One activity – litigation lessons learned – and the breadth of management values it calls into play

A large law department I know handles many lawsuits. Its lawyers who manage those suits prepare closing reports that state lessons learned. They aggregate the lessons periodically and study them for trends and conclusions, which goes beyond a one-shot post mortem on major matters (See my post of Oct. 11, 2008: three tips for better retrospective analyses; March 16, 2009: money saving technique; March 31, 2009: post mortem technique that asks for one suggestion from a client for how to improve; April 25, 2009: after-action reviews in ACC Value Challenge; April 29, 2009: ACC Value challenge; July 7, 2009: bake it into matter management system; firms; and Feb. 25, 2010: after a deal closes, have a post mortem competition.).

Reflect for a moment how many valuable traits of management that single activity feeds into. My survey of ideas would include the following:

  1. Continuous improvement, in that the whole purpose is to get better;

  2. Evidence-based management, in that the lessons derived are grounded in actual events and metrics that accumulate to guide future decisions;

  3. Knowledge management, in that the effort deliberately tries to collect tacit knowledge and make it available;

  4. Performance evaluations of law firms as well as inside counsel, in that poor decisions or uses of capabilities should surface;

  5. Process thinking, in terms of both reflection on how they handled litigation and the process of group deliberation;

  6. Productivity, in that some lessons go to how to reduce cycle time, move cases along, handle more cases at one time yet well, etc.;

  7. Training, in that those who take part are teaching each other and learning from each other; and

  8. Value delivered and risks handled, in that wise use of corporate resources informed by deliberate study translates into value and the reduction of settlements and judgments reduces or avoids risk.

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