as cutting edge. Now it’s about AI, machine learning, design thinking and data mining. It’s not just about innovative technologies either: it’s a root and stem overhaul of the law firm structure, offering and way of thinking.
The great thing about what Ms Mathur of Linklaters is doing, however, is to recognise that becoming innovative requires a cultural shift throughout the entire organisation, not just something to be championed by the chosen few.
The real challenge here is how to embed change - innovation requires profound change - and alter established patterns of behaviour. As Thomas Edison once said: “Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” But sweating is unpleasant, so unless you feel the need for it, it’s just not going to happen (unless you’re menopausal, like me). So unless the sweat of urgency emanating from our Management percolates through to the rest of the firm, there will be no real change in behaviour. How that percolates is what demarcates good law firm management from the rest.
Steve Jobs put it quite simply: "Innovation is about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it." He also famously said: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Not perhaps the words you want to apply to your lawyer – unless, perchance, you want to shape the future of the legal profession?
Ms Mathur had realised that innovation was not just about technology but about creating an innovative environment. To change her colleagues’ mindsets, she decided to support start-ups.