Everybody's talking about Lean in law. This post comes from the Gimbal archives. It's a great refresher, especially if you're wondering how Lean, Lean Six Sigma, and process improvement can help you become more profitable, more productive, and more competitive.
If you have clients in manufacturing or you work in-house, you may be familiar with the management strategies of Six Sigma. Six Sigma focuses on process quality and the elimination of variations and defects from products and services.
Lean is a comprehensive strategy for eliminating waste and increasing the flow of products and services. Lean separates “value adding” from “non-value adding” work, using well-known business and process management tools.
Lean Six Sigma combines these two related strategies, delivering quality and efficiency. Lean Six Sigma offers a broad set of tools to approach and resolve problems through a relentless campaign of review and improvement. And it’s not just for manufacturing. Service providers that implement Lean Six Sigma see marked improvement throughout their operations, including improved speed, quality and cost, faster response times, increased productivity from fewer resources, improved client satisfaction and greater profit.
Law is a service, whether lawyers provide it in a firm or in-house. Like all services, opportunities for waste abound: time getting back “up to speed” on a file; over-processing, reworking or correcting a document; delays obtaining information, signatures, opinions or decisions; unproductive time spent in meetings. The list goes on.
Lean Six Sigma provides attorneys with a new way of looking at legal and business processes. It helps identify and eliminate obstacles, waste and non-value-adding work on the file. It also gives lawyers a concrete way to determine what each step in the process costs, allowing a much more accurate means to set fixed fees for some or all parts of a file. In short, Lean Six Sigma gives lawyers the tools they need to adapt to the changing legal market we face today.
Why now? Because law faces a serious crisis. Our long monopoly over the provision of legal services is crumbling. In the UK, new rules permit non-legal entities to provide legal services traditionally reserved for solicitors. In North America, on-line providers offer flat-fee legal services in many practice areas, clients can build their own documents using services like the Association of Corporate Counsel’s new Contract Advisor, and alternative dispute resolution and arbitration increasingly shift litigation out of the courts.
Add to this growing client dissatisfaction with high hourly rates, tight budgets in the wake of the recession, and increasing competition from legal process outsourcers, and we can see why clients are starting to demand more for less from their attorneys. With its emphasis on measuring value, rather than time, Lean Six Sigma is one way to get there. Lean Six Sigma aligns client and lawyer interests. It allows lawyers to deliver the legal services their clients need, with greater cost certainty and often, at lower rates.
We teach lawyers how to apply Lean Six Sigma, from simple things like 5S to more complicated process and value stream maps. The benefits are obvious and measurable. Implement Lean Six Sigma in your law practice and you will see increased client satisfaction, more business and greater revenues. It’s a practical approach that will help you prevent or reduce client leakage.
If you are in private practice, this can translate into more business, lower overhead and more profit.
If you are in-house,implementing Lean Six Sigma can lead to better relationships with your internal clients and your external legal advisors, as well as better cost predictability, reduced legal fees and less strain on your legal budget.
What your clients will see:
- Better, faster, value-adding service
- Less waste, reduced costs and more transparent billing
- Greater predictability for their legal spend
- Improved communication and responsiveness
What you will see:
- Increased productivity
- Faster response times
- Improved efficiency and greater flow of quality work
- Reduced costs and overheads
- More time for business development or other pursuits
- Increased motivation and professional satisfaction