The law industry is famously risk averse, not known for being cutting edge or embracing new technology. This is why I find the collaboration between the idea management platform Wazoku and the global law firm Allen & Overy (A&O) fascinating and encouraging. A&O is the first business in the law industry that’s come across my radar that is actively exploring the fusion between the future of law and the future of work.
Adaptive Partnerships Create Successful Innovation
One of A&O’s core focuses is to lead the legal industry in using technology to find solutions to common problems within law firms, including the delivery of legal advice, assisting with regulatory compliance and streamlining transactions for their clients. “Our approach is very much about doing things differently, which allows us to be adaptable and flexible,” says Nitish Upadhyaya, Senior Innovation Manager for A&O, who leads the Ideas and Investment (i2) team.
The i2 team, originally founded in 2015 and now part of their Legal Technology Group which was established in 2017, includes business analysts, a UX/UI specialist and a team of developers. The A&O i2 team started working with Wazoku in 2017. Together, the two have encouraged a grassroots innovation mindset that has helped teams throughout A&O begin to think differently. “We’ve formed a true partnership,” says Bea Schofield, Head of Customer Success at Wazoku. “We approach projects and learn together. I’ve watched them develop i2 from a small in-house scheme to one of the world’s leading legal technology incubators.”
Make The Platform a Transparent, Inclusive Hub
The A&O Idea Spotlight platform (powered by Wazoku) made it possible to cultivate and embed innovation across the entire firm, breaking up silos and bringing greater transparency and buy-in to the process. Now everyone at A&O can participate, share individual insights and suggest new approaches to solving legal and client challenges through technology.
One example of a cool outcome is a project that helped paralegals improve their efficiency by about 70 percent when it came to inserting, cite-checking or correcting footnotes on manuscripts that often run hundreds of pages long. Other examples are two recent challenges that crowdsourced a total of 30 product, service and efficiency ideas that were then evaluated by senior stakeholders and added to the innovation pipeline in just three weeks.
The platform has become a transparent hub that allows users to see how concepts are being progressed through the firm. “Giving everyone a voice and a forum to share pain points and ideas is important to overall buy-in,” says Upadhyaya. “Leadership at A&O has a vision for the firm to become a second-generation innovation business—ultimately, the platform acts as an enabler, giving staff unprecedented access to innovation resources”.
Create A Positive Experience With Every Idea
Here’s how the people at A&O and Wazoku work together to get an idea going. After initial idea vetting, A&O’s i2 team helps the person who will own the idea draft a business case and pitch to a team of senior management interested in tech and innovation. They help the innovation team test the concept and set parameters for the proof of concept. It’s important that the idea is driven by the idea owner –it’s not about outsourcing the work to the i2 team.
Successful pitches are followed up by workshops that build out the idea using design thinking methodology to challenge assumptions and test new approaches. “Prototyping the solution helps us assess the viability of a full product or tool through functionality testing or stakeholder and user feedback,” says Upadhyaya.
“Using the platform to capture, record and showcase ideas has very much become a way of working within the Legal Technology Group,” says Upadhyaya. The platform has evolved from an idea collection tool to a place to watch how innovation happens—with videos on ideas, showcasing successful concepts and individual journeys through the innovation process.
“Even if the idea doesn’t make it to the prototype stage, we want idea owners to have a positive experience in the process, because this is how you achieve sustainable change through the organization,” says Upadhyaya. “Everyone sees themselves as able to drive change and help the firm advance.”
Shift How We View Our Workforce
This type of adaptable and flexible thinking shown through the partnership between A&O and Wazoku is exactly what’s needed as traditional organizations begin to accept the resources that are now available to them through digital communities. Today’s access to talent and innovation is unprecedented. Anything is possible, as long as we are open.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Forbes.