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Trending: Pulling teeth and permission to fail – comment by Catherine Bamford of BamLegal!

Happy fourth birthday BamLegal! Here is that shitty first draft everyone has been talking about! BamLegal founder Catherine Bamford says that innovation and disruption in legal industry is painfully slow and there is too much back covering going on.

“Caroline Hill, editor of Legal IT Insider asked me about knee-jerk reactions. I had a bit of a rant…” says Catherine Bamford of BamLegal!

It went something like this…

Caroline: “One thing I’m really interested in is how many firms are looking at their processes before jumping into automation. Seems that there is still very little strategy and a lot of knee jerking around?”

Me: “Like what you are saying on the processes before jumping into automation but my experience has been different and I think the opposite is the problem.

Whether its automation, or some other potential improvement / change to current working practices, I find that most firms:

– over-analyse

– focus too much on business cases

– put in place too many red-tape procedures

– stifle those trying new ideas with a need for 100% proof it will work

– are inherently risk adverse

– have way too many meetings about meetings about meetings

– spend too much time and money before even looking at proof of concepts / pilots where you could get real user feedback

– spend too much money on consultants to make sure they are ‘doing’ the right things

– focus too much on the PR / winning an award

– focus too much on established tech others have already tried

– essentially try to make sure that if a project fails no one gets fired / held back from promotion / blamed.

In addition, “PEP Protection” is a serious cultural problem in law firms holding true R&D and innovation back.

Those in the business charged with changing strategy, innovating, implementing new ways of working etc, need to be given budget, space, access to lawyers and clients and permission to fail. Only by coming up with lots of new ideas, trying them and failing at some, will the truly great ideas develop and will anything really happen in the timescales we all want.

Innovation and disruption in legal industry is painfully slow and there is too much back covering going on.

There are exceptions. Jonathan Patterson’s Engine 1 and Engine 2 approach at DWF Ventures is one of them. Radiant Law have created an optimum slack style led environment in which anyone can suggest an idea without fear of ridicule. It can be mooted, deftly built, tested and played with to see if it has legs. Their life-changing-for-lawyers “RemarkableX” product for Word is a fantastic example of what can result from this permission to fail culture.”

Author’s Note: This is the shitty first draft. I decided it was best left unedited as I am hoping to start a conversation.


4 replies on “Trending: Pulling teeth and permission to fail – comment by Catherine Bamford of BamLegal!”

Well said Caroline! Access to the lawyers and clients is perhaps the most difficult to attain. If internal developers could achieve that firms wouldn’t need to pay so much cash to external consultants.

Also worth an honourable mention are Reed Smith with their recognition of innovation hours (reported by the Orange Rag in May)

I don’t know about a shitty first draft, but it’s certainly an honest and truthful one, and one which will resonate with a lot of folks.

As law firms get larger, their inherent agility lessens, and no amount of ‘innovation initiatives’ can recover such agility once it has been replaced by reams of ‘procedure’.

Yes, Law Firms are much more ‘business like’ than they were 20 or even 10 years ago, but I’m afraid it’s the top down type of business approach that can stifle people and their initiatives. I’ve certainly yet to see a managing partner riding a scooter to a meeting over the foosball table with an IT developer …

Catherine, what a great article. As Andy says, it resonates. In the spirit of the conversation you mention, here’s a point which I go back and forward on – the one you call “PEP preservation”.
To what extent is the problem
1. Essentially a cultural/generational/governance/organisational dynamics issue, like the other issues in your list. Not easy to solve, but rationally solveable with effective leadership, a strong team and generational change.
2. An innovator’s dilemma which is tougher to tackle than analysis 1, because it involves hard choices, but which right-thinking firms ought to tackle if they can figure out an effective strategy.
3. Something which firms are acting with rational caution/resistance on, as at the end of the day the business model is lucrative and it’s human relationships that really matter.
My impression is that, where the rubber meets the road for those of us interested in tech/process – presumably most readers of this site – it often looks like scenario 1.
At the other extreme, one plugged-in writer who makes a hard-headed case for scenario 3. is Hugh Simons in some recent pieces this year at The American Lawyer (“all this talk of disruption is exaggerated” – I paraphrase). Alex Novarese over at Legal Business seems to incline that way as well based on recent blogs.
Personally I incline to scenario 2 as the major explanatory factor, while recognising major elements of 1, and not entirely discounting 3.
Would be interested in your thoughts.
p.s. Caroline/Charles, in light of Jonathan mistaking Catherine for Charles I wonder if the time might have come to attach author bylines to articles? If the blogging platform cannae take it, I can imagine some manual workarounds. Forgive me for raising this, I don’t want to mess with the iconic look and feel of your fabulous site 🙂

Graeme – re your footnote – gotcha (finally) – article edited to make it clearer who is saying what. Phew!

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