This is a live blog post of Microsoft’s Trusted Advisor Forum on Innovation webinar on 17 June 2020. As with all my live posts, please forgive any typos or errors of understanding. I post this as the session ends.

The full description of the event is below. A speaker reports this event has almost 300 registrant and between 200 and 250 were attending at about the 30 minute mark.

This is a long post. This was a full two-hour session.

Background and Context – Microsoft Modern Legal and Its Innovation Initiatives

Microsoft asked providers for ideas, following the advice of D. Casey Flaherty in his book “Unless You Ask”. We got ideas but it was hard to know how to move forward. So Microsoft brought in Bold Duck to help with making ideas concrete, “get the ideas unstuck”. They helped us get more specific, ideate on challenges, consider resources and solutions, and stress-test ideas with internal Microsoft clients.

Microsoft had planned for a live, onsite, in-person event on 4 March 2020. Many ideas have arisen from social events and hallways conversations in the first live event in 2018. That would have been a big event, bigger than the 2018 first one. Many workshops were planned, much learning intended. It had to be cancelled.

A lot of planning goes into the event planning. We were receiving presentations from law firms. We were inviting internal stakeholders. The Modern Legal Team was just starting. This was, in a way, to be our debut, a way to share our vision and strategy for digital transformation. All were very disappointed to cancel the live event.

The planning team then moved to a virtual event. It realized it could not just fully transfer the live program to be virtual – redesign was necessary.

Microsoft has seen its outside counsel innovating more and bringing more professional staff, eg, tech and pricing professionals, to potential or actual engagements. Our firms are leading with more ideas. Microsoft asks firms about their innovation and that factors into selecting firms.

Microsoft Dev Stahlkopf, Corporate Vice President (CVP) and General Counsel (GC)., Opening Remarks

Our forums have covered design, diversity, and tech. We always learn at the sessions, about the content and our partners. The conversation today is about digital transformation.

Dev points out that legal market and lawyers are incredibly slow at change and digital transformation. A focus on precedent and the billable hour inhibit change. And the stakes feel high when we change or use technology. But legal cannot afford not to transform as the world around us goes digital. Virtually all companies and industries are going digital. We cannot lag; we must scale to meet new demands; and we will need to leverage tech to this.

The Microsoft Law Department has been on a digital transformation for years. Cites e-Discovery changes as an example of how work has changed, eg, move to open source approach. Also: using tools to budget and track them; tech to track compliance and flag potential issues.

But we need to focus more energy and cultural change support to digitally transform fully. Microsoft has created a dedicated team, the Modern Legal Team, led by Jason Barnwell, to drive the law department’s digital transformation. See Jason’s blog post at Legal Evolution for background on his.

Even for us, a tech company, the journey and transformation are not easy. There are three big issues to deal with:

  1. The psychology safety factor. It’s important that everyone is comfortable with taking risks – and failing.
  2. Prioritization: balancing short- and long-term. It’s hard to invest short-term to get long-term gain.
  3. De-Prioritization: we have to give permission to give lawyers time to work on all this.

We now also have to think about how we work post-pandemic. We will go back to in-person but in different ways. We will also have to use more data to drive our decisions. And we have to remember that relationships will continue to be very important. Tech enhances relationships – not replace them; how we can be better together.

COVID-19 Impact on Digital Transformation

Jason Barnwell : Dev directed us to move faster on the digital transformation journey given the COVID crisis. We started with the “productivity tent” to help with work from home – the productivity tools.

We started thinking about “fast starts” to help our team more productive quickly, with smaller initiatives. And we needed, at the same time, to build an infrastructure for longer term scalability. And finally, we needed visible successes quickly to get the success flywheel going – that helps shift the culture and community.

The community is key – it helps align and move the organization. Culture and incentives drive the change; community governs what they do and how. So you need to build a culture and community that encourage the behaviors we want to see, specifically, the “we” more than the “me”.

