Standardizing legal work is not the optimal goal

It will not do to try to make cookie cutters out of inside-house counsel work (See my post of Jan. 25, 2007 on “commodity legal work.”). Legal tasks and problems do not fall into such neat and repetitious patterns and lawyers rebel.

Rather, instead of trying to force commonly-done work into the same steps and structure – standardization, law departments fare better if they (1) provide their lawyers and paralegals with better tools (See my post of April 17, 2007 regarding “tools” in law departments); (2) train their staff better (See my post of April 13, 2006 regarding internal substantive training.); (3) share knowledge between the members of the department (See my post of May 1, 2005 regarding sharing knowledge within the department.); (4) export appropriate work to clients or refuse to do it (See my posts of Sept. 14, 2005 and May 14, 2006 regarding a client-self service model); (5) train clients (See my posts of Dec. 19, 2005 and July 14, 2005.); and (6) delegate work to the right level (See my post of Aug. 31, 2005 regarding delegation of contracts.).

Productivity follows from these six steps far more than from the imposition of illusory standardized processes and documents.

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