Although Mick Sheehy was working on
innovation projects within Australian
telecom company Telstra as early as
2013, the main result of those efforts
had been local business unit and
“It was difficult to get outcomes on a whole
of Telstra Legal Services scale,” says Sheehy,
general counsel, finance technology innovation and strategy for the company. He wanted
to “supercharge” legal project management.
Attending a Harvard University design thinking
program, Sheehy found a new source of energy.
Working with a team from trusted outside
counsel firm Herbert Smith Freehills, whose
members were experts at design thinking,
Sheehy sought to go beyond local initiatives.
He wanted something bigger: a collaborative
framework that could identify productivity
improvement opportunities and solve them in a
fresh way, generating measurable time and cost
savings and freeing up the Telstra legal team to
focus on higher-value, strategic activities.
Telstra and Herbert Smith Freehills had collabo-
rated successfully on a number of discrete
innovation initiatives. “In addition to delivering
great results for Telstra, these initiatives gave us
invaluable client insights, deepened our relation-
ship with Telstra and helped us build a reputa-
tion for approaching client challenges a bit
differently,” says James Crowe, Herbert Smith
Freehills’ client relationship partner for Telstra.
“Ultimately, it gave us the confidence to support
a much bolder project.”
The result is the Legal Innovation Forum, a
group of about 15 Telstra lawyers of varying
levels of seniority who represent each of
Telstra’s 11 business units. Every few months,
members rotate in and out to bring fresh ideas
and perspectives; 40 people have rotated
through since the Forum’s first meeting in
Chaired by Sheehy, the Forum meets every 10
weeks for a four-hour session facilitated by two
Herbert Smith Freehills design thinking experts.
Its charter is to identify and prioritize areas
where it can make the biggest difference in the
way the legal department works. Once an initiative is identified, it is rapidly prototyped and
tested within the legal department for eight
weeks; usually four problems, or streams, are
being tested simultaneously.
The group brainstormed a list of problems at
its first workshop. It is critical to the success
of design thinking initiatives to first select
those that are bite-sized and can lead to quick
wins, says Sheehy. That initial list focused on
low-value, non-strategic tasks that the lawyers
found themselves doing. Through a departmental survey, the Forum assessed the impact
of those tasks. For example, they discovered
THINKING TO LEGAL