[T]he beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken. Plato, The Republic, Book II.[1]

To Dan & Team[2],

Thank you. You’ve helped transform the legal industry’s view of innovation from navel-gazing into a conversation. As Bill Henderson said, we were at zero and you’ve moved us to one.[3] I look forward to further movement, perhaps to 10 or 11.[4]

One of your goals is to get your ideas out there, test them, receive feedback, and improve them. In the spirit of fostering continuous improvement, I offer some observations as you build upon your phase 1 MVP release.[5] My comments are primarily intended to highlight the value of your current offering for fellow legal professionals. That said, I hope my comments and those of others align with your goals, helping to deliver further value to our ecosystem.

I. Context

For those unfamiliar with the Legal Services Innovation Index (LSII), I offer this brief summary.[6] Launched on August 22, 2017, the LSII is an effort to create a much-needed view into legal service delivery innovation. Phase 1 focuses on law firm innovations, based on a seeding from existing innovation listings[7] and on keyword website searches of 260 law firms. Future phases will rely on additional empirical data — information solicited directly from law firms (phase 2), and data captured from legal service “customer”[8] surveys (phase 3).

The current offering includes two dashboards:

  1. Innovation Catalog: a catalog containing concrete (i.e., implemented) instances of law firms offering products, legal services, or consulting services that constitute or foster legal service delivery innovations.[9]
  2. Law Firm Index: although not a law firm ranking, the index is an effort to measure law firm innovation based on Google Advanced searches of law firm websites for indicators of innovation (e.g., references to expert systems, innovation entities, and other attempts to “productize” legal services.)






Both dashboards offer filters by jurisdiction and law firm, plus additional but separate classifications:

  • Innovation Catalog: Tool/Discipline,[10] type,[11] and area of law[12]
  • Law Firm Index: Category[13] and AmLaw/other law firm ranking.

II. Practical Near Term Use

Below, I highlight some practical uses I see for the LSII. My comments originate from two primary perspectives — (i) large law firm service provider and (ii) corporate/enterprise legal consumer.[14] Given the initial focus on law firms, there is necessarily more value for the former than the latter at this time.

Some current, potential uses include:

  • Jurisdiction and market position: From a strategic planning perspective, law firms can gauge the status of innovation initiatives by jurisdiction and by a firm’s market position (AmLaw/Global firm ranking). Both the Innovation Catalog and the Law Firm Index offer jurisdictional filters, while the Firm Index offers the AmLaw/global ranking view. These filters offer some competitive analysis but offer limited value for consumers of these services.
  • Innovation initiatives: The Innovation Catalog offers a view of innovation initiatives by law firm with filters to explore specific tools/disciplines and access a firm/affiliate website for details. For example, one can find 17 expert system offerings and go to the firm/entity website to see videos or read more.[15] By contrast, the Law Firm Index offers numerical assessments of the firm’s marketing materials regarding innovation but does not currently offer direct access to the claimed innovations. This ability to view the underlying sources is very helpful as users can understand and validate data and underlying assumptions. The feature should be extended to the Law Firm Index.

  • Vendors/Partners: The Innovation Catalog listing by law firm also presents a “Partners” column and filter to locate certain partners (e.g., Neota Logic, Kira, and Elevate Services) enabling the listed innovations. This is great concept that will hopefully evolve in time to deliver meaningful insights for companies and firms looking to drive specific innovations. That said, I think one must use this feature with caution as the current listings do not also offer a complete list of the work the listed partners are doing or the broader marketplace of partners offering real solutions today.

III. Crafting For Long Term Value

One of LSII’s goals is to “define and generate discussion about specific categories of innovation.”[16] I offer 4 suggested enhancements for the LSII.

