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Case study of segmenting matters by seriousness (NLRB unfair labor practices)

The Office of the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board spends much of its time investigating and making preliminary determinations on charges of unfair labor practices (ULPs). In 1995, the Office studied how it handled the 3,000 charges it received each month. [] Moving from a first-in, first-out model, the NLRB shifted to a segmented model where lawyers assigned ULP charges to Category III (highest impact to unions and the public), Category II, or Category I (lowest impact).

For each of the three tiers, the Office set different time targets for issuing a complaint or dismissing the charge: 7, 11, and 15 weeks, respectively. The study also varied the fact-finding methods according to the Category. Finally, the Office started tracking data about its Categories, resolution times, and staffing.

Law departments that face a continuing flow of substantially-similar matters can adapt the NLRB’s practices to their own triage system.