First-of-Its-Kind Research Finds Low Rates of Adoption of Innovation by Law Firms, According to New Report by Baretz+Brunelle

by | Sep 27, 2021

Like the mysterious whisper – “if you build it, he will come” – heard by Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner’s character in the classic movie “Field of Dreams,” many of the world’s leading law firms are building NewLaw tools, only to find significant problems getting their lawyers to adopt them. This is one of the main findings in If You Build It, Will They Come? A Research Report on the Internal Adoption of Innovation by Law Firms, Baretz+Brunelle’s NewLaw practice group’s analysis of new legal service delivery models.

After consistently hearing anecdotes from professionals at leading law firms who had developed what they believed to be great NewLaw initiatives but found them going underused by their firms’ own lawyers, Baretz+Brunelle conducted extensive research into practices at Am Law 200 and Global 100 law firms. This first-ever research on the internal adoption of innovation by law firms includes original, never-reported data on the world’s largest law firms’ use of NewLaw initiatives. The report tackles three main topics:

  • What Has Been Built? An identification of what NewLaw initiatives leading law firms have put in place.
  • Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa. An analysis of the extent to which the initiatives have been adopted and the attorney involvement and overall tenacity it takes to get them off the ground.
  • Go the Distance. An exploration of what separates the firms most successfully getting attorneys to adopt their NewLaw initiatives from their less-successful peers. (This question will be answered in part two of the report, to be released later this year.)

Part one of the report and the research methodology is accessible online here.

“As with the report on captive alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) we published last year, we were surprised at the number of different NewLaw initiatives that firms are attempting,” said Brad Blickstein, partner and co-head of Baretz+Brunelle’s NewLaw practice group. “While firms may not always promote all their offerings publicly, it is clear they understand the need to find new ways to deliver legal services.”

The research asked participants about their adoption of 10 different NewLaw initiatives, including tech-enabled document drafting, data analysis to inform legal judgment, proprietary client-facing technology tools, and captive ALSPs. The results show all 10 being implemented by more than half of the respondents. Six of the 10 initiatives, meanwhile, were being used by 80% or more of respondents. The most adopted initiative – introduced by 95% of the respondents – was tech-enabled document drafting and assembly, or work done by both partners and associates. The least adopted initiative was smart contracts/blockchain, implemented by just over half (51%).

While the right tools are in place, widespread adoption remains challenging for large law firms.

The report also analyzes adoption rates based on a five-point maturity scale, with the low end representing efforts that have not made it past a firm’s innovation team, and the high end reflecting initiatives that are pervasive throughout the organization. The research revealed that adoption of NewLaw initiatives is far from fully mature within firms, and despite a handful of firms ranking certain initiatives highly, most initiatives were scored a 3 or below. Overall, not even one of the initiatives tested could be fairly described as mature.

“In ‘Field of Dreams,’ all Kevin Costner’s character has to do in the film is build a baseball field in the middle of Iowa and ‘people will come; people will most definitely come,’” said Beatrice Seravello, partner and co-head of Baretz+Brunelle’s NewLaw practice group. “The same, however, is not true for the initiatives built by large law firms; our research indicates that internal adoption remains a hurdle.”

The most effective firms are moving in the right direction, however. Part two of this report will examine what makes the most effective firms so successful with adoption.

“Some firms have been more successful than others at driving adoption of new delivery models. Understanding what the more effective firms have done to succeed can provide a roadmap for any firm looking to make innovations stick,” Seravello added.

About Baretz+Brunelle and Its NewLaw Practice Group

Launched in early 2020, Baretz+Brunelle’s NewLaw practice helps law firms thrive in the rapidly transforming legal industry. It is headed by partners Brad Blickstein, the publisher of the long-running and influential Annual Law Department Operations Survey, and Beatrice Seravello, who previously served in a variety of C-suite roles at Am Law 100 firms.

Baretz+Brunelle helps businesses throughout the evolving legal marketplace to stand above. Our clients include elite law firms, premier legal tech companies, innovative alternative legal services providers and leading consulting firms. We provide corporate communications, digital marketing and NewLaw services with a laser-like focus on achieving our clients’ business goals. For more than 20 years, we have helped our clients build brands, protect reputations, raise profiles, improve operations, enter new markets, launch new products and services, announce mergers and manage crises. With offices in New York, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Richmond, Va., and Washington, our team is made up of marketing and communications veterans, journalists, lawyers, chief operating officers and law department experts. We have been named the Best PR Firm in the U.S. for Law Firms by The National Law Journal, the Best PR Firm for Law Firms by The New York Law Journal, and the Best Crisis Management Firm by Legal Times. For more information, visit www.baretzbrunelle.com.

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