    1. Perspective: Consider the initial perspective with which you crafted the LSII. Understandably, the LSII design needed to start somewhere. Are law firms are the best place to start? Some law firms may not be best positioned to classify innovation if they suffer from the curse of knowledge.[17] Moreover, corporate/enterprise legal service consumers and producers are innovating internally or with 3rd party providers.[18] Law firms are associated with only a part of those innovations. It may be more productive in the long term to consider process, people, and technology innovations from the client perspective and/or those of “alternative” providers. Reflecting on this approach may suggest changing the timeline for phases 2 and 3 or otherwise modifying the current structure and innovation classifications.
    2. Keywords:The keywords used to create the Law Firm Index may be over- and under-inclusive for the intended analysis and use. By way of extreme example, the Law Firm Index “Legal Operations” classification is derived through a keyword search on the terms “legal operations” or ” collaborative disaggregation.” The latter term does NOT translate or effectively relate to “legal operations.” This custom term does not support a user trying to understand which firms are collaborating with in-house legal operations professionals, much less track innovations that relate to “legal operations.” [20]

The validity of keyword culling depends on the circumstances of the matter at hand and on the methodology adopted for developing, applying and testing the keywords[19]

Examine the LSII taxonomy to consider how it and will be used, how you will manage it, and how it supports your objectives.[21] Below, I offer a comparison of keywords with some specific suggestions and considerations.

Catalog (Tool/Discipline)Firm IndexComment
Alternative FeesAlternative Fees
Primarily based upon an alternative fee agreement (i.e., not billable hours; e.g. fixed fees, value-based billing, fixed fees for a portfolio of work).“alternative fee” OR “alternative fees” OR “AFA” OR “AFAs” OR “fixed fee” OR “fixed fees” OR “value based billing” OR “value based pricing.”Add “value-based fee” or just ‘value-based” and “value based.”[22] Consider if the topic is more “pricing” than fees (particularly as you expand beyond law firms).
Artificial IntelligenceArtificial Intelligence
Machine learning (including Technology Assisted Document Review) and other forms of data-driven artificial intelligence, but not including rules-based expert systems.“machine learning” OR “deep learning” OR “artificial intelligence”.Add “AI.” Consider “augmented intelligence,” “cognitive system(s),” “deep learning,” “neural networks,” “robotic process automation,” “robotics,” and “robots.”
Client EducationProactive Law
Innovative methods for providing client education, including eLearning.“proactive law” OR “preventive law” OR “preventative law” OR “promotive law”Add “eLearning.” Consider other variants of client education. Compare with currently defined KM concept.
Facilitates communication and collaboration between law firms and clients, such as extranets, deal rooms, data rooms, etc.Consider “Collaboration” as alternative.
Contract ManagementBlockchain
A product or service that clients use to draft, negotiate, enter into, assess, or store contracts.“Blockchain” OR “smart contract” OR “smart contracts” OR “computable contract” OR “computable contracts”Consider a broader, combined category of “Contracts and Smart Contracts.”
Data AnalyticsData Analytics
Uses data–small or “Big Data” to improve legal-service delivery, including quantitative prediction.“data analytics” OR “predictive analytics” OR “decision tree” OR “decision trees” OR “data driven”Add “big data.” Consider “statistical analysis,” “statistical analytics,” and, perhaps, ‘legal analytics.”
Document AssemblyAutomation Basics
A tool that captures basic input for the assembly of documents. Also known as document automation.“expert system” OR “expert systems” OR “document automation” OR “document assembly” OR “process automation”Split out expert systems as with the Catalog. Consider how “contract automation” may relate to Contracts. Consider “process automation” as part of “process improvement” category below.
Expert System
A rules-based product that organizes expert knowledge and provides direction to users who input information in response to guided interview. (Expert systems, while a form of artificial intelligence, have been assigned to their own category.)Harmonize with the “automation basics” category in the Law Firm Index.
Entity working with and fostering the growth of legal startups.Consider if this is just a business model as opposed to a client-facing legal service delivery option. Perhaps business models can be a separate classification, particularly given the planned input from ALSPs/LPOs?
Information Management
A product that clients use to manage information, documents, etc.Is document or records management innovation?
Innovation Entity
A law firm subsidiary, affiliate, or branded group within the law firm focused on legal-service delivery innovation generally.Other than branded group, consider if this is just a business model as opposed to a client-facing legal service delivery option. Perhaps business models can be a separate classification, particularly given the planned input from ALSPs/LPOs?
Knowledge ManagementKnowledge Management
A product or service that provides and manages knowledge, updates, etc. about a specific area of law.“knowledge management” OR “knowledge engineering”Without discussing the definition of KM, consider adding “KM,” “knowledge services,” “playbooks,” and, perhaps, “templates.”
Process ImprovementProcess Improvement and Innovation Framework
Founded upon the application of a process improvement discipline, such as lean thinking, six sigma, lean six sigma, or design thinking. (A systematic examination of the current state and various process improvement methods are key components of most innovations. An entry is listed in this category only if process improvement is attributed to be the foundation for the innovation.)“lean thinking” OR “six sigma” OR “process improvement” OR “design thinking”Consider if process improvement should be expanded beyond lean, six sigma, and design thinking. There are many flavors. Perhaps also call it “process improvement.” Consider adding “process mapping” and “process maps.”
A place to find lawyers.
Based upon allocating work to the right people, outsourcing, etc.Consider renaming to “talent” and whether innovation should be associated not only with sourcing but also (re)training and different staffing models.
Project ManagementProject Management
Based upon project management principles.“project management” OR “project manager” OR “project managers”
Innovative legal service that does not fit into another category.The dreaded “other.”
Legal Operations
“Legal operations” OR “collaborative disaggregation”“Collaborative disaggregation” is NOT “legal operations.” Avoid integrating a specific provider’s custom marketing term into definitions. Also consider how “legal operations” fits with the rest of the taxonomy. The concept covers many other nodes.[24]

