For more photos of our legal innovators, visit State Bar’s Facebook page. In the meantime, here’s a photo of Anne Smith and the supervising attorneys and law students participating in U.W. Law School’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic. Was law school this fun for you?
Pulling over to the side of the road, the view of Lake Pepin, at the widest part of the Mississippi River, looked like a good place to take a break. The three-day weekend, and dinner with a friend at the Harbor View Café across the street, would wait until after a conference call with Wisconsin Lawyer editorial board members.
That was 15 months ago, the start of our conversations about telling the story of legal innovation in Wisconsin. During that conference call, we wondered, what does innovation look like for the legal profession? Who are the innovators, and will we find them? Could showcasing innovators spark more innovation? Could it change public perception – well, a little anyway – that lawyers don’t innovate, that their training, tradition, culture, and slow adaptation to technology get in the way of viewing legal services through clients’ eyes?
After inviting the legal community for nominations last spring, and with collective excitement, we found our innovators. They’ve devised new ways to create value or an advantage to improve the experience for consumers of legal services or the lawyers providing those services.
Joyce Hastings is the publications director for the State Bar of Wisconsin, and editor of Wisconsin Lawyer magazine.
What did we learn? Our innovators don’t fit a mold. Innovation doesn’t belong exclusively to the young. They are champions of ideas that fill unmet consumer needs or respond to barriers to access to legal services. Most of our innovators would tell you that “it takes a village.” They are quick to credit others for their roles in developing or sustaining the innovation. And, when our innovators met for a photo shoot at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, they freely swapped grant-writing tips and other advice.
While a select number of nominations were chosen as our top innovators, we will continue to feature other nominees for their creative or innovative solutions to delivering legal services. Read Tom Burton’s 10 Questions column in this issue on how he built a virtual practice, without the technical know-how. A new lawyer in Chippewa Falls, Burton was cash strapped and looking for a way to open a law practice without taking on more debt.
We’re confident we’re just scratching the surface of Wisconsin legal innovation. That’s good, because we’re doing this again next year – and we want to hear your story.
Taking a cue from our innovators, credit for the “That’s a Fine Idea! Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative goes to the behind-the-scenes crew, Communications Committee members who serve on this magazine’s editorial board: Susan Schaubel, Tom Watson, Erik Guenther, Nilesh Patel, Kristen Degeneffe, and Alexandra Smathers. And, we’re confident we’re just scratching the surface of Wisconsin legal innovation. That’s good, because we’re doing this again next year – and we want to hear your story.
I returned to the Great River Road a couple months ago. Driving past Lake Pepin, I thought of the changes to area commerce since Pepin was settled by French trappers in the mid-1800s. Innovation – it’s about survival.