In March 2018, I attended the Harvard Law School Association’s Symposium on Innovation that was graciously hosted by Bloomberg LP at the state-of-the-art Bloomberg World Headquarters here in New York City. The themes of the Symposium included blockchain, cryptocurrency, AI and the impact of innovation on society, among other salient and timely themes. The Symposium was among the most thought-provoking programs I have attended in my professional career.

Over the course of the half-day program, we in the audience were urged to think about novel issues that were not addressed through most, if not all, of our formal educational programs, how those novel issues will continue to affect how we work and live and how we can harness innovations in technological applications in our professional and personal paths. The Symposium included opportunities for attendees to engage with each other during networking sessions, and the networking facilitated spontaneous connections and synergistic brainstorming among us attendees – attendees of a variety of disciplines.

All of us were energized by the possibilities presented and synthesized in real time. Yet, we were slightly taken aback wondering, “How does one keep up with the ever-increasing pace of change given that we have our ‘day jobs’?”

Then, one insightful partner from Deloitte perspicaciously shared an adage for all of us to take to heart. Now, more than ever, we – and the organizations for which we work and which we build – all have to be “of two minds”:

  • one mind devoted to the day-to-day (whether the day-to-day is the routine of a person’s daily life or the operations of a consulting or law firm, etc.), or the “day-to-day mind,”


  • one mind devoted to ways that improve upon the day-to-day, or the “innovative mind.”

It is the ground-breaking and imaginative “innovative mind” or “innovative organization” that can serve as an internal “innovation lab,” contributing to the advancement of the “day-to-day mind” and propelling each of us to incorporate the act of thinking about new possibilities as a matter of course … as a matter of habit.

Cultivating the innovative mind spurs acts of pioneering and of inventing as part of the fabric of who and what we are as individual humans and as growth organizations. Cultivating the innovative mind is the act of practicing innovation … and … of making innovation a habit.

Many organizations have already begun to establish or sponsor “innovation labs” or “innovation hubs” within their organizations, including a few law firms. For example, consider the non-exhaustive list below.

Putting organizations aside for the moment, at a minimum, we also owe it to ourselves to be of two minds in terms of how we design – how we curate – our lives. For example, it is not just having the latest iPhone or android phone that is evidence of one’s innovative mind. Rather, it is the continual, incremental consideration of the types of devices you will use to stay connected, the types of media to which you will be connected and the technological advancements you will use to lockdown your personal data, etc., that constitute evidence your innovative mind.

One of the objectives of Frontier of the Law is to encourage all of us to practice innovation … to be of two minds so that we are deliberately “mindful” in shaping the advancements “of now” and “of the future” one day at a time.

Simply stated, the message is this: We have long accepted the old (emphasis on the word, “old”) adage:

necessity is the mother of invention.”

In other words:
When the need for something becomes essential, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it.


But, why would anyone want to be forced to do anything?

If you wait to innovate and get to the point where “you are forced to find ways” of achieving something, you have already lost lead time in the solution design and creation process, and you risk sub-optimal solutions.

So, dispense with (but learn from) the old, and contribute to a culture in which innovation is practiced each and every day, one day at a time – wherever innovation leads you.

To illustrate the point, consider some of the primary conclusions of the “2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market” (the “Report”) issued by the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute.

“Law firms have spent much of the past decade fortifying themselves against anticipated challenges. But strategies based on how the market has behaved in the past may be leaving many firms unprepared for the rapid transformations that are sweeping the legal industry.”

The Report “compares the strategies of many firms to the French strategy of the “Maginot Line” – a seemingly impregnable fortification that provided a false sense of security until it was easily defeated in the early stages of World War II.”

“Consensual neglect”* seems a particularly apt description of the strategic posture of many (if not most) law firms in today’s rapidly changing market for legal services. Ignoring strong indicators that their old approaches – to managing legal work processes, pricing, leverage, staffing, project management, technology, and client relationships – are no longer working, they choose to double down on their current strategies rather than risking the change that would be required to respond effectively to evolving market conditions. Like the French military in the 1930s, they are ready to fight the last war but, unfortunately, not to meet the challenges that are barreling toward them.”

*According to the Report, “consensual neglect” refers to the “tendency of organizational decision makers to tacitly ignore events that undermine their current strategy and double down on the initial decision in order to justify their prior actions.”

What lies ahead for organizations that do not cultivate innovative cultures?

How can lawyers and law firms cultivate being “of two minds”?

#PracticeInnovation  -  #ContinousInnovation  -   #FrontierOfTheLaw

What helpful insights, tips, or strategies might you be willing to share that would help other professionals think through how to incite innovation and efficiency gains into the practice of law?

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