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Innovation – from lawyers?

March 17, 2014

Many non-lawyers chuckle when ‘innovation’ and ‘lawyer’ are mentioned in the same sentence. The legal profession is not renowned for being at the forefront of change.

Yet the Innovative Lawyer Awards, featured each year in the Financial Times, demonstrate that there are in fact many in-house counsel and law firms anxious to dispel this image. And at the first Innovative General Counsel Congress, held in Rome last week, more than 60 top executives came together to share ideas and experiences.

My role at the Congress was to present on the topic of contract management – seen by many as an area that demands greater attention from the law profession. Indeed, it was positioned as a major source of value-add that can substantially increase the role and relevance of the law department.

I drew on four recent examples where IACCM is working with in-house counsel to tackle broad business issues that extend beyond the function’s typical role.

  • Industry standard contracts: several instances where large corporations are grouping together to eliminate low-value negotiation and shift focus to governance and performance terms that reduce the chances of the deal going wrong.
  • Relational contracts: contract models that support more collaborative relationships and make an organization easier to do business with.
  • Economic impact: analysis of the effect of different terms and conditions, and alternates to them, on bottom-line performance.
  • Revenue improvement: provide business management methods and tools that address the complexity of today’s trading environment and support the introduction of specific revenue improvement targets.

These examples are certainly not the norm; but that is why they are innovative. There are certainly many opportunities for lawyers to move to the forefront of the change agenda – though to succeed, they may need to team more effectively with others from the business. As one delegate pointed out, the world appears divided between ‘lawyers’ and ‘non-lawyers’. “There is no other profession that thinks this way,” he observed. “Have you ever heard of non-doctors, non-accountants or non-engineers?”

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