Remaking News of the Week: Bill Henderson on Microsoft and Innovation

In July 2017 David Howard, a senior Microsoft general counsel announced “Microsoft’s New Strategic Partner Program.

In an important post on Legal Evolution last month, Bill Henderson,  Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, explains the rationale, mechanics and high hopes for this initiative. 

Bill notes “What caught people’s attention was Microsoft’s commitment ‘to move 90% of our work to AFAs within two years’. The mechanism for achieving this goal is the Strategic Partner Program, which asked 13 law firms to co-create solutions within the context of long-term business relationship.”

Microsoft’s Strategic Partner Program and Trusted Advisor Forums are designed to enable iterative process of improvement through innovation. Bill explains why this player design might “reshape cultural norms and re-orient relative advantage toward the long-term”.

He pithily concludes “With some luck, the ‘Microsoft system’ could do for legal departments what the Cravath system did for law firms 100 years earlier”.

Every BigLaw firm and corporate law department should know about this and take from it their own lessons. 

Dialogue contributor Ron Friedmann’s post drew my attention to Bill Henderson’s revelations on Microsoft and Innovation Henderson’s post. 

Thanks Ron – and Bill!


Jae Um, who has also contributed to Dialogue, has written a companion piece to Bill’s, also on Legal Evolution. Jae’s post goes deep into the details of the Microsoft Strategic Partner / Trusted Advisor Forum.

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