ABA Journal

The New Normal

Have you hired an innovation intern?

By Patrick J. Lamb

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Dan Elliott of Michigan State University College of Law’s ReInvent Law Laboratory is going to Australia for August. He is not going there for vacation—it will be winter in Australia—but rather to be an innovation intern at Kain C+C Lawyers in the city of Adelaide. Kain C+C (which stands for Corporate and Commercial) is led by John Kain. John manages Kain C+C as a business, and that includes research and development and innovation.

Kain C+C’s program is not a one-time thing. According to the Australasian Lawyer, a different student from Michigan State’s program “will visit the firm each year to identify and then implement a project to improve the firm’s business.”

The benefits to Kain C+C go beyond the specific projects. The goal is to expose the firm to “new and interesting ways of working.” There is value, according to John Kain, in having the firm’s lawyers exposed to new perspectives and new ways of thinking.

John is a very smart guy—we Skype periodically to trade notes. So I pondered what he was saying and wondered how many firms or corporate law departments regularly challenged themselves this way.

Orthodoxy can be a source of comfort for many, but in a rapidly changing world, adherence to orthodoxy frequently becomes shorthand for resisting change. In that battle, time favors change, and those who cling most tightly to orthodoxy risk irrelevance.

Do you have an innovation intern? Does your firm embrace contrarians, or does it embrace those who believe the eight worst words in the English language are “because that’s the way it’s been done before”? Does your firm reject the first cousin of the eight worst words: “Because that’s the way other firms do it”? Does your firm reject orthodoxy, or is that a standard defense to new ideas? If you believe your firm does not embrace orthodoxy, who is it—by name—that is the designated new idea change agent? If you can’t name the person—spoiler alert—he or she does not exist.

Perhaps you should consider an innovation intern.

Patrick Lamb is a founding member of Valorem Law Group, a litigation firm representing business interests. Valorem helps clients solve their business disputes and cope with pressures to reduce legal spend using nontraditional approaches, including use of nonhourly fee structures, coordination with LPOs or contract lawyers, joint-venturing with other firms and implementation of project management tools to handle lawsuits or portfolios of litigation.

Pat is the author of the books Alternative Fee Arrangements: Value Fees and the Changing Legal Market and Alternative Fees for Litigators and Their Clients. He also blogs at In Search Of Perfect Client Service.

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