Innovation is not a concept that lawyers talk about much. The law itself is very slow to adapt – whether to cultural shifts, technology advances, or world events – and we constantly find ourselves having to work within the existing legal framework to find new solutions.
Kelly Twigger, Marquette 1997, is the principal of ESI Attorneys in Boulder, Colo. She continues to practice in Wisconsin and was recognized as a Legal Innovator last year for her development of the eDiscovery Assistant™ – a case management tool for e-discovery.
In reality, lawyers innovate every day. We assess legal problems that span race, gender, and social status and we come up with creative solutions to advise our clients on the best way forward.
Innovation is thinking outside the box, identifying the problem and finding a solution. Innovation is answering the question – what problem are you trying to solve?
All five winners of last year’s inaugural Wisconsin Legal Innovators award from the State Bar of Wisconsin asked and answered that question. There was one difference between what they did and what you do every day in your practice – they asked:
How can I solve this problem for all the people who need a solution instead of just the one?
Last year’s winners developed an online legal clinic to provide legal services to residents in 33 Wisconsin counties, established a family drug-treatment court to put families back together rather than leaving them moving in and out of the system, formed a clinic of law students to provide legal guidance to small businesses who couldn’t otherwise afford it, took a legal clinic mobile – literally, on a bus – to provide services to those who couldn’t come to the clinic, and designed software to allow for better management of e-discovery.
Many of you reading this article are innovators. You’re reading it now because the term resonates with you. You have ideas on which you want to build, and you’re hesitating. Stop hesitating. Reach out to one of last year’s winners to get some ideas on where to go from here. We are happy to talk about how we went from “idea” to where we are now. (See “Legal Innovation: Ideas That Spark Change” in the April 2014 Wisconsin Lawyer.)
Innovation comes when you follow your passion. And, as Elle Woods tells us, passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law and life.
I’ll be looking for your name in next year’s awards.