“Genuine innovators are those that not only say they're innovative, but they stick their neck out and show the profession that they are,” Andrew Barnes, president of ALPMA, told Lawyers Weekly.
“They are not only seeking greater efficiencies and effectiveness for their firms, but are also leading their profession into uncharted waters.”
Mr Barnes said that there is a difference between being proactively innovative and reactively innovative, which separates the genuine innovators from the rest.
He said proactive innovation happens “when you've got the time and the resources to be thinking about what and how you want to be doing things going forward”.
While reactive innovation is “reactive in the terms that you're being innovative by mimicking others, potentially in a survival mode”.
According to Mr Barnes, start-up firms are genuine innovators by nature, but that smaller established firms may struggle to be proactively innovative.
“For small practices in the start-up phase, the moment they decide to do something differently, they're innovating,” he said.
“They don’t have to undo years of habit and procedures. They're innovative by nature in that they're starting from scratch and doing something new, not by replicating other firms but by trying to carve their own niche in a very competitive market.”
While Mr Barnes said he doesn’t have any evidence to be categorical in saying that the smaller established firms are being left behind, he would expect that an inability to invest in technology would mean that it may catch up with them at some point.
“If [small firms] are doing the same thing today as what they expect to be doing in five years, there's every chance that all sorts of start-ups and new tech ways of delivery will have overtaken them,” he said.
Mr Barnes said the only way firms can prove they are being genuine innovators is by sharing their innovations with the profession.
“You can say you're innovative, but those that really are, are the ones that are prepared to put themselves up for judgement.”
Mr Barnes said there are many platforms for firms to be putting their hand up, such as the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards.
“Firms are being gracious when they do this because when you get a competitive advantage through your own innovation you tend to want to keep it to yourself, but these guys like to be recognised and contribute to the profession by putting their hand up and saying 'we believe that what we've developed here is worth sharing',” he said.
“The profession owes them some gratitude that they're prepared to share with us what they're doing. Sticking your neck out saying 'we're innovative, what do you think?' is a good characteristic and it helps the profession.”