How to? Innovation Strategies for Law Firms

In a new RSGi resource, we distil our learnings from nearly 30 years of researching and analysing the legal profession. Specifically, we answer this one question: ‘How can you create and maintain a forward-thinking law firm?’

We know the challenge that law firm leaders have in creating – and sustaining – a culture of innovation. Obstacles such as the billable hour, law firm structures, remuneration systems and the very nature of lawyers as professionals mean that the challenges are perennial.

Being a relevant law firm is about far more than knowing the best technologies to use. It is about understanding lawyers’ behaviours and what motivates them. It is about leadership and management. It is about truly hearing the voice of the client. And finally, it is about what works and what doesn’t.

Constructed as a slide deck with case studies, we have created a practical aid and resource for anyone tasked with developing strategies to better lead their firms.

RSG’s learnings and frameworks shared in this resource are drawn from thousands of interviews – with law firms, general counsel and the C-Suite – about how they have created innovative teams and organisations, both for the FT reports and other RSG projects. These are illustrated with concrete examples of how initiatives are conceived, implemented and have an impact in law firms. We compare our insights into how law firms innovate to those of leading innovation scholars and thinkers such as Clayton M. Christensen and Steven Johnson, so that the slides can be used for multiple purposes.


The resource includes the answers to the following questions with our analysis of specific case studies to illustrate the key learnings. The slides can be leveraged by different law firm departments.

  1. Are law firms different from other businesses when it comes to innovation? We have chaired many round-tables where this question arises. There are arguments for and against. Here, we analyse the obstacles to innovation in law firms and present the best approaches we see from firms who have been able to overcome these obstacles and encourage, what initially appear to lawyers to be, counter intuitive behaviours.
  2. What is an innovative law firm today? Since 2016, Europe, in particular, has witnessed more change in its top law firms than it has in the last twelve years. The benchmarks of what is considered innovative are constantly evolving. Here, we analyse the most significant developments globally in 2017 and examine the facets of what currently constitutes law firm innovation.
    • Service delivery models. Most law firms have accepted that their service delivery models need to improve. However, lawyers’ take up of their firms’ alternative delivery options and capacity to see how it applies to their specific practice areas can be slow. This section covers the elements of successful delivery models in law firms. It focuses on how firms can best create new service delivery models; how they can get buy-in within their firms to develop them and how they can bring them to market in a way that complements their advisory work.
    • Technology. Even in the most advanced law firms, becoming tech-enabled is a “minority” sport. But law firms have developed fast over the past three years in terms of integrating technology into their practices. Here we illustrate the best ways we have seen law firms’ enable their lawyers with technology and the thinking behind them. Where are leading law firm adopters of technology employing it today and with what results? How do firms create and implement a successful technology strategy? How does a firm empower its lawyers to use technology effectively?
    • Productising legal services. The trend towards standardising elements of the legal process into products has been underway for over a decade. There is a bifurcation in terms of the types of legal processes being productised: those for business development purposes and those for the provision of legal services. However, although there are many examples of where productising legal processes have been successful there is still an inherent risk – how does a firm balance the benefit of productising its services with the risk of compromising existing revenue streams? This section looks at how firms manage this balance effectively.
    • Data. Law firms increasingly use data to deliver new services to clients or to gain strategic advantage. Although few firms have a formal data strategy, they are beginning to collate their own intelligence and turn it into data to enhance client relationships and management strategies. Clients are getting savvier about collecting their own data on outside law firms and we explore some of the ways in which this is creating change in law firm practices.
  3. What is an innovative lawyer today? The role of a lawyer on a transaction or litigation matter has evolved greatly in the past two decades and continues to evolve. RSG’s new framework as to what makes an innovative lawyer lays out the skill sets, experiences and attitudes partners need to have for the next five years and how best to acquire them. It profiles two core types of innovative lawyers globally who are driving innovation in law firms and exhibit certain characteristics: the change agents who are driving enterprise-wide innovation in their firms and the legal practitioners who are focused on creating new practice areas in their firms and continue to deliver extraordinary value to clients.
  4. How do you teach lawyers to innovate? How are law firms and in-house teams creating innovative mindsets in their people? Many law firms are experimenting and focusing on inculcating innovation in their firms through exercises such as design thinking workshops, internal innovation contests and redefining their purpose as lawyers. They are also being pushed by their clients and new competitors to be more innovative, many of whom work for companies whose core business model is centred around innovation.
  5. Getting true client-centricity: Despite state-of-the-art client listening programmes, top law firms often complain that their partners are still not aligned enough with their clients. We share some of the unique insight we have gained from ranking hundreds of corporate law departments on their innovation and thousands of client interviews for our thought-leadership reports. In this section, we identify and analyse the most critical developments affecting law firm clients. We make the case as to why, for partners, innovation should be a critical pillar of their strategies.
  6. Collaboration: It is a critical driver of innovation, but many law firms struggle to create internal collaborations, let alone external ones. Who should law firms be collaborating with and how? How can smart collaboration entirely alter the innovation profile of a law firm in terms of both legal expertise and business approach?
  7. Balancing innovation and financial performance: Are innovative law firms more successful financially? We have correlated the financial results of the top 50 global law firms with their Financial Times innovation scores over a three-year period to answer that question. In addition, we tackle the question of how you can prove to doubtful partners that innovation does benefit clients and lawyers.

Why should law firms subscribe to RSGi: How To?

  • Trusted Insights. Exposure to RSG Consulting’s core insights drawn from nearly 30 years in the profession for CEO Reena SenGupta, who’s experience includes: a history of creating the research methodology for the Chambers & Partners Guides in the 1990s, producing numerous thought-leadership and strategic projects for law firms at RSG Consulting and being the long-term research partner to the FT Innovative Lawyers programme.
  • Strategic advice. Through case studies and in-depth playbooks, the ‘How To?’ resource gives legal leaders expert insight, analysis and strategic advice on how they can develop an impactful innovation strategy in their firms.
  • A client-centred approach. The resource also includes client perspectives on law firm innovation. It provides unique, contemporary and fresh insight into the evolving role of legal departments within global companies and their requirements from legal suppliers.
  • International perspectives. From the breadth and depth of RSG’s reach into the global centres of legal innovation, we are uniquely able to provide a broad and global perspective into key trends and analyse nuanced changes in direction in the sector.
  • Multiple use cases. How To? can be used by multiple stakeholders within a law firm for different purposes: developing an innovation strategy; training and development; business development and as a resource to build internal platforms to get buy-in to an innovation agenda.

To order or find out more: Contact Yasmin Lamber or Reena SenGupta at RSG Consulting by email or on +44 (0) 20 7831 0300

RSGi: How To? Seminar

Using the RSGi: How To? Resource as a baseline, RSG can run a half-day session for law firms to create or refresh its corporate strategy. The session includes: assessing the firm’s overall innovation capabilities against the market and identifying areas where improvements will have the greatest impact from both a short and long-term perspective and sharing our ideas as to how the firm can innovate better.

Underlying research and analysis

Frameworks and insights are drawn from nearly 30 years analysing the legal profession, including consulting and major research assignments for law firms, corporate law departments and other professional service firms. In particular, analysis on how law firms innovate is compared with academic and scholarly research into how innovation occurs in business and in science.

Case studies are drawn from over 10,000 submissions on innovation received from law firms and legal service providers and over 11,000 research interviews conducted with leading lawyers, law firm managing partners and chairs, company general counsel, CEOs, and other legal industry clients since 2006.