Causing a bit of a stir on social media this month was Herbert Smith Freehills, which has launched a new initiative that will allow its global staff to spend up to 10 days per-year working on “innovation projects.”
The new “Innovation 10” initiative will support staff to work on projects that find new and innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the firm and its clients. These projects could include activities such as building legal apps, working on document automation and artificial intelligence tools or working on the firm’s blockchain and smart legal contracts project.
The initiative, which was rolled out globally on 11 February 2019, is open to all staff and aimed at further increasing the growing momentum behind the firm’s innovation and technology strategy.
Commenting on the move on social media, Legal IT Insider editor Caroline Hill said: “What do clients think of this type of initiative @Hans Albers or @Aine Lyons? To me it shows willing and I suppose that clients realise they will benefit from the output? I do think in many cases the time will be best spent on legal design type projects working hand in hand with the client.”
Both Eric Fiszelson, a partner at HSF in Paris and Alex Smith, innovation manager at Reed Smith, which has a similar innovation hours initiative, said: “This is exactly what we’re trying to do/doing.”
Albers, who is Juniper Network’s chief of staff and head of worldwide operations, said: “Well, in itself this is good, of course, although its mostly marketing. As a client in general I expect my firms to work on innovation all the time and first of all define what that actually means. The number of days is irrelevant. Does this mean the billable target is reduced? What does the client want, do we want law firms building apps? No, not really. We want predictability of cost, collaboration and value-added services such as training and knowledge-sharing and management. I can’t say it enough: innovation does not equal shiny tools. Technology is sometimes a solution but more often it doesn’t solve anything. I don’t have the answer either! Innovation at a law firm is a hard nut and from that perspective I appreciate every effort to crack it.”