Community Mindset, Innovation and Knowledge Management

HiveMind was a purpose built tool built for Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs. There is a video demo. Highlights:

  • To each email, add an extra email address and some tags. This causes the email to go to SharePoint and, via SharePoint, to MS Teams. If there is a document attached to email, it’s automatically attached. There is logic to prevent duplicate entries. When outside counsel replies, it too automatically goes to the same folders.
  • Special tags can highlight frequently used common knowledge. The system can automatically reply with common answers, based on the tags.
  • Search and filtering allows finding tagged content and doing some analysis, eg, trends over time.

HiveMind is a prototype. Jason explains the background – it came out of a hackathon a couple of years ago. The key observation: there was a lot of context switching work by lawyers. The idea was to reduce and simplify that, to reduce context switching. Jason says this was built with “citizen developer tools”, meaning little development.

Rebecca mentions that HiveMind takes email that would only be seen by a few people and opens it up to a broader team. We are moving information from outside the email silo to a community of knowledge and sharing.

Designing Innovation and Acceleration

Josh Kubicki of Bold Duck tees up two videos for further background – one on the design accelerator and on Modern Legal research. Then one about a montage of all the teams that participated in the innovation challenge.

The premise for the first, focused on Acceleration and Design Remix at Microsoft Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs (CELA) is that innovation is an improvement, at scale, that departs from status quo, and that sets-up a new product, service, or environment. The video focuses on designing innovation.

Innovation starts from a human need, from looking at how people work. It needs to be people-centric. “Inclusive design” is Microsoft’s commitment to change fundamentally how Microsoft builds product. This is an initiative to stop forcing users to adapt to the tech and design the product to work for people, including those differently abled. “Let’s not force our users to bend.” This reflects an ethos at Microsoft illustrated in this slide:

This statement explains the emphasis on culture and community. What Bold Duck, a design studio, is doing with Microsoft is building a Design Accelerator. Create the conditions for innovation, based on research and analytic process.

Josh says “design thinking” is essential but only a part of the process. That has to be paired with rigorous business analytics. The Design Accelerator mashes the two together.

Josh points out that, looking across organizations, there is a lot of fatigue around innovation. Therefore, Microsoft focuses on responsible and sustainable innovation. It has to stick, and do so naturally.

There is a research mission that supports meaningful and predictable outcomes. This will help better use innovation resources, generate enthusiasm, and de-risk change.

More about the research element…. 2020 applied research “by the numbers”:

There are 19 client-side innovation initiatives revolving around contract management, digital collaboration, IP Transaction strategy and IP, and new service models. Joshua observes that these three top goals have been the same for years.

Research and the Design Process

Joshua presents… principles of design methodology turn on define the problem. And then you need the right resources, which includes people with the right skills. The solution must be “valid, feasible, and desirable.” See for details.

Don’t chase “weak problems”. This is an approach often of the self-centered, an egomania. We need to challenge ourselves. The expression “people, process, and technology” and it’s “tired and not useful”. It is a trope that helps avoid essential critical thinking. This is a big reason for doing the research.

Bold Duck focuses instead on:

Functional refers to what people want to get done; the social is about how people want to be perceived; and the emotional is about how they fell in doing the work / job.

The functional first step is the operational component. What is daily like life – how are people doing their work, keeping the lights on, maintaining the business. The second step, the business reason, is validating the problem with data and by talking to users – make sure you are solving the right problem. The third is method – research different methods such as design or lean to solve problems. A caution: learning a method takes more than one class.

Communication is key to getting buy-in. Every communication is an interaction and creates a feeling. You can build support, create “antibodies”, or “hidden drags”. Map and understand the culture – without disrupting or alienating. Learn the incentives and avoid the anchors.

The emotional involves bringing the players along with both extrinsic (eg, money or recognition) and intrinsic (“I want to do it”) motivation.

Design Accelerator

A structured process to innovate

A more detailed slide (not captured), shows a non-linear process.

