Introduction and conclusions here to an excellent article from J. Stephen Poor, chairman of international law firm Seyfarth Shaw, who were the first US legal practice to apply ”lean thinking” to legal business processes.
From our experience in the UK, we wouldn’t say that improving productivity in the legal world is easy, otherwise everyone would have done it already … but it works to simultaneously reduce operating costs and to improve value for clients. The starting point is to talk to clients about what they want that is different from what they get now to bring them on board. They like it. They want to work with you because it helps them get better value from you – but very few legal practices have that conversation.
According to J. Stephen Poor, whose experience is well worth exploring …
“True long-term success requires businesses to improve continually and reimagine how they operate in the face of changing competition and market forces. Yet this innovative urge, which drives so much of the rest of the American economy, is largely absent from large law firms. These address the traditional measures of law firm profitability …
What we did not anticipate was the resistance from other crucial stakeholders – especially clients. Much of what we’ve done is most effective when deployed in a collaborative change process with clients. What we overlooked at the outset is that, by and large, our clients are lawyers, too, and many of them are the products of the culture of their own business.
Understanding the various viewpoints and building the business case to involve this crucial constituency was something we learned along the way. The nature of the process requires a continuous, but slow march toward improvement and adaptation. Some things we tried worked and some did not. Nevertheless, the continuous move forward takes persistence and, perhaps, a bit of stubbornness.”
Read the rest of this article in the New York Times (7 May 2012)
Contact us if you would like to receive a copy of a) our presentation to the Law Management Section on “Become a winning law firm – lean, agile, pro-active and innovative” or b) our recent article in the Law Management Section’s journal, “Managing for Success”