Hacking culture in Legal Orgs

Last week I heard a presentation from the K-12 Lab at Stanford’s d.school, all about how they are bringing in modes & mindsets of Hacking into elementary schools in the Bay Area. Hacking, not in the sense of coding software or circumventing security walls, as in creating small, nimble interventions in their school to try to improve it.
Hacks are small, intentional, quick experiments. Instead of waiting for official system changes or organizational decision-making, a single person just goes ahead and does something with the levers they control — to just go ahead & try something to fix a problem they live with.
For example — a principle who wants to improve student-administration communication can simply move their desk out of their office and into the school hallway — to put themselves right where the students are.
The K-12 Lab has identified a whole shortlist of possible levers to change, to use in a small hack. What do you control in your organization, that you can use to make small but radical changes to push things forward?
  • space
  • schedule
  • events
  • incentives
  • finance
  • process
  • role
  • communications
  • tech
  • rituals
Hacking culture notes
One hack that I’ve seen is in the family courts of Santa Clara County. A judge I met there showed me her court room, and she had hacked together an amazing whiteboard system of scheduling, checking-in lawyers and litigants, and notifying who was up next. No tech nor IT groups needed — no big money or upper-level approval.  Rather, just a white board installed, and the judge used her authority in the room to abide by the whiteboard table schedule — and force all the other clerks, court staff, lawyers, and litigants to follow it too. Then, from the one  judge’s courtroom, it spread to other judges’ rooms as well — the hack had legs.
Another hack I heard about recently was from inside a law firm. An associate created an Excel spreadsheet to keep metrics on cases, and process this data into meaningful insights for his practice group. Again, no big software development or mustering of resources was needed. The lawyer did it himself using tools at his disposal — and the other lawyers noticed and asked for copies for them to use themselves.
Have you witnessed or carried out any such hacks in your legal organization?  I know there could be thousands out there, and I’m interested in hearing about them!
I’m excited about this type of ‘hacking the law’ — or really, ‘hacking legal organizations’ — because it’s incremental & low-barrier ways to get real, meaningful, of int totally disruptive change to improve our world of legal services & legal work.
Please write with any insights or hacks you might have!

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