A recap of CLOC 2019—Design Sprint: Innovation…Fast!

I co-hosted a session at the CLOC 2019 conference (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) where we showed a group of lawyers how Design Sprints can help them in more ways than they realized.

I spoke with the help of Jeff Marple, Innovation Director — Corporate Legal at Liberty Mutual, at the CLOC 2019 conference, which gathers legal operations professionals and other corporate legal industry players to optimize the legal service delivery models needed to support the needs of small, medium and large legal departments.

Here I am presenting at CLOC 2019.
Here I am presenting at CLOC 2019.

Our challenge was to break down the Design Sprint process into a 50-minute session that would allow them to walk away with some new ideas and solutions for approaching problems.

“Liberty Mutual and Voltage Control organized one of the most interesting and impactful session at recent national gathering of legal ops leaders. The session was unique in the way it engaged participants and facilitated creative problem solving. The session has helped me think about innovative ways to involve in-house legal teams in improvement opportunities.”

— Jason Winmill, Partner, Argopoint

CLOC 2019 participants during our session on Design Sprints.
CLOC 2019 participants during our session on Design Sprints.

We wanted to give the attendees a set of tools they could use and implement once they were back in their offices. We needed them to walk away with ways they could better achieve Leading Metrics and KPI’s.

For readers not versed in the concept, design thinking is a method long used by the tech industry to quickly identify a goal for a team, solicit a large quantity of ideas about the goal, empathize with and gain insights from key stakeholders, and systematically vet the ideas in a “trust-tree”, no judgement environment.

— Kevin Bielawski, Director of Legal Project Management & Strategic Pricing, Husch Blackwell

We began the talk by explaining what a Design Sprint is so everyone understood how it works, why it works, and what it can do for them. We then dove into the activities to show them what they each accomplish.

Because we were short on time, we came up with an activity that got everyone involved and talking, brainstorming ideas and solutions. We want everyone to have a voice and the customized activity we designed showed them how a Sprint worked. We called it 1–2–4–8-ALL, based on this Liberating Structure.

What important Legal Operations challenge should we focus on today?

Often, I like to pose a question to a team to get them thinking. We started by asking this to the room: “What important Legal Operations challenge should we focus on today?”

Because I don’t come from a legal background, I wanted the specific problem we focused on in the session to come from the participants. Each attendee came up with a short list of responses by thinking about the challenges they face every day. This was the “1” in our 1–2–4–8-ALL model.

Working together

The next step was to pair into groups of two. At this point, we asked the two-person groups to share their lists, vet the ideas, and agree on the one challenge they felt was most important. We gave them ample time to work through their thoughts and talk through them. This was the 2 in our 1–2–4–8-ALL model.

Once the groups of two were able to whittle their lists down to one challenge, we paired each into groups of four and asked them to repeat the same process. By this time, the group of four now had two ideas to choose from. I saw so much excitement once we started getting into bigger groups because they were sharing some important insights.

Working in groups to formulate challenges to work with
Working in groups to formulate challenges to work with

Once the team of four had chosen one idea, we brought them together in groups of eight. Once they had completed this task and had come up with one challenge, we had a final list of 8 total challenges to work with, which the teams presented to us while I wrote them out on a flip chart.

“This was hands down my favorite and, for me, the most valuable session of the conference. I love interactive learning. Rather than simply describe what happens in a Design Sprint, the presenters had us participate in an actual sprint where we identified a problem and began working on a solution.“

— Leslie F. Brown, Director of Legal Process Innovation, Greenberg Traurig, LLP

The Big Ideas

Now that we had our eight challenges, it was time to get them thinking even more. We asked everyone to vote on their top challenge and then to come up with one idea that would address it.

Once everyone had their original concept written down, the time came to let the entire group pass judgment. We asked them to get up and move around the room and exchange their card with someone else. The result was that every person ended up with a card that was different from their own.

Sample ideas from our interactive session.
Sample ideas from our interactive session.

“I recently attended the 2019 CLOC Vegas Institute where the rapid nature of sprints encourages teams to think quickly and that all ideas are welcome. Sprints also eliminate hand-wringing and lengthy debates. Attending the session provided the first-hand experience to see if I would be able to use the concept with our Legal Department. The answer is Yes!”
 — Cathy Davis, AVP, Legal Operations, University of Phoenix

5 Rounds to Score

To find the best ideas in the group, we asked each person to stand up and read their idea to the group and give it a score from 1–5 with five being the highest.

Sharing ideas across the room.
Sharing ideas across the room.

After each round, we allowed the group to exchange their idea card with someone else once again, read the ideas out loud and score it from 1–5. This gave every idea the chance to earn 25 points to rank as the best of the best. While we did not end up with any 25 point ideas, but we had a 23, several 22s and a couple of 21s.

“It was a fun challenge to come up with a solution for lawyers to quantify their value to the broader organization. I think about this issue a lot, because we’re seeing a dramatic shift in the legal landscape, where in-house legal professionals are being seen as innovation leaders and are increasingly advocating for the adoption of technologies such as AI.” — Kelsea Carlson, Product Counsel, Text IQ

“Some really great ideas came out of this session and I’m not at all surprised that focusing on metrics/KPIs for reporting on the law department was the lead challenge or problem for the Sprint. Unfortunately, it’s no longer sufficient in any organization, or in any function, to declare that the work we do is really special and unique and can’t be measured. “— JoAnne Wakeford, Chief Client Officer, Nextlaw In-House Solutions

We were curious to see what words and themes surfaced when looking at all of the ideas generated, so we created a word cloud. I found it interesting how many focused on being actionable and measurable.

Word cloud

At the end of our session, a group of lawyers who knew almost nothing about Design Sprints left with a list of ideas that could potentially solve a problem for them and with the skills needed to use the process in the future.

“Lawyers are super-smart, but as expertise-focused professionals, they often operate like ‘lone wolves’: collaboration, consensus-building, and design-thinking are often absent from their training and from their daily work environment. They’re good at picking apart ideas, but often horrible about ideating, or looking for ways to change and improve their game. That’s a critical skill set for lawyers to not only learn but exercise if they’re going to prepare themselves for practice in the future.”

— Susan Hackett, CEO, Legal Executive Leadership