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Quick-reference procedures guides would help legal departments

An article in Law Practice, Sept./Oct. 2010 at 12, recommends that law firms develop “quick-reference guides for how the various jobs in the firm are done, and by whom.” Let’s transplant the constructive suggestion to our domain.

“Start by having all current employees outline the major tasks they perform regularly, including the percentage of time each task occupies on a weekly or monthly basis.” The author recommends that someone else who is not familiar with the task review the description, edit it for clarity, and return it to the employee to fill in missing details “including the location of any materials, passwords or other information” and useful tricks of the trade.

Some legal departments prepare process maps, but a down-to-earth explanation by the person who handles subpoenas, opens matters on the system, codes invoices, sets up conference rooms, arranges for temps, deals with offsite archives, distributes faxes, maintains training logs, and so forth in a long list of processes, would be much more practical. It is low-level knowledge management with considerable benefits to process improvement, self-learning, and backup capabilities. Assuming the material is collected on the department’s intranet, it supplements job descriptions and gives particularity to performance evaluations.

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One response to “Quick-reference procedures guides would help legal departments”

  1. Effective process mapping is more difficult than it looks; it’s not a bad thing to get some professional help with. Corporations may have internal specialists, or you can go outside. Internal process specialists may not have the knowledge of legal process — and the knowledge about lawyers — to keep them from strangling you in overhead, however.
    That said, even just collecting this information and sharing it is likely to be a step up.
    Some people obfuscate their processes thinking it brings additional job security, especially in these troubled times. That’s where a professional can really help; it’s not just about mapping processes but understanding human behavior, and positioning the work so it doesn’t seem threatening but rather empowering.