The Design Accelerator will start after this call and operate over the next few months.

Submissions from Law Firms and Providers

Notes from video montage… 11 service provders, 9 teams, develop 11 in-depth proposals. All teams had to pivot to present virtually because of COVID. Microsoft shares reactions to some of the submissions.

Orrick, Sidley, and Fish & Richardson submissions on “integrated workforces”, which includes knowledge capture, communications, efficiency, and risk mitigation. Designed to overcome on silos, especially heavy reliance on email. The pitches rested on workflows and processes.

Arent Fox, K&L Gates, and Merchant & Gould submissions on “working smarter”. This is about aligning resources to focus on the biggest impact. The scarcest resource is human attention. Their proposals removed activity that have no impact, and that sends work to right resource, and what can be mechanized, and what humans should work on. An example is more structured intake with self-service opportunities and creating a “knowledge refinery loop” to capture and re-use answers.

Covington and Integreon submissions focused on activating communications and relationships. Covington took traditional 1 to 1 law firm – client and breaking it apart. The Integreon proposal focused on more systematic and in-depth feedback, to use that to inform future improvements.

The “trio” – Perkins Coie, Greenberg Traurig, and Davis Wright Tremaine submissions hits all the themes of interesting. Joshua said theirs stood out for inclusiveness, specifically including both lawyers and other legal professionals. Their proposals included up and down their organizations. The three firms came together to focus on Microsoft objectives, putting aside any competitive considerations. They became the kind of community Microsoft likes to see.

The Two Teams Moving Forward to the Design Accelerator

Deciding on the two teams was hard

The trio – Perkins Coie, Greenberg Traurig, and Davis Wright Tremaine – for virtual law firm model (see above).

K&L Gates – support for carbon neutral by 2030, which involves tracking, real time support, support for agility, and scalable model for other functional areas.

Other Notes

Moderator writes, in the comments: “If you want the kinds of system that are being discussed you have to devote dedicated resources to making them happen. It needs to be someone’s job to develop the frameworks and advance the work that fills the frame. If you weave the objectives served by the programs into your strategy and tie the outcomes to your business objectives then people will drive the outcomes, inclusive of the relationships and infrastructure. I have written too many words. Make it someone’s job. Find the right person. Empower them. Create the right culture. They will make it happen.

About this Event (link to this page)

In early 2020, the Microsoft Corporate, External and Legal Affairs organization launched the Legal Business Design Challenge. We invited our strategic legal service providers to help us address the following:

How might Microsoft’s legal services partners accelerate our Modern Legal journey in a measurable way?

Our goal, then and now, is to create sustainable innovation models through a focus on legal business design. In partnership with Bold Duck Studio, we developed a program that builds upon our earlier attempts to drive innovation in legal service delivery. Eleven providers answered the challenge. During this live webinar we will share the impetus for embarking on the Design Challenge, an overview of the team submissions, our journey to a virtual event and the impact of COVID-19 on client and legal service provider relationships, including the critical need for innovation.

You will hear from:

Dev Stahlkopf – Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft

Jason Barnwell – Assistant General Counsel – Modern Legal, Microsoft

Rebecca Benavides – Director of Legal Business, Microsoft

The Design Challenge is just one piece of the program. Two of the team submissions have been selected to embark on the post-forum Design Accelerator. The Accelerator program is a six-month, virtual workshop, designed and powered by Bold Duck Studio, that provides the teams with an opportunity to work directly with Bold Duck Studio and Microsoft personnel to advance their idea as far and as fast as they can.

During this event, you will learn about our experiment to launch a collaborative business design accelerator program in a digital reality with an overview and details shared by:

Josh Kubicki – Co-founder of Bold Duck Studio & Director, Legal Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Richmond School of Law

Kim Craig – Co-founder of Bold Duck Studio

While the pandemic forced us to pivot from the original in-person event, the participating teams have pulled out all the stops to help create this virtual experience, and we are extremely excited to share this work with the broader community.