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Before important changes in your department, steer to a pilot program

Piloting is the practice of testing an innovation in real, yet controlled conditions to improve it and fix bugs (See my post of Feb. 20, 2006: get more value from pilot programs.). All kinds of program changes by law departments benefit from a trial run through a pilot (See my post of Feb. 1, 2006: Altria and litigation support; July 20, 2007: GE and diversity tracking; April 13, 2008: HSBC and its Malaysian knowledge center; and Jan. 22, 2009: Caterpillar and pro bono.). The feedback from a pilot program lets you hone whatever you are planning to roll out (See my post of Dec. 28, 2006: test of the Community Patent Review process.).

Just for the record, a prototype tries out a product, a pilot tries out a service. If some change contemplated by a law department is complicated – perhaps a new budgeting system for law firms, or has some aspects that no one is sure how best to handle – perhaps receiving bills electronically, or involves many people and moving parts – perhaps an intranet that involves law firm contributions, it is wise to test a small but realistic slice of the program.

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