Innovation and the Legal Profession: A Twitter Chat

Innovation in the legal space is lagging behind almost every other industry. For years now, people have been saying that the law students will take up the mantle and be the new wave of innovation, a new way of doing law that will mean affordable legal services. There is little evidence of this with students or in the profession. This gap in innovation is attributed to a reason for unaffordable legal services. There are exceptions to the rule, such as Cognition, and Riverview in the UK. Why is this happening? What can we learn from the innovators? And what can the profession do collectively to foster innovation are all questions posed at this week’s twitter chat.

The CBA Future’s Initiative is hosting a twitter chat this Tuesday at 7pm ET to discuss the concept of ‘Innovation’ in the legal profession, where it is and isn’t happening, what’s driving it and what’s impeding it.

Here is a quick round-up of some suggested reading for tomorrow’s chat:

Time for a Canadian-Based Think Tank on Legal Innovation and Competitiveness
Mitch Kowalski makes a case for an independent group to research Innovation and Competitiveness in the Canadian Legal Industry. He writes about the need for hard numbers when it comes to how Canadian firms are doing when it comes to competitiveness.

Right now, there is a dreadful lack of Canadian data that frustrates me as I dislike extrapolating from US sources in creating my view on the direction Canada firms should take – and this lack of Canadian data makes it very easy for Canadian firms to ignore advice.

Law Firm Innovation, from Idea to Implementation:
Jordan Furlong provides a summary of a longer ‘ted-style’ talk, viewable here. It contains a lot of thoughtful analysis on how to make innovative ideas in a law firm actually happen, and in the process does a good job of identifying some of the major stumbling blocks firms encounter.

You need facts in order to properly diagnose your firm, to choose the right activities and make the right decisions for its future. But more importantly, you need them to get the attention of your partners.

Canada Moving Slowly on Innovation of Legal Services

I’m still not convinced this revolution will happen quickly as law schools don’t train lawyers to be entrepreneurs at the forefront of technology innovation. But of notable exception are two upcoming programs…

I provide an overview of where British organizations are driving ahead on the issues surrounding Legal Innovation and education, an I outline two law school programs that began in 2012, 21st Century Law Practice and Law Without Walls.

The Innovative Advocate: Canada’s Legal Future
Ivan Merrow gives a student eye’s view of the need for innovation in the field of law. Ivan Merrow also lays out his plan for law-students to take up the cause and start shaping how law is practiced.

Law-students for Technology and Innovation (LFTI) is a student-run organization Nikolas Sopow and I created this year at Queen’s Law. We’re passionate about finding better ways to deliver legal services. We’re law students, but we’re not afraid of the changes coming to the Canadian legal scene. Within three weeks we recruited four more executives to our team, and we’re still growing. By 2015 we plan to have LFTI clubs at every law school in Canada.

Director of Innovation for Law Firms?
Mitch Kowalski suggests that law firms create positions for Directors of Innovation.

The world is a fast and unforgiving place. If law firms do not commit to innovation, someone else will.

Who’s eating law firms’ lunch?
Rachel Zahorsky and William D. Henderson on legal vendors that specialize in one process, harness technology and the skills of non-lawyers.

See also examples of successful innovation:

Murthy Law: immigration firm founded by one woman that gives away a wealth of legal information for free online. The most visited legal website in the world.

WeVorce: takes a collaborative approach to divorce, with one attorney-mediator leading both parties through the process for a pre-set fee.

Cognition: A Canadian company with a leaner, meaner business structure designed to response to both outside demands (from clients) and internal demands (from lawyers): “by giving our lawyers control over their schedules, we also save marriages, not to mention, sanity.”


  1. The most important innovation needed by the legal profession: replace the present “handcraftsman’s” method of delivering legal services with a support-services method. Otherwise the problem that the majority of the population cannot obtain legal services at reasonable cost will never be solved. It is the problem that must be solved first. But the expertise of the legal profession is not enough. That’s why the problem has been growing for decades without any sign that the law societies accept that there is a problem of that nature, let alone show any sign of being able to provide a solution. See the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s “Inventory of Initiatives” text: (click on the highlighted word “inventory,” in the last line at this site). It describes the problem as being one of mere “gaps in access to legal services” (p.1, para. 1). That indicates that the members of the FLSC don’t accept, nor understand the true nature of the problem. It affects everyone in Canada. Therefore such long-standing ineffectiveness threatens government intervention. So do predictions that during the next ten years middle-sized law firms may disappear (e.g., the CBA’s “Future of Legal Services in Canada” text (June 12/13) p.31: ). If so, smaller firms will go first. Middle-sized and smaller firms employ the majority of Canada’s lawyers. Therefore any such innovation project or institutional think tank should solve this problem first. For a solution to the problem, and the correct analysis of it, see my Slaw piece of Oct. 24th: . – Ken Chasse (“Chase”).

  2. Ken you raise some great points and I hope you will be joining the twitter chat tomorrow. I believe the link you are referring to is this: Correct me if I am wrong.

    Also, Noel Semple has tweeted a link to his paper on ABS Access to Justice: Is Legal Services Regulation Blocking the Path? Also, a valuable resource for tomorrow’s twitter chat.