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Do You Want to Be a Legal Innovator?

If you’re struggling to choose between a firm that is known for sophisticated legal work or a firm that is forward-thinking and innovative, you don’t need to make that choice. At Orrick, innovation is embedded in our practice, both in the advice we provide and the way we deliver legal services. It’s also one of the most rewarding ways you can make an impact as a lawyer.

At Orrick, everyone is engaged in innovating—partners, associates and staff. To make it easier for associates to dedicate time to this, we offer up to 50 hours of “innovation time” each year to work on innovation-related projects, and the hours count toward associate bonuses. We include time spent on learning how to innovate through human-centered design thinking and future of law sessions.

Every one of our innovation ideas begins with identifying an opportunity to make things better for us and our clients. We ask ourselves: How can we simplify the needlessly complex? How can we eliminate a pain point?

We’ve been thrilled by the projects our associates have developed and executed. Here are a few. 

Helping Our Clients Up Their Innovation Game

Rebecca HarlowRebecca Harlow is a senior associate in our San Francisco office. From her first interview at Orrick, she was struck by our focus on innovation. “Throughout my interviews,” she says, “‘innovation’ was the word I heard more than any other.”

For her innovation time, she helped the legal team at a global energy company take a hard look at pain points by co-facilitating an “innovation sprint.” Innovation sprints at Orrick use the principles of design thinking to hack assumptions about how things work and generate ideas about how to do things better.

The sprint at our client was for 100 in-house lawyers. Rebecca says, “We divided them into 12 teams and gave them questions like: What innovations and technology have you seen in other parts of your business which could be helpful for legal? Are there ways to track data to make the legal group work better? Is there work that can be outsourced?” The groups first brainstormed on their own and then presented their best idea to everyone.

Rebecca really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know our client in a more informal setting. She says, “It was great to see how invested everyone was and how creative they got. I think people were really excited to talk about the practical aspects of their jobs and what wasn’t working. After all, everyone can think of things that annoy them about how they work, but we rarely get the chance to focus as a group on how to make it better.”

Building a Tool to Help Companies Comply with New Privacy Laws in the U.S.

Nick FarnsworthNick Farnsworth, an associate in our Boston office, worked with a team to create the CCPA Readiness Assessment Tool. As companies today face an increasingly diverse and complex patchwork of privacy and data security laws, including new sweeping legislation in California, our team created a free tool that delivers a tailored readiness report summarizing the likely key impacts of this new legislation for businesses.

Our Chief Innovation Officer and a team of technologists, including members of our Orrick Analytics operation, provide support for our associates’ ideas. We also give our associates access to the best technology, using tools created in-house and off the shelf. We recently launched a new portal—The Observatory—to track more than 600 technology tools and allow our team to review tech they use, for everyone’s benefit.

This collaboration with the innovation team was particularly helpful for the CCPA Readiness Assessment Tool. Nick says, “We have extremely talented in-house developers and technologists who seamlessly integrated with our legal team for this project. The cohesiveness of our team and the experience of our technologists allowed us to leverage available technology to provide a more customized experience for each user of the CCPA Readiness Assessment Tool. This innovation project showed me that if you develop an impactful idea, Orrick has the talent and resources to make it a reality.” 

Making a Difference

Other Orrick associates have used innovation time to create a tool that scans a complaint and creates a first draft of an answer and discovery requests. Another worked on automating templates for tax certificates. And a third group is designing an app for clients to use to fulfill security compliance expectations around cybersecurity incident response plans.

Nick says, “A lot of law firms talk a big game about being innovative, but few dedicate the necessary resources for the initiative. Orrick not only has an internal team of developers and technologists, it also treats associate time spent on innovation projects as billable, which helped to empower our team to commit the time needed to build an impactful technological solution.”   

The result? Our associates get to make a real difference for our clients. Rebecca says that the global energy company planned to take a closer look at the ideas that were suggested at the sprint to see what they could implement, and a team member from the client shared that they’re talking about using sprint brainstorming sessions as part of their own litigation strategy setting processes.

Orrick innovates in many ways. With Orrick Labs, we undertake larger-scale innovations. We have a corporate venture fund dedicated to investing in promising legal technologies. And we’re recognized as a leader—we’ve been named the most innovative law firm in North America by Financial Times three years in a row. These innovations are changing the way we practice law, and we’re honored to be part of the future.