If you thought law firms were one business sector not open for disruption, prepare to be humbled. Smart law firms are increasingly looking for ways to differentiate themselves from others in their sector, using everything from technological advantages to iterative office design, all to establish themselves as an industry leader -- and stay there. One law firm at the forefront of this push for innovation is Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., and with offices in locations like Boston, Palo Alto, London, Tokyo, and Shanghai, the Finnegan team understands the importance of being at the leading edge of ingenious thinking and thought-leadership. Their lawyers are a group of pioneering thinkers, with expertise ranging in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to inventive computer technology firms and medical device manufacturers.

With legal experience in areas spanning across intellectual property law, the Finnegan team is immersed in ground-breaking technologies on a daily basis -- and they apply what they know (that's the key). They focus on advancing ideas, innovation, and content in order to drive global businesses forward, which is supported by their forward-thinking philosophy and is ingrained in how they see growth:

They've Committed to Content (Cross-Channel)

The firm has made an admirable commitment to content -- one that even emerging publishers could take note of in leveraging additional channels to share your message. One avenue the firm is using to stay top of mind is through a podcast offering insights on intellectual property law. Finnegan's "Insights" also offers knowledge on everything from trademark and copyright prosecution to trade secret law and patent litigation, made available via webinars, articles, and events.

They're Driving [Internal] Mind-Share

The team also stays sharp via their conversations -- they are often public, ongoing discussions on and off-site, with topics relevant to their existing and prospective clients. These mind-share collaborations are led by firm partners who are experts in their niche, sharing their thought leadership on topics like ANDA litigation, PTAB proceedings, brand protection, design infringement, international IP prosecution, export control, patent mining, and due diligence.

Likewise, the attorneys at Finnegan participate in ongoing internal conversations that shape the entrepreneurial approach for navigating niche industries for developing business. Pushing the envelope on innovation, attorneys in the firm get together to monitor and track companies at the forefront of new developments and products. Stemming from the entrepreneurial spirit embedded in the culture, Finnegan recognized these home-grown efforts as incubators for developing new work. According to Sanya Sukduang, a Finnegan partner in its Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical practice group, "Finnegan's business development working groups provide attorneys with the freedom to develop work in areas they are interested in a more fluid, creative, and collaborative way, knowing that such efforts have the full support of the firm."

They Concentrate on Product

I have to give credit where credit is due. Finnegan is pushing traditional boundaries for law firms by offering front-end tools that display a centralized database of all relevant Federal Circuit Court IP decisions. Not only are they providing counsel, but they specifically developed a resource -- one that promotes great retention (they developed an iOS app, too). Finnegan partner, Jennifer Roscetti, noted "Our product is our insight. We provide resources to our clients and also offer our own analysis of the case decisions or legal trends to add value."

They Own Their Digital and Physical Brand

Digitally, Finnegan's site exudes legal knowledge, trust, and a little bit of flare, further building their brand as the law firm to trust. Physically, they took an approach for iterative design for both their offices spaces and their company culture. Their focus on innovation leads to the acquisition of top-tier talent and retention for long-term growth.

These are but a few examples of how this law firm is using startup thinking to build their brand within a traditional sector. By focusing on innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and team collaboration, they're strengthening their reputation as a law firm to be reckoned with and knowledgeable thought leaders within IP.

What you can do

Today's business builders (and other law firms) could learn valuable lessons from Finnegan's approach to brand/business development, but how do you apply this to your organization?

  1. Push boundaries and focus on areas of expertise and differentiation. Challenge yourself and think what could you do to stand out from your competitors. Find another Purple Cow and apply it.  
  2. Provide advanced tools for ongoing customer acquisition, client satisfaction, and retention. You need to give them a reason to come back, otherwise it's not worth investing time and resource into. 
  3. Establish your company as a resource for valuable content and thought-leadership. You'd be surprised how easily you could extract expertise from your partners or employees -- everyone has something relevant to add and all it takes is the right environment to foster that.  

The future of business growth is not doing the same thing year after year and hoping for solid results. Tomorrow's business leaders will rely on agile thinking, forward, and adaptive branding, and a willingness to be nimble in their quest for growth.

Published on: Mar 19, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.