The Importance of Boosting Creativity at Law Firms

29 August 2017

Most law firms do not value creativity and have focused little effort on improving creativity at their firms—despite the fact that this is a critical skill in the process of producing and implementing new, useful ideas and trying new approaches to get things done, according to the preliminary results of research by the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and InfoTrack.

The ALPMA/InfoTrack 21st Century Thinking at Australasian Law Firms research measured how well Australasian law firms were embracing the key 21st century learning skills of creativity, critical-thinking, communication and collaboration, as defined by the influential P21 organisation.

The research is part of ALPMA’s on-going research program that aims to help law firms successfully adapt to the changing legal landscape. More than 100 firms participated in this year’s research.

Only 40 percent of respondents said they valued creativity. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most highly valued of the four 21st century skills was communications (76 percent), followed by collaboration (66 percent), then critical-thinking (59 percent).

“Creativity is often undervalued in law firms.  By not fostering creative thinking firms are missing the opportunity to tap into the minds of their own people, many of whom have unexplored potential,” ALPMA President, Mr Andrew Barnes.

“The reality is that creativity drives innovation.” Mr John Ahern, CEO at Infotrack said.
“Firms are aware of this, as evidenced by the greatest benefit measure to the business being innovation, however many still see no benefit to investing in creativity.”

“Without innovation, firms can’t prosper in our new normal. It’s innovation that drives productivity, growth and sets you apart in the marketplace so it’s disappointing to learn that creativity is still not seen as a critical investment.”

Lawyers and law firm leaders were ‘mostly ineffective’ at finding creative solutions, while the legal industry as a whole was ‘ineffective’, according to the ALPMA/InfoTrack research respondents.

The standard approach to fostering creative thinking at law firms (adopted by 86 percent of respondents) was asking for staff suggestions—yet few (21 per cent of these respondents) rated this as highly effective in terms of delivering results.

“Firms ought not be fearful of encouraging creative thinking—it is blue sky, not black hole.  Indeed, there are some fantastic experts in this space who can hand-hold firms through the tentative first few steps towards an innovation framework,” Mr Barnes said.

Innovation expert, Judy Anderson, an ‘inventologist’ from Inventium and a keynote speaker at the upcoming 2017 ALPMA Summit in Brisbane, agrees.

“Our ability to generate breakthrough ideas is what enables us to literally outthink, outsmart and outlast our competitors,” she said.

"Lawyers are experts in their field. Wearing 'experts blinkers' leads to people generation linear, obvious solutions. Solutions our competitors are likely to come up with. Without creative thinking, firms will be entering a race to the bottom."

"In an industry where analytical thinking rules, it's rare to identify as a 'creative type'. There are stacks of science-based tools people can use to boost creative performance in their firm."

The 2017 ALPMA Summit, proudly supported by Principal Partner Infotrack, will provide more than 300 law firm leaders and managers with practical advice and insights on how to improve collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity at their firms—and in doing so build competitive advantage in a changing legal landscape.

The ALPMA Summit runs from 13 – 15 September at the Brisbane Exhibition & Convention Centre.

2017 ALPMA/InfoTrack Australasian Changing Legal Landscape research report is available now.

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The Australasian Legal Practice Management Association, (ALPMA), is the peak body representing managers and lawyers with a legal practice management role.  ALPMA provides an authoritative voice on issues relevant to legal practice management.  Members of ALPMA provide professional management services to legal practices in areas of financial management, strategic management, technology, human resources, facilities and operational management, marketing and information services and technology.