The set of concepts that law department managers can apply to improve their operations is actually quite small. I count a half dozen of them.
1. You can streamline a process (See my post of May 28, 2007 on five aspects of processes; and May 28, 2007 on Six Sigma.).
2. You can standardize practices (See my posts of Nov. 3, 2005 about standardizing outside counsel practices; Feb. 21, 2007 about standardized bill formats; but see my post of April 17, 2007 that debunks standardization of legal work.).
3. You can invest in technology – where that term means more than just software and hardware (See my post of June 27, 2007 with three examples of law department productivity enhancers.).
4. You can train and educate both clients and law department members (See my post of June 30, 2007 as the sixth in a series on human capital initiatives.).
5. You can manage work distribution, such as by assigning the right people to the right tasks (See my posts of Aug. 26, 2006 with a definition of “delegation”; Aug. 26, 2005 on how to measure delegation to paralegals; Nov. 6, 2006 on the assignment of litigation tasks to paralegals at AXA; Aug. 2, 2006 and the challenge of delegation; April 17, 2007 about delegating contracts work.). The broadest swathe of delegation is retention of outside counsel.
6. You can motivate people to work harder (See my post of Feb. 21, 2007 on extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.).
In short, to improve your operations you can simplify, improve resources, routinize, educate, or push.