Key: = People= blue; Process = green; Technology = red[25]

  1. Consolidation & Simplification: As suggested above, consider consolidating the taxonomies for the Catalog and Firm Index. If one filters the Catalog by “Alternative Fees,” the dashboard presents a list 5 firms offering a related service. This does not align with what is happening in the marketplace, somewhat confirmed by the Law Firm Index which presents a much longer list of firms. Ideally, the two offerings could be combined, enabling one to drill down seamlessly and evaluate the relevant and supporting data. Separately, consider the value of the Catalog “type.” When is a service a product or consulting, and when is a product a service? Are they all just a “tool?” [26] Aosphere is a self-described legal service[27] but is classified as “consulting,” while Gowlings WSG describes a system to combat online infringement[28] but is classified as “consulting.” These relatively small inconsistencies may suggest keeping things simpler. Like any taxonomy, the “type” classification will not fit neatly every instance. There will be maintenance issues moving forward and, more importantly, it may not be transparent to end users that there is a difference between consulting and services. As products become services and services become products, there may be minimal insights gained through the “type” classification in the Innovation Catalog.[29]
  2. Partners: It would be incredibly helpful for legal service producers and consumers exploring the innovation landscape to see all the partners who are supporting, perhaps driving, innovation. As additional data and information is gathered in phases 2+3, detailed listings of innovation partners with the ability to filter on them will be an important feature as firms and companies consider their build vs. buy options.

IV. Next Steps

The LSII currently offers law firms the opportunity to send directly their innovations for consideration. Although this fits with the planned phase 2, you might consider modifying the form[30] to allow technology vendors, in-house teams, “alternative” legal service providers, and perhaps organizations (ILTA, CLOC, ACC Legal Ops) to offer details of their innovation experience. Initially, this could be limited to innovation experiences associated with law firms. In addition to filling in existing gaps in the current iteration, I suspect that the submissions will help the team further understand how those market participants think about and classify innovation. Regardless of phases and timing, I look forward to future iterations.

