From Navy Judge Advocate General Public Affairs
This summer, Region Legal Service Office Europe, Africa, SW Asia (EURAFSWA) held its first Innovation Challenge – a call for innovative proposals to improve the delivery of legal services.
The idea for the challenge began after Capt. Keith Gibel, commanding officer of RLSO EURAFSWA, tasked Lt. Cmdr. Caleb Christen, head of the Civil Law Department, with modernizing its services by enhancing customer service – to include convenience, accessibility, quality, and expediency of services.
“I came up with the idea for the Innovation Challenge to meet the tasking consistent with the Secretary of the Navy’s Innovation Vision, the Core Attribute of Initiative in the “Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,” and the Judge Advocate General of the Navy Vice Adm. James W. Crawford’s 21st century law firm vision through fostering creativity, improving processes, and maximizing technology,” said Christen.
In the “Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,” the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson states: “Our most junior teammate may have the best idea; we must be open to capturing that idea.” As a result, Christen wanted to leverage the intelligence, experience, and abilities of all team members from the most junior to the most experienced.
“We found that the diverse array of backgrounds, interests, and skills on each team produced ideas far more superior than if command leadership had independently created an innovation concept,” said Christen.
On June 28, the first phase of the Innovation Challenge began and was intended as a brainstorming exercise to encourage maximum research, groundwork, and planning for all concepts. The command was divided into six teams (one for each detachment and three at Headquarters/London) and tasked to create a short-term, intermediate, and long-term innovation concept. “The short-term concept was low-hanging fruit that could be implemented within 90 days,” said Gibel.
“The intermediate concept was to be implemented within six to nine months. The long-term concept was based on Google’s innovation vision: “We set ourselves goals we know we can’t reach yet because we know that by stretching to meet them we can get further than we expected.”
This challenge was devised utilizing a team-concept to maximize creativity and collaboration, and achieve the best customer service for remote and centralized services, leveraging technology. The teams were encouraged to think beyond the traditional face-to-face legal assistance model to create innovations where the client no longer needed to physically visit a legal assistance office.
“As legal assistance and civil law practitioners spend most of their time independently serving clients and customers, the Innovation Challenge was also an opportunity to improve team dynamics and for participants to build camaraderie,” said Gibel. “Numerous team members reported that they enjoyed the freedom to be creative and had fun spending time with teammates that they do not usually work as closely with. They also felt empowered and excited about the ownership of their concepts, to have the trust of leadership, and to be on the cutting edge of modernizing our civil law practice.”
On July 11, each team presented their concepts to a panel of judges, composed of Cmdr. Matt Beran, Technology, Operations & Plans (Code 67), Cmdr. Kathleen Elkins, executive officer of RLSO EURAFSWA, and Christen via Defense Collaboration Services (DCS). The teams were required to explain their concept, including what specific problem they were attempting to solve or process they were attempting to improve, the resources needed, and a plan of action and milestones for research, development, and pilot for short-term, intermediate, and long-term innovation concepts.
“Judging was based on the most developed concept instead of the best concept,” said Christen. “All of the concepts were then briefed to Capt. Gibel, with input from Cmdr. Beran and Ms. Kate Somerville, Legal Assistance (Code 16), who chose which concepts would move on to the second phase of the Innovation Challenge (development).
Currently, the consolidated teams are developing their concepts for future piloting. RLSO EURAFSWA’s innovation efforts are already having a Naval Legal Service Command-wide impact as Technology, Operations & Plans (Code 67) has purchased equipment identified through the Innovation Challenge, which will be distributed to multiple RLSOs to immediately modernize legal assistance services. All of the presentations from the Innovation Challenge are available for other commands to build off.
“With the support of the collective talent of the JAG Community, we are excited to watch our teams help create the 21st century law firm,” said Gibel.