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Think differently, work differently and avoid getting stuck in a rut!

Day three of CLOC institute has got us thinking about one of our eight super skills for the modern lawyer – process improvement.

It’s no surprise in a legal operations conference that conversation has turned to identifying, mapping, and enhancing processes. We’ve all heard that lawyers must do more with less, this is not new news.

To get our heads around controlling costs, improving systems, sourcing work effectively, and measuring our productivity accurately, we need to adopt new and different skills beyond lawyering. In both law departments and law firms – from process mapping and legal project management to right sourcing – as lawyers must now know how to organise and oversee the application of resources to complete specified objectives.

Select the right project

The experience of the crowd at CLOC Institute suggests the first thing you should consider is how mature your legal ops function is and ensure you’ve set the right foundations. At first you should focus your efforts on establishing initiatives in:

  • Strategic planning
  • Financial management
  • Outside counsel management
  • Technology

It’s worth remembering here that only two of the above pillars relate to cost cutting.

When weighing up which project to take on first, it comes down to working out the savings (time and resources) and benefits (quantifiable and not) of your proposed initiative against the change management that’s going to be required. An effort vs impact matrix is a useful tool in helping your analysis.

Which initiative you pick will be heavily influenced by the potential ROI – make sure you work with your finance team and align yourself with their categorisation of hard and soft benefits.

Build a culture of continuous improvement

Once you’ve selected the initiative you’re going to work on, there’s no point using technology to fix a bad process. You need to get your processes right and create an atmosphere of continuous improvement before moving to implementing technology solutions. This isn’t just about prepping for a tech solution, you’ll see identifiable financial benefits and savings from this alone.

Following a methodology like Lean Six Sigma, is an internationally renowned way of reducing waste, boosting productivity and ensuring that you’re continually improving. The five steps you should follow are:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Map out the current process
  3. Identify the cause of the problem
  4. Implement and verify the solution
  5. Maintain the solution.

For more inspiration from outside the legal industry check out our toolkit on ‘Creative Problem Solving: 5 stages of Design Thinking for in-house legal team’.

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