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The Lean Law Firm

 Maximizing value and minimizing blog at a time.

Entries in Efficiency (4)


You can only cut once: why process improvement trumps layoffs

I’ve been watching the mad rush to match Cravath’s salary increases with a sense of wonder. The market is (mostly) flat. Demand is (mostly) down. There are still far too many law graduates. It’s not like it’s a seller’s market. 

And then I saw the icing on the cake. Last week, law firms were raising salaries one day, and laying folks off the next. Talk about bad optics. Sure, the savings look tempting, but think about the costs.

You’ll have to pay severance. You may have to pay for outplacement services. But there are hidden costs as well.

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Spending too much time drafting? Don't write off, write better!

What’s good writing got to do with Lean? Reducing rework and the waste—and cost—of rewriting documents, that's what.

Of all the wastes in law, redrafting is one of the most pernicious. We’ve built it in. We train our juniors by asking them to draft documents, knowing we will send them back several times to rework their drafts before making our own changes. We expect every attorney up the chain to review a document, making necessary (or unnecessary) changes. And that’s even before the document goes to opposing counsel, where it undoubtedly receives the same treatment.

The number of turnarounds can become ridiculous. One of our clients regularly offers flat fees for certain commercial transactions, but he won’t if one particular firm represents the opposing party. He knows with Comma, Colon & Parenthesis on the other side, he'll have to turn a contract 30 or 35 times. The flat fee goes out the window.

While you can’t do anything about CC&P, you can make your own internal drafting process much more efficient.

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Can A Lawyer Be Efficient, Effective...and Creative?

A recent article about company values got me thinking. Clients pay attorneys to negotiate wisely, to get the best deal, to protect their interests, whether the matter is a commercial transaction, a divorce or a patent prosecution. Throughout, clients expect lawyers to exercise their discretion and use their best judgment.

Can they do all this within the constraints of a standard legal process?

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What’s Next for the Middle Kingdom? A Response to "Growth is Dead: Part 11" by Adam Smith, Esq.

Updated on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 2:30PM by Registered CommenterGimbal Canada

This morning, I read Growth is Dead: Part 11-Granting Your Wish, the latest installment of Bruce MacEwan's thoughtful and provocative series on the future of law. In it, Bruce posits models for the future of law at both ends of the spectrum. As for the middle, he isn’t so sure.

Assuming Bruce is right, the highest-end firms will survive provided they successfully adopt the Wachtell model (which I assume, for these purposes, is the winner). It won’t be easy, and a lot of them will fail to make the structural changes necessary to make it work. As for the more routine, commoditized legal services at the other end of the spectrum, we only have to look at the explosion of LPOs and other low-cost, high volume providers to see what's coming.

Where, then, does that leave the rest?

I don’t think there will be one right model for the middle, but I believe what the rest must do to survive is pretty obvious. Even so, thriving in the crowded middle kingdom will require drastic changes in attitude, culture and approach that may be just as disruptive as adopting the Wachtell model. Firms will have to look carefully at why, how and what they do. They’ll have to engage in meaningful introspection but, most importantly, they’ll have to accept the inevitability of change and then actually do something about it.

This is what it’s going to take to thrive in the middle kingdom:

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