“This is what makes time travel possible: the flux capacitor!”
— Doc Brown, Back to the Future (1985)
Ah, the flux capacitor. Takes me back to the mid-’80s when a wide-eyed, dishevelled Doc Brown, with wild grey hair and an overloaded pocket protector, explained his time-travelling DeLorean to Marty McFly in Back to the Future.
When I was growing up in the ’80s, Doc Brown was the iconic inventor: the crazy old man tinkering away in a chaotic laboratory inventing cool stuff and being misunderstood by the world. But the idea that this is what an innovator looks like creates a problem. If we compare our own ideas to time-travelling science fiction, it’s difficult to see ourselves as innovators.
Especially in law. It can be hard to find ways to innovate in our profession. Daily practice is demanding enough, plus the billable-hour model doesn’t offer much of an incentive to find ways to do things faster.
But no one is building a DeLorean to improve access to justice or provide better service to our clients. If we don’t innovate ourselves, no one is going to do it for us. The only people who know what’s broken and what needs to be fixed are the lawyers. As Marty McFly would say: heavy.
In this issue of Precedent, you’ll meet the winners of the inaugural Precedent Innovation Awards. They’re all working lawyers who identified a specific problem and found a workable solution. Some of their projects are tech-based ideas that find better ways to store, share and save information. But some of them have nothing to do with technology. They focus on other facets of the profession, such as the recruitment process and the workplace. That counts as innovation, too.
I hope you find this year’s winners as inspiring as I do. Not only to think big, but to think small. I want their ideas to encourage you to look at your daily work and find small ways to make it better. Maybe it’s an improved efficiency, or maybe it’s a better sense of collegiality. Maybe you can tweak a process or improve a program. Each time you implement a change, you make law better — for yourself, your colleagues and your clients. It may not be the flux capacitor, but it’s innovation at its finest.
Publisher & Editor
More from the Winter Issue
This story is from our Winter 2019 Issue.
Photograph of Melissa Kluger by Ian Patterson