Thompson Hine Issues Second Innovation Report, “The Innovation Gap Persists”

69% of In-House Counsel Say Law Firms Have Not Increased Innovation

Date: December 02, 2020

Publication: Thompson Hine LLP

Thompson Hine LLP announced today that it has released “The Innovation Gap Persists,” a report summarizing the results of its second innovation survey. The first survey report, “Closing the Innovation Gap,” was published in 2017.

According to the in-house counsel surveyed, there has been virtually no improvement in the gap between their desire for innovation and what law firms provide:

  • 69% of respondents said law firms have not increased their level of innovation over the past year.
  • 72% said their law firms have done nothing over the past three years to alleviate the pressures faced by in house legal departments. Only 28% reported that their law firms had taken some action, which is just 1% higher than respondents reported in 2017.

Like the first iteration, the recent survey found that corporate legal departments continue to outpace law firms in terms of innovation. With more than two-thirds of respondents reporting that their primary outside law firms had made no progress over the past year, 91% say they have taken innovation into their own hands, embracing initiatives at a much higher rate than reported previously:

  • 63% of in-house buyers have improved project management within their legal departments, versus only 8% in 2017.
  • 41% of respondents have restructured their legal departments or processes, versus 8% in 2017.
  • 33% have outsourced to alternative legal services providers, versus 3% in 2017.

Another highlight of the survey is that the value of using data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in legal contexts is not widely understood. In-house counsel were not aware of the value of data analytics, but when presented with specific use cases for data analytics projects – such as identifying trends that might lead to increased legal claims, predicting likely settlement ranges for litigation, determining target company characteristics that indicate a reduced likelihood of successfully closing a deal, and using transaction attributes to determine “what’s market” – a full 90% of respondents showed interest. As more legal professionals understand the potential applications of data analytics and AI, their perceived value is expected to increase. And while more than one-third of in-house counsel surveyed indicated that it would be helpful for law firms to use data to analyze legal and business strategies, only 7% said that their primary law firm analyzes data to predict outcomes.

“Thompson Hine planted a stake when we innovated our service delivery seven years ago,” said Deborah Read, the firm’s Managing Partner. “We are committed to this path. Our goal in conducting these surveys is to gather data, monitor trends and ensure our innovation programs remain relevant to our clients’ needs. Surveys like this one and regular discussions with clients, other in-house counsel and industry professionals provide invaluable guidance as we plan our continuing investments in innovation. It is even more critical now to deliver high-quality services with predictable costs, and we are very well positioned with our proprietary software, which allows us to budget, monitor actual spend to budgeted spend, and create graphic reports for clients showing actual to budget. We’ve created other programs that provide predictability and efficiency using process mapping, document assembly tools, technology-assisted review and portfolio management tools. Our goal is to deliver more certainty, efficiency and value to our clients,” Read emphasized.

In response to clients’ growing demands for legal services that align with their business needs, Thompson Hine transformed its service delivery model in 2013 with SmartPaTHTM, which provides improved legal project management (with sophisticated matter budgeting, budget monitoring and reporting), value?based pricing, flexible staffing and process efficiency. SmartPaTH affords more predictability, transparency and value to clients by facilitating collaboration between lawyer and client to streamline processes, contain costs and eliminate surprises. The firm has over seven years of budgeting experience, proprietary technology that is continually refined and a robust data warehouse. The more financial data and outcomes there are to analyze, the more informed and accurate estimates and projections become. As a result of these efforts, data drives Thompson Hine’s sustained focus on innovation in the delivery of legal services.

To optimize improvements in planning, budgeting, monitoring and managing matters, Thompson Hine commissioned the two formal surveys to ascertain in-house counsel’s perceptions and needs. The survey data, combined with client feedback about the value of its innovation systems and programs, guide the firm’s innovation investments. The most recent survey collected responses from over 100 in-house counsel and other senior business executives nationwide, representing a diverse mix of industries, sizes and locations.