122: Innovator Behaviors with Michele DeStefano

This month the LeftFoot Podcast features Michele DeStefano; her recent book Legal Upheaval provides the backdrop for a conversation focused on innovation in today’s legal environment.

Through her work and research for her book, Michele confirmed that clients are looking for a new type of collaborative service disguised in their request for innovation.

Along with lawyers that know their practice area, can guide and have a point of view; using business language to convey it; clients want lawyers that express the behaviors of innovators – asking different questions, listening and applying a different approach to problem finding and problem resolution.

Let’s look at an example.  A bank was struggling to show they had complied with a consumer-facing compliance request.  In this circumstance, an advisor would typically help the bank show and communicate that they’re in compliance.  The alternative response included talking with and hearing from consumers.  This bank didn’t have a compliance problem, they had a communication issue, once contacted the consumers noted that they didn’t understand the process employed. The result was education for consumers – and proof of compliance for the bank.

Recognizing the disconnect between what customers ask for and what lawyers deliver; this is an example of the culture change occurring within in-house legal and firms. They’re working jointly, investing in partnerships, and sharing risks to advance the industry.

Michele DeStefano is a lawyer, professor at the University of Miami, and guest faculty at Harvard Law School’s Executive Education program.  In her book Legal Upheaval, she provides evidence that collaborative innovation is the new value equation in law.