On-Demand Creativity: Five Ways to Foster It in Your Law Firm

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Lawyers aren’t necessarily thought of as those who practice in a “creative” profession. At least not in the same way that artists, writers, musicians or marketing professionals are deemed “creatives.” However, lawyers and those who support them know that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the practice of law demands creativity in virtually all aspects – creating ingenious defense strategies, crafting brilliant opening statements, structuring unique partnerships or mergers or acquisitions, etc. Law firms also routinely launch creative marketing campaigns or inventive business development strategies. Plenty of law firms even get creative in terms of alternative billing structures. Indeed, the practice of law and the business of running a law firm require virtually nonstop creative thinking and strategy.

However, as most attorneys and firms know, generating creative inspiration can prove challenging. After all, some of the best ideas seem to materialize out of thin air, with an out-of-the-box design for working up a case coming to light during the course of other work. Since trial-winning ideas or successful marketing strategies that generate a particularly impressive ROI often seem to come to life out of the blue, it’s worth asking the question: Is there a way to generate creativity on demand? The short answer is: yes.

Drew McLellan of Agency Management Institute addressed the notion of sparking creativity on demand in a recent article, which we’ve expanded on below, including one of our own strategies. Here are five suggestions for drawing out creative ideas at your law firm when you need them.

  1. Ban the Notion of Bad Ideas & Champion Creative Chaos

Obviously, not every idea is going to prove to be a winning strategy for your firm or your client, but by making it clear that all ideas are worth exploring, you may lay a foundation for creative chaos. Sometimes the worst ideas serve as the catalyst to make your team members think, which then spawns a great idea that otherwise wouldn’t have emerged. Too, if you set a culture where people can’t speak up, or their ideas are snuffed out, you may be silencing that one person who will come up with the dead-on idea for the brainstorming session.

  1. Allot Time for Creative Idea Sharing at Meetings

During regular meetings, be sure to include time for idea sharing before heading back to your respective offices. Often, due to time constraints, meetings are held to strict time limits. Unfortunately, because of the volume of information shared during a meeting, there may not be time for an associate or team member to share an idea they have, which likely took shape during the meeting. By scheduling an extra 15 minutes at the end of regular meetings, you may just generate some of your best ideas yet.

If this isn’t possible, try scheduling an agenda-less meeting once a week, just to pick the brains of your colleagues.  Simply open up the meeting by asking something like: “Are there any ideas that you have that would make this firm run smoother or would make this case progress?” Then, open the floor up to input from your attorneys and team.

  1. Champion Your Team’s Growth

Supporting the individual passions of your attorneys and staff is another great way to generate creativity. If you have an attorney who is an avid rock-climber, for example, encourage them to keep it up, and share their experiences about it. Likewise, if you have team members who are curious about pursuing a particular hobby, ask for updates on their progress and learn more about what they find fulfilling about it. The more you get to know your colleagues and who they are outside of the office, the greater the likelihood they may share ideas that come to them during off-hours.

  1. Suggest Both Reasonable and Risky Solutions to Challenges

Creativity often emerges while pursuing solutions. When you’re brainstorming a solution to a problem, try to come up with one solution that is safe and practical, but also one that is risky, or otherwise unusual. By offering these ideas up to your peers, you’re likely to spark creative thinking on their part as well.

  1. Embrace Creative Activity Team Building

Much like supporting the individual growth of attorneys and staff, it’s valuable to invest in team building. Consider a creative endeavor for your next team building exercise, such as a group night out at an art museum. Any activity wherein the focus isn’t just on chatting—such as attending a sports game or a happy hour— may just help to solidify friendships amongst firm members, who are then more open to idea sharing with the group.

Generating on-demand creativity in and of itself requires a bit of creativity. Consider these five suggestions or other ideas that these spark, in order to keep your firm investing in ingenuity.

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