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Four ways to disrupt yourself

By Alan Bass and Michael Sauber 

Disruption in the legal market is on the way. You can sit by and wait, or you can act now. We provide you with four options.

This is the last in our series on legal market disruption.1 Previous posts described the conditions for disruption and its early warning signs. In this final segment, we lay out four options for firms that want to prepare for the market shift ahead.

Innovate to adapt

Organizations that sense imminent disruption will often avoid it by disrupting themselves first. This means innovating. It’s a challenge for many firms because an entrepreneurial mindset is often foreign to lawyers. Even when the skills are there, firms must ensure that fostering innovation doesn’t compromise their current business.

Despite these hurdles, firms have found ways to get ahead of disruption by pursuing one of four approaches2:

  1. Internal incubators bring together lawyers from the firm with entrepreneurs and technologists from the outside. Through collaboration, lawyers learn how to innovate, and they begin to see how technology could improve their services.
  2. External incubators nurture legal technology start-ups that aim to improve legal services and expand access to justice. Lawyers can offer real-world perspective to these entrepreneurs while looking out for solutions to bring in-house.
  3. Entrepreneurial training is a do-it-yourself variant of #1. Firms develop the skills to innovate among their lawyers and encourage them to use non-billable time to expand on their ideas.
  4. Early-stage investing is an option that doesn’t always require large amounts of capital. Start-ups can benefit from the expertise lawyers can provide in the form of legal advice and mentoring.

There are certainly challenges for firms that want to disrupt themselves. But failing to face these now could have dire consequences down the road. If you’re late to the game, it will be hard to develop the new capabilities you need quickly enough to defend your market position. Are you preparing now? 

1 Our first three posts in the series include, Legal Market Ripe for DisruptionRevolution or Evolution?, and Early Warning Signs of Disruption.
2 Simpson, Kate. Disrupting from within. Canadian Lawyer. January 8, 2018.

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