The true meaning of innovation // Editor’s Note

Melissa Kluger
Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean new. Sometimes, it’s about finding a creative way to revive an old tradition

By Melissa Kluger

On Tuesday December 1st, 2020


Can we talk about pandemic hobbies for a minute? I never got on the sourdough bandwagon, but I’ve been pursuing a long list of calm-inducing activities over these stress-filled months. There’s been gardening, home decorating and online shopping. I also got remarkably into birdwatching. Equipped with nothing more than a bird-identification app on my phone, I spotted swooping hawks, elegant swans and a bright orange Baltimore oriole. There was something meditative and relaxing about it. Then I was chased by an overly aggressive red-winged blackbird that landed right on my head. And that was the end of my birdwatching pursuit.

The hobby that has really helped get me through the lockdown, though, is cross-stitching. Sure, it sounds old-fashioned and a bit dull, but it’s a calming and rewarding thing to do indoors for hours on end. (Though it’s much easier in the daylight, since the work is so tiny and can be hard to see.) It feels good to leave my screen for a while and do something artistic with my hands. A welcome reprieve from the Zooming, texting, emailing and that other hobby of mine: online shopping.

Given my great appreciation of needlework, I was very excited when the Precedent art directors suggested that artist Ashley Wong illustrate our cover story (“The Precedent Innovation Awards”). Wong sews her illustrations, so we were going to illustrate new and envelope-pushing ideas in the legal profession with an old, traditional medium.

That dissonance, in my view, sends a powerful visual message. We often think of innovation in a narrow sense, limited to fancy apps or self-driving cars or tourist trips to the moon. But innovation is a broader concept. All it requires is looking at a problem in a new light and finding a solution. And so, while some winners of our innovation awards have built modern technology — such as an impressive software program that improves the construction industry and an online resource that helps lawyers navigate the Commercial List — others have relied on tradition. One lawyer built a new network of senior in-house counsel; another offers mobile legal services in a pandemic-friendly Mercedes. As you read about these winners, I hope you are inspired to look for opportunities for change within your own practice or organization.

Speaking of what is old being new again: Precedent is back in print. When the pandemic hit, we took a break from printing and relied solely on digital distribution. For this issue, however, we have returned to good old-fashioned print. Which, given all the challenges we’ve faced, actually feels super innovative right about now.

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Melissa Kluger
Publisher & Editor

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More from the Winter Issue

Dominique Hussey Illustrated Portrait

Portrait of Brooke MacKenzie holding a gameshow buzzer

Illustration of father with child holding a tablet

Black and white photo of Lisa Jørgensen wearing a mask and standing in front of Old City Hall

Illustration of students wearing masks