As we round out 2019 and prepare for 2020, the marketing team at Elevate is reviewing our list of initiatives. One project rising to the top is revisiting research completed in 2018 that cataloged each of the significant Law Department innovation award winners for the prior three years, noting the innovation trends being implemented by in-house legal. As part of this research, we analyzed 110 law department winners, including the ACC Value Champions, Corporate Counsel Best Legal Departments, The Recorder Legal Departments of the Year, and the FT Innovative Lawyer Awards. The cumulative results were enlightening.

Award winners easily slotted into three themes: legal operations, managing legal spend, and technology/AI–implementing technology as an enabler, not as a differentiator. Recognition included managing with metrics, legal project management, contract life cycle management, e-discovery, AFAs, and Outside Counsel Management. When reviewing the specifics behind the winning submissions, most highlighted executing change, not headline-worthy innovation.

The Corporate Counsel 2018 Best Legal Department Award headlines included:

ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) Pulled Off a Big Turnaround, A Little at a Time”

  • ADM reduced their slate of panel firms and embraced in-sourcing
  • A change categorized as unnatural that resulted in significant savings with a positive outcome

DXC Technology’s GC Risked Everything for His Vision”

  • This well-publicized initiative included rebadging 225 DXC lawyers
  • In-house lawyer staff went from 525 lawyers to 125
  • Objectives included driving material performance, reducing risk, and advancing their strategic direction
  • A rebadging model allowed them to cut operational costs by 30 percent while retaining institutional knowledge

NetApp Had a Long Road to the Top of In-house Innovation”

  • NetApp used workflow processes to simplify document collection, due diligence, and GDPR
  • They saved millions with Adobe Sign
  • And declared war on paper by using the ThinkSmart Automation Platform (TAP)

This raises the question, are in-house legal departments defining innovation as implementing change? As you look over your plans for 2020, especially the innovation goal set for you and your department, consider executing change as a definition of innovation–and we’ll see you on the 2020 legal innovation award circuit.


Elevate is in the process of updating the innovation award trend results, including the winners from 2019. If you’re interested in reviewing this data, contact us at

About the Author

Nicole is Managing Director, Global Marketing, Strategic Account Management and Sales Operations at Elevate. A senior outsourcing executive with 20 plus years’ professional services marketing, customer retention, and business development experience, Nicole leads Elevate’s teams responsible for these functions. 

Nicole Giantonio

Nicole Giantonio

Managing Director - Global Marketing, Sales Operations, and Strategic Account Management


“When reviewing the specifics behind the winning submissions, most highlighted executing change, not headline-worthy innovation.”

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