Four years ago I led a workshop on Design Thinking for the Legal Marketing Association Tech Conference in San Francisco. In many respects, it was a prototype workshop. I watched participants to see what engaged them and what seemed boring, what was relevant and what wasn’t, and the energy in the room.
I believed that lawyers in law firms and legal departments, as well as business professionals and legal operations would benefit from having a process and structure to develop innovative ways to re-design how they delivered and managed legal services. Clients are looking to their outside counsel for new ways to be efficient, communicate more effectively, increase predictability of cost and outcomes, but law firms are slow to truly innovate. Legal Design Thinking provides the tools for collaboration and client-focused innovation.
Since that first session for LMA, I’ve done Legal Design Thinking workshops for law firms, legal business professionals, associations and legal networks. At every workshop, participants learn the design process by actually doing it. Then, we talk about how the process can be used to re-design internal processes, legal service delivery and client-facing services. The most common comment I get at a LDT workshop is, “I have so many ideas on how we can use Design Thinking in our firm. I can’t wait to try it out!”
Recently, I co-facilitated a Legal Lean Sigma Yellow Belt program with Catherine MacDonagh. Our client, a law firm, invited their top clients to learn process improvement, project management and legal design thinking. The clients, who both legal and operational level executives, learned new skills, but developed stronger working relationships with their outside counsel. We heard comments like, “I’m really glad that my lawyers participated with us. They now have a better understanding of our business and challenges we face. It was great to go through the design process together. It raised a number of issues we need to work on as a team.” Legal Design Thinking can not only be a process for innovation, but also a pathway for improved client understanding, client service and even business development.
A revolution in how legal work gets done is underway. It is happening now, and has been for some time. Law firms and their clients need to change how legal service is done. We are evangelists for Legal Design Thinking because it gives those in a change-resistant world a path for innovation, a process for change, and a method of collaboration between lawyers and their clients.
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