CBA Futures Chat: How to Be a Legal Innovator

{Pre-text: It is quite humbling and even feels premature to be hosting a CBA Legal Futures Twitter Chat on How to be a Legal Innovator. That said, I welcomed the invitation, as my completely unexpected trajectory as a lawyer has admittedly led me a few times to take a step back and re-trace my thought-process over the past 3+ years since I took the entrepreneurship route: À-la, “What tha..??! This is shaping up to be pre-tty cool. Geez, how did I get here?” And I have kept some notes.

<<Cue Sophia’s voice from Golden Girls here>> Picture it. Toronto. 2011. After Graduating from the University of Windsor Law in 2004 and being called to bar in 2005, I spent just under 4 yrs as a lawyer working in-house at RBC Insurance, TD Bank, AIG and then back at TD Bank – all on contracts, the market was not good, even then. After being tired of feeling like I was applying a scintilla of what I had to offer in my work life, when my last contract at TD expired, I transitioned into devoting my full-time energies at being a sole practitioner in 2009. I felt I may have more room to experience fulfillment on my own. While I knew entrepreneurship was indeed for me, I had a very challenging time making lawpreneurship worthwhile from a fulfillment, as well as a financial perspective. So, in 2011, I took the plunge to go niche/boutique and founded Positive Impact Law Group– a law practice dedicated to the needs of for-profit social entrepreneurs. By the end of 2012– led by key insights I identified in trying to build a law practice for a target market from scratch– I had founded AgileAgree and partnered with an Engineer Co-Founder to help formulate a solution to life.

While my journey as an identified legal innovator is still in its infancy, my intention with this post is to share a viable lens, which may catalyze the innovator in your legal mind. Or, if you’re already thinking in new ways, it may offer some affirmation, which I definitely valued when I was starting to think in new ways.}

Inspiration, Identity, Ideas & (Legal) Innovation- An Inside Job

The practice of law is innately human and service-based. From my perspective, one of the beauties of our profession is that it is the foundation of society’s creativity and productivity. Another beauty is that our profession exists to be a reflection of society’s ideals. The truth of the matter is, all people– human or corporate– operate within the parameters of the law. No person, or entity, can escape it. Yet, there are mounds of evidence that reveal a fundamental gap (or at the very least, the emergence of one) between what the legal profession is and represents, and where society is now.

I propose that the source of Legal Innovation exists at the intersection of: (1) the purpose of law/lawyers; and (2) the markets that recognize the value of the law/lawyer (which by the way is, everyone, if we can first identify and own our own value). That intersection where the purpose of law/lawyers-meets-markets is what I recognize to be: Inspiration. You know, that spark that leads one to apply to law school..the spark that perhaps revealed itself prior to law school, or perhaps afterward when in practice.

In my experience, inspiration is the catalyst to new/innovative thinking, and it is predicated on the notion of purpose. As such, I am always excited when I come across perspectives in the legal arena that recognize the fundamental notion of purpose, like: Stephen Mayson, J. Kim Wright, Jordan Furlong, and several others.

Given the nature of the practice of law, it is likely that inspiration will evolve into the identity of a law practice, and the concomitant identification of a market (i.e. the stakeholders that you know value the lawyering you have to offer). Further, it is likely that there are what I would refer to as, ‘reflection points’ between the identity of a law practice, and its identified market. And if there are no reflection points to be immediately found, well, frankly…that is a call-to-action. Once the reflection points are there, though, then ideas for law practice solutions and services abound. These ideas will be fueled in collaboration with the market’s needs. How can one say this so resolutely? Because, the legal profession was designed to serve society in that manner- it is one of the “beauties” mentioned at the top if this piece.

So, we covered Inspiration, Identity and Ideas– the fundamental tenets that I’ve extrapolated from my experience as the “Legal Innovator” I’ve been identified as thus far. But, wait…’what about the Innovation tenet?’ one might ask. Well, as mentioned in the pre-text to this post, it feels premature to be instructing on, ‘How to Become a Legal Innovator’. Though, from my experience thus far, working through those fundamental tenets is in itself where innovation happens, and in the practice of law, where the mind governs, technology is the lawyer’s key tool of innovation.

In the legal marketplace, I believe that lawyers are in the best position to innovate, to generate new ideas and new ways of lawyering — new ways of being. It may just be that we have to challenge ourselves get back to the essence of law. Innovation is an inside job.

Join me on May 22, @12:30 for a CBA Legal Futures Twitter Chat (#cbafutureschat) where we’ll chat about:

Q1: What is the “practice of law”?/Lawyering?

Q2: Who is/are the purported beneficiary(ies) of lawyering?

Q3: Imagine the “wish-list” of the beneficiaries of lawyering-what might be on the list?

Q4: How can technology be used to increase the value of lawyering for its beneficiaries?

Q5: What kinds of passions/life experiences can imaginably be translated into a law practice?

See more at: cbafutures.org

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