Many attorneys (and in-house legal departments) don’t think of themselves as creative. However, companies are increasingly putting a high value on innovation and creativity. Given this shift, it makes sense for attorneys to adapt and focus on this area as a means to better serve their clients and foster their own professional growth. Over the past several years I’ve been thinking about how attorneys can better enhance their creative thinking skills.
In business we hear constantly about the need for more innovation and creativity. Businesses rely on creativity to advance their mission, develop new products, and find ways to outperform their competitors in the marketplace. Indeed, many companies have identified “creativity” as one of their core values. In today’s business environment innovation has become an essential element to succeed, and sometimes survive. As we all know the business environment has been under significant pressure lately as a result of the financial meltdown, the downturn in the economy, growing global competition, the changing political environment and legislative reforms (i.e., health care reform), etc. Nowadays not only must the R&D and marketing departments in corporate America deliver innovative results, but all functions, including legal, are expected to produce them. Even though companies say they expect creative results and often elevate “creativity” to a core value there is, in my experience, a significant lack of training on how to do it. This appears to be particularly true in the legal field.
First, attorneys need to believe that they are (or can be) creative. I have had numerous conversations with attorneys with whom I work, and when I have asked them about creativity, they typically respond that they are not creative. One told me that, “Attorneys are not creative; you are the only one who is.” Some attorneys have claimed that creativity isn’t consistent with an attorney’s role. In conversations with them, I have challenged those beliefs. I look for examples when they have, in fact, been creative or demonstrated creativity and then use those examples in order to convince them that they are indeed creative individuals. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. Believing you are creative is the first step in enhancing your creativity skills. I have seen some attorneys generate some very creative ideas once they began seeing themselves that way.
To reinforce the one-on-one conversations, I also held open forum discussions to talk about creativity. Such discussions are helpful in that individuals share their own processes for coming up with creative ideas and solutions. Some get their ideas when they are exercising, having in-depth discussions with others, or reading information that inspires them. Also asking the right questions helps in getting the right answers.