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Innovative Leadership and Accelerating Change | Ralph Baxter, Intapp

In this episode, Calvert and Farone spoke with Ralph Baxter, Intapp Board Member and former Chairman and CEO of the law firm Orrick. As a visionary who is committed to observing change in the professions, Baxter offered suggestions about how firms can transform themselves and become more innovative.

Baxter believes strongly in the practice of law, but he also sees great opportunity for improvement. He discussed how firms need to look at the obvious signs of change, such as the demands from clients and the way legal services are delivered. Baxter also demonstrated how in-house legal departments have created sophisticated operations teams and are now turning to alternative legal providers, using better technology, and developing ideas for innovation.

As Baxter points out, the COVID-19 pandemic has given firms an opportunity to accelerate necessary change and serve clients in better and more efficient ways. He suggested that firms take the following approach:

  • Be attentive to firm culture, and pay close attention to the beliefs and actions of new hires you bring into the practice. If they do not share the same values that your firm promotes, they can cause your culture to erode.
  • Every engagement should begin with two questions: “What does success look like?” and “What are the stakes?”
  • When reviewing  diversity issues within professions, we must constantly examine what we are doing in that area and pay particular attention to the work assignment process.

Further, Baxter discusses his thoughts on leadership, providing valuable insights from both his time at Orrick and his many board memberships and professional associations. He illuminated the characteristics that he feels are vital to becoming a true leader in the professional services arena, and discussed the need to solve two major problems: the increasing number of clients pulling their work in-house, and the decline of law school applications. Baxter also addresses the importance of diversity, a topic close to his heart. He recounts his discussions with David Wilkins, Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, regarding how work assignments are allocated within a law firm, and how those decisions serve as important inflection points for diversity and inclusion. He points out how technology can play an important role in helping us level the playing field and apportioning work assignments fairly.