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Creating Value in Law. Is It Time to Stop, Collaborate and Listen?.

NewLaw, legal innovation and LegalTech are all words we know (and love!), but in the words of the infamous Vanilla Ice is it time to “stop, collaborate and listen”?   Ok, not stop stop, but have you paused and come up for air recently?  Taken time to really get a macro view of yourself, your work, your profession... even the world?!  Just stopped and considered – what is my value?  What value do I bring to my customers? Could I be of better value? If so, how do I action this?  

We know that a key driver of legal innovation is to reduce repetitive tasks.  The mindset is that anything we do which is formulaic should be automated.  If you've reviewed an NDA recently (or purchase order, or routine sales agreement)... it’s time to stop, plan and automate.  It may take some work, but the results are glorious.  

The glorious result of taking these repetitive (often life sucking) tasks away from us is that we have more time to really create value (and enjoyment) by doing more high level and creative tasks – use our brains as a computer can’t.  Using process design, technology and design thinking, the legal world now allows a lawyer to be much more than just the law.  We are inventors, strategists and creators.  But to embrace this fully, we also need to change how we work.  I query whether we're really utilising this new found “creative” space?   

So no more NDAs, but as lawyers we are used to working hard – long hours have always been part and parcel of the job.  You’ve likely just filled that gap with all the other tasks on your list.  But let’s challenge this.   We often hear people say (and let’s be honest... say ourselves) “I’m so busy I don’t have time to think”.  Well that excuse is becoming less impactful.  Remember better processes and technology has given you back some of your time.  So ask yourself: how are you going to optimise it? 

I challenge us to use this time not just with other tasks on our list, but to stop, collaborate and listen.  Why?  Because we all have these highly intelligent minds, but to really ensure that we’re creating excellence, we need to give them time to think, without distraction, of the bigger picture.  First, stop. Go to a cafe, go for a walk, or otherwise put yourself in a different physical space away from the usual distractions for an hour.  If you are still in front of your computer and next to your phone it is simply too easy to fall back into old patterns and not take advantage of this additional time.  Second, collaborate.  This may be a friend, a colleague, a mentor, or perhaps at first you simply focus on what you want to collaborate upon and with whom.  But brainstorming, ideating and strategic thinking is an exercise best practised with others that you can trust and that will challenge your preconceived notions.  Finally, listen.  Listen to that nagging voice in your head that has left you feeling like there is a better way to do things.  The voice that challenges you to think about what is it that you do better than anyone else, and the things that your customers and colleagues truly value. Take the time to do your macro thinking – write, map, listen to a podcast or read.  Think about the value of the work you are doing and who you’re doing it for.  Do this once a week (day?!).  Refine and revise your ideas.  Show your ideas to new collaboration partners and challenge them to critique and build on those ideas.  Throw things out and start again.  Fail creatively.   

This will be when we come up with the ideas and changes that will create the most impact in our lives (work or otherwise).   This is when we change the (legal) world!  

If you do accept the challenge... please let me know how you went!  

And for those who can’t get Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby out of their heads, listen here! 

Annalise Haigh