Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession Fourth Annual Awards Dinner: Innovation and the Future of Work

The Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, a research organization dedicated to studying the global legal profession led by Professor David B. Wilkins, recently hosted a series of events in the Bay Area to celebrate leading innovators in the law as well as to discuss the Center’s new research project on how legal organizations “operationalize innovation.”

On June 14, the Center hosted its Fourth Annual Awards Dinner: Innovation and the Future of Work in San Francisco where, 180 leading lawyers, academics, and policymakers gathered to celebrate three pioneers in the field of legal innovation: Kate Adams, SVP and General Counsel of Apple Inc., who received the Center’s Award for Global Leadership, and Kim Rivera, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel of HP Inc., and Mark Harris, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Axiom Global, Inc., who both received the Center’s Award for Professional Excellence. At the dinner, Professor Wilkins also released preliminary findings from a study on the emergence of innovation officers within law firms and in-house legal departments. The data offered a snapshot of the career and professional backgrounds of leaders occupying these increasingly common and important roles, as well as examples of how legal organizations define and operationalize innovation, including key sources of support and resistance. On the project Wilkins comments, “While innovation is often talked about in theory, the Center is focused on understanding it from the bottom-up based on how it is operationalized in practice. Core to this process are increasingly empowered legal operation professionals within companies and chief innovation officers at law firms.” Results from the survey will be published this fall in the Center’s digital magazine, The Practice.

To further examine what innovation means in practice, on June 15-16, the Center hosted a Colloquium on Operationalizing Innovation on Google’s main campus in Mountain, CA. The event brought together approximately 80 innovation leaders from around the world, half from law firms and half from in-house legal departments, to engage in a series of in-depth workshops around two topics central to operationalizing innovation: career paths in innovation, and the formation and implementation of quality metrics. Facilitated by Professor Wilkins and Rochael Soper Adranly, the general counsel and legal design lead of IDEO, participants were lead through an intensive series of interactive “design thinking” session aimed at addressing questions such as: How might we design an innovation career path that attracts and retains top talent? How can legal organizations incentivize innovation work? How might firms and companies work together to develop mutually agreeable, objective metrics to measure the “quality” of legal services? At the end of the Colloquium, participants committed to taking at least one of the ideas generated over the two days – artfully recorded during brainstorming sessions on colorful post-it notes stuck to the walls as is common in design thinking sessions—and work on it over the next year. The Center is tracking their progress on these new initiatives through an Operationalizing Innovation Leadership Group and will host another Colloquium next spring where participants will report on their experiences. To learn more or to get involved, email the Center’s research director Bryon Fong at bfong@law.harvard.edu