Ten fundamental actions to improve operations in a law department

Earlier I fingered the chief culprit that preserves the status quo, the single most flagrant obstacle to improvement in law department operations: a refusal to stop and think about how work is done (See my post of July 11, 2011: pause and reflect.). If an internal lawyer does that, ten bedrock foundations are available to will improve operations.

  1. Push clients to clarify their requirements. Train clients how to request services and what they can do to help get the service (See my post of Feb. 11, 2007: survey data on web forms; March 26, 2007: pros and cons of Requests for Services; Nov. 8, 2009: pluses and minuses of requests for legal services; Nov. 10, 2010: contract intact systems; and Jan. 7, 2010: clients request legal services through an online portal.).

  2. Define and differentiate legal services. If work streams in as an undifferentiated blob, no law department can pick out what parts of it to treat differently.

  3. Track metrics about services. Until you count some things or have a sense of time demands, you can’t do a good job of improving productivity.

  4. Analyze steps in processes. You need to understand what is done, how often it is done, how long it takes, and who has a finger in the pie (See my post of April 9, 2009 #2: process maps with 6 references; and of July 31, 2009: process control techniques with 3 references and 5 metaposts.).

  5. Set priorities. Some tasks are more important than others (See my post of June 26, 2008: priorities with 6 references.).

  6. Triage. Stop doing lower value work or change how it is done. Overall, match your effort to the matter’s importance (See my post of May 15, 2005: NLRB and three tiers of matters; and May 23, 2008: core competencies help you know what to triage.).

  7. Delegate work. Ideally, if a lower cost person can get something done efficiently, they should handle it (See my post of Aug. 28, 2008: delegation in a law department with 14 references.).

  8. Refer to checklists. Make sure you are reminded of the essentials tasks and their best order (See my post of Jan. 26, 2010: checklists with 9 references.).

  9. Use software. As simple as word processing; as complex as document assembly, software can boost productivity.

  10. Standardize and reuse work product. Someone has already invented the wheel (See my post of Oct. 4, 2010: Susskind and commoditized work.).

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