Posted by: johnocunningham | March 15, 2011

Lawyers Learning Process Improvement

For more than two decades, the corporate world has engaged in statistically measurable process improvement techniques, such as those of Six Sigma, to eliminate defects and improve efficiency. 

Now law firms are joining the party, adopting programs such as the Legal Sales and Service Organization’s Legal Lean Sigma, which is designed specifically for legal process improvement.

Some lawyers, of course, are still resisting this approach, singing refrains from last century that “we are a profession, and not a business… we are different… you just can’t do things the same way in a law firm as in a business.”

But it is obvious that the legal profession employs many processes that are capable of being improved, including but not limited to: the client intake process for capturing, storing and sharing critical client information; the discovery process in litigation; the due diligence process in M&A work; and even the very process of communicating with the client. 

I don’t know of a single client who would say that these processes are not capable of being improved with better process management, use of technology, and improved teamwork, which is what process improvement is all about.

Process improvement in essence is the art of: 

  • Defining a problem (such as discovery costs and delays);
  • Measuring the current performance (in time, cost, quality, etc);
  • Analyzing opportunities to reduce waste, redundancy or variation in results;
  • Creating possible process improvements and testing them; and
  • Implementing those improvements and processes to insure that they are followed.

It can be done and it is being done in law firms now. Those who are doing it are not only improving their performance, they are communicating that they “get it” to their corporate clients who have obsessed over constant process improvement for years !

[As a matter of full disclosure, I have served the Legal Sales and Service Organization as a writer and editor, but I have no financial interest in the organization or its products and programs].

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