Innovation defined and differences between technological and administrative steps

An innovation is any practice perceived to be new by a general counsel or other member of a legal department. That definition covers change of every kind and emphasizes internal perception: the innovation could be common elsewhere but if it is perceived by the adopting law department to be fresh and different, it is an innovation (See my post of Dec. 16, 2005: innovation with 7 references.). What constitutes innovation is subjective (See my post of Dec. 6, 2007: innovative ideas in law department management.).

A new idea is not enough. Someone in a legal department can be creative – come up with a new idea – but innovative it is not until the idea translates into practice (See my post of Aug. 17, 2009: low odds on new ideas; and Sept. 26, 2009: creativity with 13 references and 2 metaposts.). The new practice does not have to be beneficial to be classed as an innovation.

Hence, for a general counsel, a change is innovative if it is novel for that department and becomes an accustomed practice.

Those who speak and write about innovation in legal departments often cite technology (See my post of Oct. 26, 2007: “technology” innovates, “automation” merely speeds up.). It is easy to see that software is new and that it works. Whereas the presence or absence of technological innovations is relatively unambiguous – you even know the date when you installed e-billing – the definition and starting point of administrative innovations is often murky – you gradually evolved your law-firm evaluation system and no clear date marked the start of the practice. Operational practices are often emergent innovation.

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