Legal services 'embracing need for innovation'

Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, once said that "the heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation", as long-term success cannot be achieved without it.

So if legal professionals want to deliver the best possible results, there has to be a willingness to innovate.

New research by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Legal Services Board (LSB) has found that eight in ten legal organisations think they have a culture and leadership that is open to fresh ideas.

This underlines how the vast majority of in-house departments and private practices believe they accommodate new thinking.

Indeed, 40 per cent of organisations have created procedures that are specifically designed to support innovation and the development of new ideas, while more than a quarter have actually introduced a new service in the last three years.

Alternative business structures (ABS) were found to be between 13 per cent and 15 per cent more likely to introduce a new legal service than any other type of regulated solicitor firm. This has been welcomed, as one of the main reasons for the development of these organisations was to promote innovation and diversity.

This demonstrates a willingness on the part of the legal industry to embrace new methods of working as they seek to keep pace with technological change and the ever greater pressure to deliver first-class customer service.

Driving innovation

As the survey shows, innovation not only extends the service range, but it also has the potential to improve quality and attract new clients. One of the biggest changes has been around the use of electronic communication with clients, as legal professionals take a more client-focused approach.

Despite the willingness on the part of legal organisations to innovate, regulatory and legislative changes have stymied the process to a certain extent. For example, legislation can prove problematic when it comes to client accounts and client complaints. However, it is good to see such an appetite for transformation.

"Innovation drives growth in the legal sector as in any other," said Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA. "Our research shows that law firms and solicitors are capitalising on how the market is opening up by developing new ways to do business and offer more services. A wider range of services in a competitive market can only be good news for the public."

Boosting services

Solicitors were found to be the most innovative regulated legal service provider, as they have been able to introduce both managerial and organisational changes in order to improve their service. This group is also the best at engaging with customers.

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the LSB, is glad the industry is placing such a big emphasis on innovation, as the net result will be a growing and strong market that is able to provide services that consumers and businesses want.

But he pointed out there are still improvements to be made, especially as some legal providers look upon innovation as a choice, rather than a necessary part of delivering a continually good service.