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“What have we stopped doing this quarter that we did last quarter?”

A general counsel on a recent panel said that he wants an answer to this question from his team every quarter. He does not want to hear about matters that ended; he wants to hear about low-value activities that are no longer done by the law department, such as quasi-legal time consumers (See my post of April 9, 2008: quasi-legal tasks with 14 references.).

The general counsel sets a tough standard, but his question, repeated frequently, makes his team scrutinize what they are doing and how they are doing it. Simply being more conscious of pursuing efficiency will increase it over time as will being forced to state what you have done or failed to do (See my post of Dec. 21, 2008: require and publish a cost-saving idea every quarter from every lawyer who manages outside counsel; and Jan. 2, 2009: push for regular contributions to knowledge management repository.).

Likewise, even if people only articulate and question their assumptions, positive change becomes more likely (See my post of May 16, 2007: assumption that law firms have infinite capacity not borne out; and Aug. 21, 2008: family-friendly policies shouldn’t assume employees have children.).