Why everyone should read Legal Upheaval

Today’s headline on Dialogue, Why everyone should read Legal Upheaval, is a rhetorical statement emphasising my message and challenging readers to take action.

Michele DeStefano wrote Legal Upheaval: A Guide to Creativity, Collaboration and Innovation in Law to inspire practising lawyers to innovate, irrespective of how comfortable and successful they feel. In this she succeeds admirably. Here’s why…  

In recent years, an increasing number are analysing and prognosticating on the future of the practice and business of law. To my way of thinking the first phase of the era was heralded by Tournament of Lawyers: The Transformation of the Big Law Firm by Marc Galanter and Thomas Palay (1991) and Managing the Professional Services Firm by David Maister (1993). This phase reached a zenith in 2007 with Law Firm Strategy: Competitive Advantage and Valuation by Stephen Mayson.

Then Mitch Kowalski published Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century in 2012, marking the start of the second phase of the era. My NewLaw New Rules  (2013) and David Parnell’s The Failing Law Firm: Symptoms and Remedies (2014) amplified the themes introduced by Mitch, namely the threats to the BigLaw business model and the emergence of many new forms of legal service provider, which we styled NewLaw. Remaking Law Firms: Why and How (2016) and others, e.g. Essays on Legal Delivery by Mark Cohen and Law Firm Strategy in a Buyer’s Market by Jordan Furlong, started providing road maps for the transformation of law firms and, to a lesser degree, law departments.  

Which brings us to Legal Upheaval: A Guide to Creativity, Collaboration and Innovation in Law (ABA Book Publishing July 2018).

Legal Upheaval

Legal Upheaval is based on research amongst more than 100 chief executives, in-house lawyers and law firm leaders and heads of innovation around the world and Michele DeStefano’s own work with multidisciplinary teams tasked with innovating legal services. By the time came to conduct her research, the author was already well-known and widely regarded as a leading thinker in the innovation space. No doubt, the respect with which she is held enabled Michele to probe deeply and creatively. Add to the way her material is interpreted and organised an accessible writing style and practical advice, and the result is an exceptionally useful – and inspiring – new book.   

Business model transformation

Legal Upheaval is essentially a guide to transforming the business model of BigLaw firms. It taps into the creativity, positivity and energy in lawyers and other professionals who work with them in private practice. It’s 11 chapters are in three sections:

I: Why Lawyers Should Hone the Mindset, Skillset, and Behaviors of Innovators

II: The 3 Rules of Engagement: Creating a Culture of Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation  

III: The Innovation Possible: Putting Together the Theory, Practice, and Proof.

Each chapter concludes with a reflection to help the reader decide the optimum way forward for their innovation team.

Without over-simplifying, Legal Upheaval holds the hands and leads the heads and hearts of the innovation team. It’s readily apparent from where Michele’s authority is derived: rigour made practical.

Applicability of Legal Upheaval

Legal Upheaval is a vade mecum for law firms of all sizes, law departments, law schools and the courts.

George Beaton



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