The Talent Innovation Formula: Lessons from Law Firms

Did you know relaxing makes you more creative? ( Geoffrey James, Inc. )

Did you know relaxing makes you more creative? (Geoffrey James, Inc.)

8 minute read

In an earlier article we talked about the Talent Innovation Formula as the key to accelerate innovation in law firms.While it may not take a genius to figure out that innovation begins with attracting the innovators of tomorrow today, it’s easier said than done.

That’s why we’ve highlighted some of the most exciting initiatives run in top law firms this year.

Attracting tomorrow’s innovators: Allen & Overy’s new legal tech graduate scheme

Igniting tomorrow’s innovation begins with the potential innovators. One example of a firm ahead of the curve is Allen & Overy. Having recently introduced their legal tech graduate recruitment scheme, A&O have been able to combine the best of what has been done right, like retaining the two-year, four-seat structure of a traditional training contract, while adapting their process to draw in the tech savvy trainees with the potential to shake things up.

The scheme is designed to target “ideally” those from science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) background, or economics degrees. Yet A&O have been wise to include the flexibility to not make this a requirement, but a preference, ensuring they are still keeping the top talent from traditional fields.

The four successful candidates will sit in both the firm’s project management office and its legal tech team, and upon completion of their training, will have a recognised qualification in project or process management.

Kevin Oliver, the head of advanced delivery technology at the firm, says they’ll be given “exactly the same level of training and access as our trainee lawyers”. He adds:“Technology is only going to increase in importance and we expect that this group of people will play a crucial role in shaping the legal landscape of the future.”

In this, Allen & Overy have lined themselves up to have a team of graduates with work in fields including artificial intelligence (AI) and data extraction, present technology demonstrations, as well as the skills of a lawyer. 

We can see this talent blending occurring in instances such as the evolution of the role of General Counsels expanding beyond simply managing risk. Jochen Kasper, vice president and legal counsel Europe, Middle East and Africa for software firm Infor comments on the benefit of this skill hybridisation.

“While law firms focus on legal problems, internal legal resources concentrate on providing solutions that fit both from a legal perspective and a commercial perspective, it is the combination of the legal and commercial understanding of the business case that allows the internal legal function to be more innovative than an external attorney.” - Jochen Kasper, VP EMEA, Infor

It is in cultivating this blend of legal and non-legal skills, that more value can begin to be unearthed with the potential to act as the arbiter needed to champion the cause of innovation to resistant internal departments.

Fostering Cognitive Diversity: CMS By Design

It is now categorically a sign of progress that diversity is embraced within the workforce. it is only right that people of all backgrounds are not just properly represented, but also fairly treated. Yet diversity is more than skin deep. In 2019, we’re going on step further as cognitive diversity is all the new rage.

Cognitive (or deep) diversity is the differentiation in how individuals think, feel, and act. It’s this intellectual variation that has been found to drive differentiation in performance. Studies such as the one by Torchia et al. (2015) have found that “boards of directors with a broader range of cognitive diversity, such as different thinking styles and values,” are the ones whose leadership discussions results in “more creative and innovative decision-making”. The legal sector has been quick to pick up on this trend, as we are now seeing the rise of less traditional C-level roles in regards to technology, information, business development, and our personal favourite, talent (Amlaw).  

One big example of this can be seen in the new initiative of CMS called By Design. Composed of partners from the firm’s key sector groups, business service specialists, external advisors and, importantly, clients. By Design is responsible for delivering non-traditional client services in fields such as Mix, Digital Academy, Instinctive Understanding and Developers on Demand.

“[By design will] continue to build a culture of innovation which will accelerate the way (CMS) create new, tailored and better services for and in collaboration with clients. (…) [The program] will also enhance the careers of our people and help us continue to build a successful, global, future-facing law firm.” - Penelope Warne, Senior Partner, CMS

Hiring for the traits that matter

Traditionally hired for experience, industry background and existing skills has been the norm - and many in the legal industry know that candidates - whether it’d be in fee-earning, innovation or businesses services positions - who have done the identical role previously are preferred.

However, as the nature of work is evolving rapidly through newly introduced technology, and will require ongoing adaptations to new technology going forward, should we not challenge this view, and look to hire for future competencies and skills instead? 

We’ve seen some firms beginning to adopt this practice, Amanda K. Brady, Global Practice Leader for Major Lindsey & Africa’s Law Firm Management practice found that candidates who hail from industries outside of legal in COO and CFO roles were equipped with impressive technical skills coupled with highly service-oriented backgrounds that translated well to the law firm environment (click here to read more about this interesting study).

This also goes beyond C-level hiring, however, few are ultimately willing to take the perceived “risk” of hiring these less traditional profiles. The challenge is that existing talent attraction and selection is not designed around building an innovative talent strategy, and still relies too heavily on CVs and past experience as a proxy, as better data around the real competencies that drive success are not available. 

This is where technology and artificial intelligence itself can accelerate the talent innovation formula. The latest advances in AI, coupled with behavioural science, can enable HR professionals to identify competencies and skills that matter - those that drive performance in a function and within a team. By capturing and looking at traits such as openness to change and adaptability, you can incorporate an objective and innovative element in your recruitment process.

The power of people science and machine learning can transform the type of people you are hiring and unlock the benefits of innovation in your firm. In the last 3 years, at Jump, we have seen clients radically change their company by using this new formula. With a national - top tier litigation firm, we have seen an increase of 10x in the interview to hire rate and achieve 100% retention in all new hire, as candidates are already matched to criteria that would normally only be considered in a later stage of the recruitment process, such as the motivation for the role aligning with their career ambitions.

By hiring based on competencies and other innate traits, you can bring a fresh perspective to both your hiring process and teams, and bring in the right professionals to drive forward innovation in your firm.

In short.

As seen from leading law firms, if you want to enable your firm to innovate, you need first and foremost to innovate the way we think about people strategy - and in particular how you can attract, nurture and foster talent that innovates. 

As Barack Obama said:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” 

Keen to chat more? We are too.

— Click here to share your feedback with us.