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Innovation Initiative Is Inspiring ‘Cultural Awakening’ at Nixon Peabody

Posted Aug 13, 2012 9:13 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Looking for a way to make his firm less reactive and more proactive, Nixon Peabody partner Jeffrey Lesk worked a new factor into annual evaluations.

Each year, Lesk asks his fellow partners in the tax credit finance group to come up with a new idea for a client product, fee structure or management strategy. The idea and its implementation are then factored into a partner's compensation.

The Washington Post reports on the innovation initiative in a story featuring Lesk, who is the managing partner of Nixon Peabody's Washington, D.C., office.

The point is to get lawyers to think more creatively about the business side of practice.

"We've had the luxury of being a reactive industry, especially when economic times were good and businesses were strong," Lesk is quoted saying. "Now, the business environment is very challenging ... we’re a reflection of the business of the country and the world. As they have greater needs to diversify, it’s a great opportunity for us to work with them to come up with things that solve their business products."

The innovation initiative was born at a firm retreat in 2010 and has been credited with inspiring an idea to combine solar energy tax credits to help finance installation of solar panels on affordable housing developments. In implementing another innovation for the firm, the corporate group is rolling out a "corporate start-up package" for new businesses that includes $10,000 of free legal work and fixed costs.

Herb Stevens, the firm's first chief innovation officer, tells the Post that the innovation initiative will have an impact on the firm, but it'll take time to see real results.

"Our goal is to incorporate it deeply into the fabric [of the law firm]," Stevens tells the post. "It will take years because it’s a cultural awakening. It’s just a question of getting people to see how creative they are."

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