By Guest Blogger, Nils Vesk, Innovation Architect at Innovation Blueprint
Innovation - while not front of mind for most legal practice managers - really is an effective and viable way to deal with the challenges that practice managers are facing in today’s economic climate and business environment.
While I may not work with legal firms every day, the legal practices I have worked with have given me more than a few insights into the challenges that practice mangers can face. There are many spoken and known challenges that are occupying valuable head space for legal practice managers. A few of these problems include practice management, increased competition and the challenge to create a unique selling point (USP).
The Innovation Challenge for Legal Practice Managers
Then let's not forget the everyday challenges of running a practice:
- There is the knowledge management challenges.
- Developing people's knowledge skills.
- Creating effective knowledge portals, collection systems and the sort.
- The never ending compliance work that we need to do to keep operating.
Your partners don't really care about how hard you've been working. They want a better return on the business and if that isn't enough, the clients want more too. Despite delivering what your clients ask for, they seem to want something else (of which we're not quite sure what the 'else' actually is).
The world has changed for everyone in professional services and that includes the legal profession.
I have come to understand through experience that Innovation is a simple solution help you with those practice management issues and to help you satisfy your partners and meet your clients unmet needs.
A good way to explain this is through the following model. Let's start with Level 1 where most organisations start from:
Level 1 - Compliant
It goes without saying that nearly every legal practice would be delivering this day in day out. For every dollar spent you're getting the same 'rate of return’. Your return on effort is a factor of 1. The currency for the 'rate of return' may be dollars, it may be client satisfaction or it may be in stakeholder or employee satisfaction.
The bottom line is that you're not wasting money, you're solving the problems that your clients come to you with as well as solving the day to day compliance challenges of running the practice.
Level 2 - Efficient Practice Management
The good news is many smart practice mangers go beyond Level 1 by starting to think about being more efficient. If a partner keeps asking for more return, then it makes sense to look for efficiencies in the business. The smart practice manager starts to look for efficiencies by innovating around systems, templates and processes that are in play. If they don't exist, you go out and create them. Every time we have a great checklist or template to use, it saves us time and saves us money. Your 'rate of return' on effort spent has increased to factor of 1.2. There's a little less heat coming from the partners, but there's still more that you can do.
Level 3 - Effective Practice Management
The smart practice manager doesn't just stop at tweaking and improving efficiencies, the smart practice manager is also effective. When you begin to innovate on your resourcing structure by ensuring you have the 'right person doing the right thing at the right time' you become more effective. The result is immediate, the 'rate of return' on effort can increase to a factor of 1.5.
Level 4 and 5 - Innovative Practice Management
Now without knowing each one of your individual practices, I'm sure that many of you are actively operating not just 'best practice' but also 'smart practice' activities. Congratulations, you are already innovating.
However, what really distinguishes the difference between a ‘smart practice' and an 'innovative practice' is when we start to be more leveraged and strategic. We actively start looking at ways that we can emerge a process we already have in place. "Can we use this process somewhere else in our business with a little modification?" "Could we leverage this IP from this process into another part of our client’s business operations?”
Being innovative around identifying what we are already doing and looking for opportunities is one of the reasons why an ‘innovative' practice manager can see a 'rate of return' on effort to a factor of 2. The 'innovative practice' manager doesn't stop there, they then start looking at ways that they can be more strategic. What strategies can we implement that will help build not just our clients business but our own practice? The 'rate of return' on effort can come in a factor of above 2.5.
Identifying New Opportunities for Value
Notice the shift in thinking across each one of these levels?
Hopefully by now you can see the reason as to why even lawyers need to be innovative!
About our Guest Blogger
Nils Vesk is a professional designer turned 'Innovation Architect' at Innovation Blueprint. For over 15 years Nils has been applying design thinking to the business of innovating. Obsessed with creating ideas that can change the world, Nils helps organisations create game changing ideas that become commercial innovations.
Nils is the author of two books and has mentored some of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs. His clients include some of the worlds fastest growing companies who use his methodolgies to accelerate business growth by showing them how to create brilliant ideas and where to apply innovation while making it practical and profitable.