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 Maximizing value and minimizing blog at a time.

Entries in Lean Lexicon (4)


Kano's Coffee Shop: Improving your Legal Process Improvement

What’s coffee got to do with improvement? Well, thinking about how you deliver a great cup of coffee can help you deliver great process improvements. As Karen wrote in last week's blog, the Improve phase of DMAIC might be fun but it's a phase where teams can get bogged down. They need to move from the negative, “No, we can’t do that because…” mentality towards a more positive, “Yes, we can do that if….”

Teams that adopt the innovator's approach are usually richly rewarded. Their creative juices start flowing, and they generate long lists of ideas for potential improvement. However, the very wealth of ideas can give rise to a second reason teams get bogged down: they can’t possibly implement all of the solutions they’ve come up with.

Kano’s Model helps teams prioritize ideas and solutions that might otherwise compete for limited time and resources.

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Lean Six Sigma - What is it and why do lawyers need it?

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

More…for less.

Follow our blog, The Lean Law Firm, read more about the services we provide to lawyers and law firms, and contact us to find out how we can help you become a lean law firm.



The Lean Lexicon for Lawyers Part 2: What's with the Belts?

Welcome to the Lean Lexicon for Lawyers, Part 2. In case you missed it, Part 1 introduced you to the semantics of Six Sigma. Today’s post explains the Six Sigma/Lean Six Sigma belt-based qualification system.

As we said in Part 1, Lean Six Sigma's Japanese terminology and awkward acronyms can seem odd. And sometimes, even if you know what a term means, it can be hard to see how it applies to law. The Lean Lexicon for Lawyers is a series of short posts on some of the most common terms, with explanations tailored to law. If you come across a term you’d like us to explain, or a concept that looks interesting but you’re not sure how it applies in a legal setting, please let us know.

So...the belts. Since the 1980s, Six Sigma has used a system of belts to denote the level of training of its practitioners, much like you’d find in karate and other martial arts.  Many Lean Six Sigma practitioners now adopt a similar belt system. Some write their belt level out, while others put strings of initials after their names. CLSSBB or CSSMBB might look incomprehensible on a business card, but it's simply an indication of a qualification.

You’ll see a bewildering rainbow of different belts on the internet, but in Lean Six Sigma there are only three worth worrying about:

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The Lean Lexicon for Lawyers Part 1: Six Sigma Semantics

Is Six Sigma the same as Legal Sigma? What’s up with the belts? DMAIC versus PDCA? Does a kaizen event mean lunch at the local sushi bar?

Lean Six Sigma can seem strange and overwhelming when you first look into it. Unfamiliar Japanese words and awkward acronyms pop up everywhere. And sometimes, even if you know what a term means, it can be hard to see how it applies to law.

Because the mere mention of DMAIC and 5S makes most lawyers’ eyes glaze over, we’re launching our Lean Lexicon for Lawyers. This series of short posts defines some of the most common Lean Six Sigma terms, with explanations tailored for lawyers. If you come across another word that you don’t know, or a concept that looks interesting but doesn’t seem to apply in law, please let us know. We’ll do our best to include it in our series.

First, the semantics of Six Sigma.

When you start looking for information about process improvement in law firms, you’re going to find terms like Six Sigma, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Legal Lean, Legal Sigma, Legal Lean Sigma...the list goes on. What does it all mean? Here's a quick explanation:

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