10 August 2021

Book review: Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law


Book Review: Dennis Kennedy, Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations (October 18, 2019)

The word “innovation” can sound ominous to those who have experienced too many brainstorming sessions featuring a swarm of sticky notes and too few new ideas. Dennis Kennedy’s new book, Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law, provides a better starting point.

The late World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer liked to say "When I play the Ruy, it's like milking a cow." What he meant was that when he played his favorite opening setup, the Ruy Lopez, he could count on a steady, predictable stream of wins. He would not need to hope for a lightning strike of inspiration.

This book tries—with a surprising level of success—to make innovation in law firms and other organizations like milking a cow. Rather than waiting for a lightning strike of creativity, approach the innovation process systematically, step by step, until you get the results you want.

Kennedy has long had a well-deserved reputation as a top legal technology expert, but in this book he moves beyond tech to take a broader look at innovation in all areas. The playing field is larger, but so are the potential benefits.

One of the key concepts is distinguishing optimization and innovation. Optimization is doing what you are already doing in a more efficient way. It is a subset of innovation, which might involve new business models. Optimizing is relatively easy, but the truly ambitious will seek larger benefits. 

Dennis Kennedy book


There’s a lot to like about this book, including:

It emphasizes focused, practical solutions rather than generalities and theoretical constructs. For example, in Chapter 1, rather than spend 20 pages defining innovation, he gives multiple definitions and closes with the advice: “Get to work on innovation, however you define it, and let others talk.”

It moves beyond technologies to take a broader view of innovation.

The author does not pretend to be the only person with worthwhile ideas on this topic. He summarizes the best approaches taken by other experts before providing his original ideas. A well-organized list of other innovation resources is a welcome plus.

Kennedy has a knack for expressing useful ideas in a pithy fashion. Each chapter ends with a “Pro Tip.” The last chapter consists of “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law.” Dennis generously provides a free copy through his website.

One of my favorite “Pro Tips” concludes Chapter 19, “Personnel and Who’s In Charge.” Dennis suggests “Do not hire a group of people who look and think like you do.” The biggest benefit of diversity is not the warm feeling of knowing that you are politically correct, but avoiding what in the military is known as “incestuous amplification.”

A recurring theme of this book is the importance of enhancing customer value. Kennedy is 100% right about this. My only suggestion for a second edition of this book is including even more examples, case studies. These are a strong point of Jack Newton’s popular book The Client Centered Law Firm.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that Dennis self-published the book with Amazon rather than go through a conventional publisher, an example of disintermediation.

Still not sure whether to invest in this fine book? Check out the Artificial Lawyer review or the Kennedy-Mighell podcast on innovation. Even better, check out the samples Dennis made available in his 57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law.

Conclusion: There is wisdom here, in full and satisfying measure. If you are looking to get better results from your organization, whether a law firm or other legal organization, you can’t do better than letting this book be your guide.


About Dennis Kennedy 

I had good reason to look forward to this book because from co-authoring an Internet marketing for lawyers column with Dennis I learned he is an inexhaustible fount of creativity. His breadth of experience, including corporate law firms, in-house counsel with Mastercard and author qualifies him to address innovation in a variety of contexts. 

He has written several books previously, including the well-regarded Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, 2nd Edition, with Tom Mighell.

His Legal Talk Network podcast The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast is one of my favorite multi-tasking companions. He is currently a respected legal technology consultant and an adjunct professor at Michigan State University College of Law and the University of Michigan Law School. Kennedy is available for speaking engagements.

[This article was originally published in LLRX. Gratitude to Sabrina Pacifici, publisher of LLRX.com and BeSpacific].

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