  1. Plato, Republic 377a Plato, Republic, 377b; The Republic; p.324.
  2. Research Team
  3. The Legal Services Innovation Index (021)
  4. These go to 11.
  5. A minimum viable product (MVP) to begin learning, and begin iterating through cycles of creating better products. Legal Services Innovation Index Overview.See The Lean Startup Methodology.
  6. Alternatively read the Legal Services Innovation Index Overview and/or view the embedded video from the 2017 Legal Hackers International Summit.
  7. Lists were sourced from The College of Law Practice Management, Janders Dean, Jordan Furlong, Ron Friedman, Carla Swansburg, and others. Innovation Catalog, START: Overview & Methodology
  8. ACC, CLOC, clients, “alternative” providers, and vendors.
  9. It generally does not included entities formed primarily for purpose so outsourcing (off or near sourcing) labor, particularly if the entity is not contributing to innovation efforts. Innovation Catalog, START: Overview & Methodology
  10. Alternative Fees; Artificial Intelligence; Assisted Document Review; Client Education; Connectivity; Contract Management; Data Analytics; Document Assembly; Expert System; Incubator; Information Management; Innovation Entity; Knowledge Management; Process Improvement; Marketplace; People; Project Management; and Services. See Innovation Catalog, START: Overview & Methodology.
  11. Consulting, product, or service.
  12. Based on Chambers and Partners areas of law listings. See Innovation Catalog, START: Overview & Methodology.
  13. Alternative Fees (AFAs), Artificial Intelligence; Automation Basics; Blockchain; Data Analytics; Knowledge Management; Legal Operations; Proactive Law; Process Improvement and Innovation Framework; and Project Management.. Law Firm Index, START: Overview & Methodology.
  14. I developed numerous law firm systems, processes and staffing models for internal and external clients. Additionally, as an in-house senior legal operations professional and consultant, I explore innovative ways to support the legal team and the delivery of legal services to internal business partners. About me; LinkedIn.
  15. E.g., Allen & Overy’s aosphere affiliate and Litter’s Compliance HR are two of the 19 currently listed expert systems.
  16. Law Firm Innovation and Technology Adoption: United Kingdom Law Firms Leading the Way?
  17. See Are You Suffering From the Curse of Knowledge?; The Curse of Knowledge
  18. See Collaborative Disaggregation: Law Firms Can Delight Clients with the Right Technology; CLOC; ACC Legal Operations Maturity Model.
  19. Keywords Before TAR? What to Ask First, http://www.legaltechnews.com/id=1202796708355/Keywords-Before-TAR-What-to-Ask-First?kw=Keywords%20Before%20TARews.
  20. Separately, is the Blank Rome “hit” on “legal operations” due to the presence of an Abbott Labs legal operations professional on the PLI Advanced Patent Prosecution brochure? CF. Ballard Spahr reference to working with client legal operations personnel.
  21. See Does Anyone Do Taxonomy Anymore?, https://km.iltanet.org/2015/09/27/does-anyone-do-taxonomy-anymore/
  22. Clients also consider and look for value-based fees. See ACC Value-Based Fee Primer.
  23. See Avoid Category Names That Suck
  24. See CLOC; ACC Legal Operations Maturity Model.
  25. Based on primary classification. Some necessarily cut across 2 or 3 classifications.
  26. See aosphere testimonial: “We have found it to be a comprehensive tool. Having access to the underlying legal opinions is a definite bonus. The quality and layout of the site is user friendly, we find the comparison tool to be very useful.” Lloyds TSB Bank plc
  27. https://www.aosphere.com/aos/Home
  28. https://gowlingwlg.com/en/global/insights-resources/client-work/technology-to-detect-ip-infringements
  29. The issue gets a bit more complex as one views the “services” tool/discipline that is effectively an “other.” See also Pinset Mason’s Cericos regulatory compliance “solution” classified a “Services” discipline but yet correctly classified as a product.
  30. http://www.legaltechinnovation.com/submit-law-firms-innovation/