Director of Innovation for Law Firms?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the need for firms to take a stronger look at risk management – in other words, to see risk management as much more than simply compliance with law society and other regulations. I suspect that many firms do not have a formal risk management role within the firm because they don’t believe there is much risk beyond compliance issues or that the role is not robust enough to warrant a special position within the firm.

Both of these viewpoints are incorrect, so let me bulk-up the risk manager’s role to include innovation to soothe the naysayers.

Recently I began tweeting with Stephen Allen who runs the blog Lexfuturus and is also Director of Innovation at international law firm, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP).

Director of Innovation at a law firm? I was intrigued.

As Stephen explained, he came from a Magic Circle pedigree before landing some business roles in Orange. He then came back to law when the UK began formally considering ABS and he assisted BLP in re-engineering its relationship with Thames Water. As a result, Thames Water has outsourced all its legal services to BLP for a single annual fee through a BLP entity called Managed Legal Services (MLS). According to the BLP website, “Working with Thames Water and other clients MLS has a proven and cost-effective solution that cuts through debates about the hourly-rate model and outsourcing. The service directly addresses budget concerns and completely aligns the client with its legal provider.”

Stephen remains at BLP looking specifically at what innovations can be put in place to make the firm more profitable and more competitive. It’s a role that is distinguished from service improvement – rather, he reviews how BLP delivers services, BLP’s legal products/advice, the way BLP runs the firm itself and the opportunities to create businesses like MLS.

This makes perfect sense, since innovation drives productivity. The world is a fast and unforgiving place. If law firms do not commit to innovation, someone else will – and that innovation may come back to haunt lawyers.

Managing partners in Canada – have I sold you on the Risk Management/Director of Innovation model yet?


  1. Agree innovation is the only source of sustainable competitive advantage. Real question is can conventionally structured firms be genuinely innovative? Readers may find my recent post on this useful:

  2. I totally agree with this analysis. At Keep Alert, we are building a software for on-line brand monitoring intended for IP law firms. As a CTO, my job is to find solutions to help IP lawyers, to pro-actively and efficiently monitor the web for infringing uses of their client’s trademarks.

    I had the chance to attend the last INTA meeting in DC. This was an opportunity to discuss the various on-line artifacts of a trademark on the Internet (domain name, social media, search engine marketing) with IP professional. I was surprised by the chasm between the practices regarding on-line brand protection. Either in terms of the used business models or technologies.