Over the last year, I have noticed a very tangible increase in law firms and in-house departments interested in reviewing and revising their core processes for delivering legal services. The drivers, as in so much else, are primarily rooted in price pressure, financial performance and a push for improved efficiency. Undertaking this work requires an acknowledgment that all work is a process of some sort, not always easy for lawyers who can view the core legal work they do as a "black box" - un-chartable territory. In preparation for a book on Legal Process Improvement, I have begun to look more closely at the different approaches that can be used to map and review legal process.
Process Improvement (PI) Projects
Tackling a single process or practice area using PI tools is a common starting place. These projects require a disciplined and methodical approach to reviewing and improving the process, which can be a challenge in law firms where project rigor is not always applied to the core lawyer's work (although with the growing use of Legal Project Management this is changing).
There are a wide range of process improvement methodologies used that mostly originated in manufacturing. The two best known today are Six Sigma and Lean, sometimes used together. Home-grown variants and tailored derivations of these complex and industrial-scale tools have sprung up in many sectors, including legal and I am finding more law firms and corporate legal departments who have used Lean Six Sigma to overhaul their processes every month. .....
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