“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
No overused quote is more fitting for the motivation behind our decision to develop and launch McKinsey Legal Lab (MLL), a first-of-its-kind innovation incubator and accelerator for a global legal department. And that necessity was twofold. On the one hand, we were entering year two of fully remote work and zero travel in an organization used to movement and personal connectivity. Each of us was feeling varying degrees of disconnectedness (on top of so much else), which was compounded for new joiners who went months and sometimes over a year without meeting anyone from work in person. And on the other hand, we belong to a profession at a crossroads (some might even say a crisis). The legal profession had been struggling with mental-health and substance-use concerns before the pandemic hit, and the impact of this global crisis only accelerated these trends. Lawyers were burnt out and overstretched at a time when we needed to quickly and agilely reconsider the working norms related to the practice of law. We needed to support our colleagues and friends while providing them with the space and bandwidth to think about their roles differently and creatively.
Early in 2021, we formalized the design of MLL. We applied the agile-development approach of frequent design sprints to identify questions and opportunities for increased impact as well as potential solutions to realize this impact. We convened a global steering committee comprising nearly a dozen legal professionals representing all the jurisdictions and sectors we serve along with the different levels of seniority represented in our department. We asked senior stakeholders what would make their lives easier and allow them to serve their clients better—sometimes through informal feedback and sometimes through formal correspondence and surveys. And we asked ourselves and our colleagues what we thought could be added to the practice of law as we see it, to enhance both the experience for our stakeholders and for us.
The initial results were staggering, for both the breadth of the ideas and the number of colleagues interested in participating. And at a time when we need connectivity more than ever, these projects allow for creative cross-collaboration, helping our incredible professionals feel both inspired and connected. Below is a brief summary of some of these programs, and in the coming months, we will take a deep dive into some of these and their continued progress.
In the Balance (this blog!)
Our first successful project in MLL, this blog was—as we understand it—the first of its kind for an in-house legal department, allowing us to share our lens on the practice of law and elevate a bit of our humanity too. While aiming to provide a look into the McKinsey Legal Department, we also unveil the people we are behind the negotiations: read about what moves us, drives us, and makes us excited to show up and be better lawyers each day.
Quarterly tech summits
In 2021, we began hosting quarterly design sprints for legal professionals focused on technology, either exclusively or as a substantial part of their program. In these summits, we identify issues to collectively discuss—those that have an impact on our work now and those likely to do so in the future—and we run design sprints to identify solutions for impact.
Later in 2021, we developed an annual curriculum called Spark that is designed to invest in the personal growth of our unrivaled legal talent. Launching in 2022, Spark is currently focused on four pillars: storytelling, creativity and innovation, mental health, and community. We will dive deeper into Spark content in a forthcoming post.
McKinsey Legal Speakers Forum (MLSF)
In May 2020, we introduced a speakers series forum to connect with dynamic thinkers and leaders inside and outside of our organization on a multitude of topics. Our speakers engage with legal colleagues to challenge and inspire forward-thinking behaviors and innovation in our practice by leveraging advances in other industries.
Legal Innovation Olympics
We are currently running a global innovation competition across the McKinsey Legal department. To the best of our knowledge, this competition is the first of its kind for an in-house legal department. The goals of this (friendly) competition are to enhance our creative-thinking skills, unlock innovations in how we work as lawyers and serve as thought partners, and encourage global connectivity among our colleagues. We will profile the process and results of this competition in our next blog post.
Tech Trust Teams (3T)
And finally, Tech Trust Teams or 3T—profiled in our recent posting and identified as a key element of our AI risk approach in a recent McKinsey.com article—is being incubated in MLL for consideration on how this agile approach of embedding lawyers with development teams could apply more broadly outside of technology.
We will continue to update readers on the process and progress of MLL along with these amazing projects and those yet to come.