Where did it all begin?
I am one of the founders of the Legal Process Improvement movement that has changed client expectations forever and led to new ways of working for lawyers. As a result of my work (and the work of other leaders in the field), it is now possible for lawyers and non-lawyers to embark on a new career path as a Legal Process or Legal Operations professionals.
It all started on 2010, when I was invited by the Australian Head of Information Logitics (eDiscovery) at Herbert Smith Freehills (then Freehills) to work with the team on understanding their processes and implementing process improvement concepts. It came on the back of interesting work being done by Seyfarth and Shaw to implement Lean Six Sigma through the firm as part of their recovery from the Global Financial Crisis.
They were having major challenges with the Partners they supported due to cost constraints and unclear expectations. Partners were regularly costing major cases and matters without correctly estimating the cost component of the eDiscovery and Information Logitics activities.
This led to conflict, mismatched expectations with Partners and clients, as well as excessive write offs for these valuable services. It was a tense situation - the entire team were incredibly disengaged and unhappy.
What did we do?
By this time, I had over 15 years of experience as in the area of operational and process improvement, having completed my Executive Masters at Harvard Business School in 1999, and my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt ceritifcation in 2004. We started with learning workshops for the entire Information Logitics Team, comprising highly experienced support lawyers and specialised eDiscovery professionals. These workshops -
- introduced the concepts of Lean Six Sigma and business process simplication
- identified the major sources of Partner conflict and mismatched expectations
- identified the major processes and opportunities for quick wins
- learnt basic process modelling standards and approaches
Actions were then assigned to different team members and sub teams to commence mapping processes in detail and to produce briefing packs for Partner and Clients to highlight the various service offerings and costs.
Some of the results...
Within a few weeks there were processes to review and improve, quick wins had been implemented and the relationship with Partners and Clients was improving due to the use of high level process maps that showed the complexity or the processes, and the significant value add provided by the Information Logitisics team. Many of these process maps are still being used today as visual management tools to support the induction of new team members, and when briefing clients on major cases and matters.
Most surprisingly, the entire team exhibited greater engagement and were able to substantially improve their productivity. This was due to the compounding positive impacts of -
- process simplification and standardisation activities that resulted in significant efficiencies
- reduced rework due to adoption of quality assurance techniques
- improved and consistent data capture supporting further improvement
- increased levels of visibility and control
- increased productivity and greatly reduced overtime
It was an incredibly rewarding experience with amazing outcomes...any legal team can achieve similar results eith the right education and support!