Innovating in-house

Welcome to our first issue dedicated to the innovation taking place in-house. Within the pages of this Canadian Lawyer InHouse we are honouring the winners of our first Innovatio Awards, launched last fall as a program for and judged by Canadian in-house counsel.

The concept was born more than a year ago when I began talking to senior corporate counsel across Canada about the idea of recognizing the work being done in-house to differently address the demands of business. While there are other in-house awards programs that recognize the efforts of corporate counsel, our idea was to look at specific projects initiated or completed in the last year and nominated by in-house departments (for the most part) and judged by those who really know and understand what would be groundbreaking efforts by the in-house bar.

The judges we recruited come from large and small departments and were entirely supportive of what we wanted to do. They became more enthusiastic as I sent off the nominations for their review in February.

 What really pleased me was recieving nominations from law departments and in-house counsel not typically represented at association functions or other awards programs. Cisco, The Keg, 3M, Canadian Solar, TVO, Sasol Canada, Manitoba Telecom, Superior Plus  — these are in-house organizations doing really interesting work with innovative leadership thinking about how to stay on top of their game. Yes, some big players are represented as well, such as RBC and BMO, who are blazing trails on the diversity and law department efficiency and compliance front, but you also hear how small departments with limited resources, such as TV Ontario and Canadian Solar, are taking homegrown approaches to keeping work inside, saving money, and finding ways to lower their costs but also make processes more effective.   

You will also see where small departments like Manitoba Telecom even incorporated an articling student into its project developed to resolve outstanding litigation files. The great news we heard as we were putting the issue together is that the student — Stefan Bounket — is now a first-year lawyer with MTS.

Some of the projects made use of technology while others took advantage of new service delivery models such as the approach Cisco took with Conduit Law. The judges were also overwhelmingly supportive of Cisco’s efforts to use an alternative legal services provider to fill fluctuating demand at significant cost savings.

As one of our judges, Daniel Marion of Thales Canada, said: “It’s a truly business oriented model that does not follow the traditional law firm/client relationship. It is a model that non-lawyers in a company can understand and measure. It is very simple and efficient . . . and a one-third of cost saving is significant without putting in place a complex mechanism.”

I hope you’ll take the time to read the winner profile stories and see if what they accomplished might inspire a new project or process in your department. We also hope these stories will prompt you to consider putting forward a project your department has taken on when the nominations for Innovatio open again at the end of September.

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