Marco Imperiale, lawyer and innovation officer at LCA Studio Legale, provides a fresh and dynamic perspective on innovation in law firms. In this interview, he discusses core concepts like the meaning of innovation, future forecasts for law firms and the peculiarities of the Italian legal market.
Every time we hear the term "innovation", we consciously or unconsciously think about technological innovation: focusing only on technology, however, can be prejudicial. Today, I would like us to concentrate on non-technological innovation. So, what about legal innovation outside the tech field?
I totally agree with you on the point. If we look at the etymological meaning of the term "innovation", we notice that it derives from the combination of Latin words "in" and "novus", which lead to a specific meaning: "looking at things from a new perspective". As we can see, technology is not intrinsically related to the concept. I would go further, saying that even today it is not the most important element, at least when it is used as a means and not as a goal.
Innovation, indeed, goes way beyond technology, both in the legal and in the non-legal world. For example, concepts like smart collaboration – both with clients and among colleagues – work/life balance (or, as I prefer, work/life integration), legal design, data driven analysis and decisions, gamification, and reverse mentoring can be great examples of innovation in the legal world. I would also stress the development of soft skills, like the meaningful use of empathy, both in terms of relationships with colleagues and the acknowledgement of the clients' needs; or a structured approach to feedback, which could help improve professional relationships inside and outside law firms.
Even if these fields are highly different, they have two points in common. The first one is the change of point of view required to the lawyer, in order to provide prompter, better and more informed choices to his clients. The second is the need of a customer-centric approach. The client won't just be the recipient of a service, but rather a journey companion, a source of information, and the best possible ally for the legal professional. The ones who will have the courage to ride the wave of change will shape their success accordingly.
How do you see the Italian legal market scenario 5 years from now? What is your forecast regarding the legal sector along with the issues related to the Italian system?
It is highly difficult to make a prediction, especially because the Italian market is highly peculiar. We not only have an outstanding number of lawyers (more than 240.000 on a 60-million people population), but 5-10% of these lawyers, working for a small number of structured firms, are generating more than the 80% of the market revenue. Furthermore, it is very difficult to transfer forecasts developed for markets like the US, the UK, China or Singapore in our scenario. In fact, these countries showcase different fees, different services and, more in general, a different concept of legal activity.
What I can tell with a certain amount of confidence is that, five years from now, technology and data will play a consistent role in the legal profession: in terms of delivery, commoditization of specific ranges of activity, and choice of legal service providers. I can also see the rise of "the big 4" strategies: the development of alternative service providers, the diversification of the offer, the opening of law firms' committees/boards to external shareholders, and a different relationship between trainees/associates and law firms. Finally, and speaking about the big law scenario, I can expect new partnership forms and the reduction of billable work in favor of pricing solutions more in line with clients' requests
The interesting part is that most, if not all, of these changes are strictly connected with the rules of conduct and the legislation relative to the legal profession. If an evolution (or a revolution) must happen, clear and specific definitions of what needs to be considered as "legal profession" and what are its boundaries and characteristics will be the starting and arrival point.
In order to develop a new business culture inclined towards innovation, we cannot miss the important role of legislation. What are the main favourable conditions in the Italian legislation in support of innovation?
Very interesting question, also considering its relationship with the previous two issues. The role of the legislator is certainly a relevant one. We are shifting from a scenario where the law follows reality and dictates the rules, to one where the law needs to go together with the world we live in, even trying to anticipate its evolution.
From copyright to privacy and competition law, we noticed how distant there rules are from the people.. Law requires prompt analysis, technical language, clarity, and uniformity. When these elements are not present, the risk of uncertainty (even regarding sanctions) and the disconnection from the citizens is a plausible scenario. Probably the best way to shape legal rules that are shared and followed is engaging with the players that are most directly involved in their application, working with them to provide real-time solutions on urgent and highly complex matters.
My favorite example is the sandbox, currently used in the Fintech world. The sandbox, which is basically a flexible regulatory framework provided by the legislator for a limited amount of time, can be a very effective means to experiment, analyze and, finally, delineate tailor-made rules that have relevant chances of being effective and appropriate to the matter in question.
I hope that a solution like the sandbox will be just the beginning of a new legislative era, where stakeholders are engaged and work together with law-makers in order to establish the most basic rules. Exponential innovation, indeed, will affect all the fields we live in. Way more than we can imagine now.
Originally Published by: 4CLegal
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