The Role of the Chief Innovation Officer in a Law Firm

Written by Elizabeth Layeni

May 18, 2021

The legal industry is evolving from a system that dwelt heavily on traditionalism and conservative ways to one that is being propelled by technological advancement and innovation.  Innovation in law firms takes many forms, both internally and externally. A good number of lawyers are tired of hearing the phrase : Innovate or die and yet clients keep calling for innovative ways to solve their problems. A 21st century client in taking up legal services, requests for pitch proposals (RFPs), in trying to identify which law firms demonstrate how they have innovated, are innovative and will innovate. To foster an innovation-centric culture in a law firm that fuels valuable change, there is a need to create a role that is responsible for managing the process to improve client service, and to provide a better client service experience, and that is the role of the Chief Innovation Officer.

A Chief Innovation Officer is best described as an individual who is responsible for managing and driving the innovation process in an organisation. He is the designated person in an organisation that identifies strategies, business opportunities and new technologies and develops business models and structures to serve those opportunities.  Innovation is a mindset that behoves on everyone in an organisation to think critically of new and efficient ways of getting things done and solving problems. A chief innovation officer does not take on the whole ‘job’ of innovating, but he is responsible for streamlining and managing innovation processes and efforts in an organisation. Typically, this role is held by a person with a broad technical expertise in the industry.

The roles of a chief innovation officer in a law firm include, but are not limited to: 

  1.  Addressing Client Expectations – Improve Client Experience -Bring/drive value for clients
  2. Developing and overseeing transformative initiatives and strategy that helps organisations respond to evolving changes 
  3. Design & Develop Client 1st initiatives -new solutions – to client issues/challenges
  4. Ensuring that innovative strategies are tailored to reflect and align with the firm’s organisational culture 
  5. Identifying innovation trends and business opportunities for the firm
  6. Driving New Market Share, Aiding in new business pitches, responses to RFPs, and panel reviews
  7. Using innovation to provide client-centric result and value  resulting in a long-term relationship 
  8. Not responsible for developing ideas themselves; but establish a process that enables other people to contribute. 

Lawyers will always find ways to help their clients and to be able to keep up with modern trends, enhance service delivery in line with technological disruptions and thrive efficiently, law firms need a chief innovation officer. There is always going to be a need for great legal service, which will only become more prominent and important.Having a Chief innovation officer is not the gateway to immediate change management. As much as the designated individual would drive design thinking, manage and coordinate innovation strategies in a firm, the change process could take a bit longer than is expected with a lot of iterated processes, however, the end in this case, justifies the means.

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