How Law Firms Can Stay at the Cutting-Edge of Innovation

There’s a great deal that the legal industry can learn from the technology industry. A good starting point is Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup, which is filled ideas that are just as valuable (perhaps more valuable) for large, institutional law firms as they are for fast-growing tech startups.

Another great source of ideas and inspiration is the unstoppable force that is Jeff Bezos and his Amazon empire. Bezos has many powerful mantras for his business, but this is one of my favorites: It’s always “Day 1” at Amazon.

What he means is that Amazon will never stop being a startup. It’s a message Bezos drilled down on in a recent letter to shareholders (written from a building he works in named “Day 1”), in which he wrote:

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Bezos and Amazon are famous for focusing on long-term strategies and objectives rather than short-term gain. This mindset is particularly rare in the world of high-beta, venture-backed companies that often prioritize short-term gains over long-term growth. And for quite a while, it’s what frustrated Wall Street. Those concerns have, of course, been allayed as Amazon continues its march toward becoming the world’s most valuable company.


Amazon’s Day 1 mindset is not just a catchy mission statement that gets hung in conference rooms and pinned to employees’ cubicle walls. It’s baked into Amazon’s culture and manifested through the company’s intense focus on, as Bezos puts it, the “things that will always matter” to customers. For Amazon, those things include selection, price and speed of delivery.

The point is that Amazon doesn’t get distracted and derailed by what’s shiny and new in the marketplace. It doesn’t shift gears on a whim. It moves quickly but remains focused on its core principles. And it does so with the vitality and urgency of a Day 1 startup.

Law firms would do well to heed Bezos’ call to stay focused on things that “will always matter” to clients. It’s not that innovation isn’t important – it’s vital. But innovation must happen in alignment with, and not at the expense of, what clients consistently value.

I build on these issues in a recent article that I wrote for my friends at Attorney at Work. To learn more about what it means to be a “Day 1” law firm, click here.

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