How a Lawyer Gets Creative at Work

Early on in her career at IDEO, Partner and General Counsel Rochael Adranly got a tough piece of feedback. “Working with legal was one of the worst experiences of my life,” one designer shared when asked about their interaction. Ouch.

That quote was a bit of a shock to Rochael since she’d always thought the outcome of her work was fairly high quality. In that moment, Rochael realized that the legal team needed to rethink their approach. They were not just legal experts, they were service providers. And while they knew the law backward and forward, they’d never thought about designing the service experience others had with their team.

Since then, Rochael has gone on to work alongside designers and clients to navigate the complexities and challenges faced at the intersection of innovation and the law—and received recognition for humanizing the process. She co-created IDEO's legal design and innovation practice and has helped many people figure out how to better work with their legal and operational teams.

Here is Rochael’s advice for how you can bring more creativity into your role if you work in a functional area like operations or finance. Hear more from Rochael in our interview with her on the Creative Confidence Podcast.

Getting creative in a functional role

Working in a role like legal, where there are many constraints and an established “way it’s done,” can feel like there’s limited opportunity to infuse more creativity into your work. Rochael says not to focus on getting creative with the outcome as much as trying a new, more human-centered way of working. “The law may tell you to do one thing, but how you carry out those solutions can leave a lot of room for creativity,” Rochael says.

Thinking of her team as service providers opened up the ability to design their service experience. First, the team gathered insights to better understand the experience others had with the legal team. Then they mapped out ways to make their interactions more human and approachable while still sticking to the letter of the law.

One of their learnings was that the language in contracts was confusing for both IDEO designers and their clients. Instead of changing the legal guidelines for client work, they rewrote the contract to use less jargon and legalese. The legal requirements remained the same, but designers had a better understanding of what they were asking clients to sign, and, as a result, were more confident and efficient in negotiating contracts themselves.

They also found that people wanted more autonomy and less roadblocks. So they created “safe zones”—pre-approved scenarios where teammates didn’t need to get legal input as long as a project fit within a defined range. For example, a statement of work that agreed to up to one year of work. This empowered design teams to move faster and decide between making a “safe” choice and working with legal on a more custom arrangement with a client.

Next time you’re feeling stuck at work, remember you don’t necessarily have to change what you do to be more creative. Think about changing how you do it.

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