What Can Continuous Improvement Offer Your Firm?

Aderant Think Tank

What Can Continuous Improvement Offer Your Firm?

With firms becoming more aware of the various improvement models from the business world, including programs like lean six sigma, some have begun to test these practices in the real world of law. In fact, one of the lesser known models, continuous improvement (known as CI), has already been implemented on a vast scale at Clifford Chance, one of the world’s ten largest firms. They published a white paper about their experience with CI titled Applying Continuous Improvement To High-End Legal Services, and it highlights the benefits that CI can offer to any firm looking to improvement their practice through constant evaluation, collaboration and a drive for efficiency.

Although CI has been applied in many global industries for decades, it is a new concept to most law firms. So why would firms need to spend their valuable time evaluating their processes and implementing new plans? Put simply, because there’s more money in efficiency. As the Profits for Partners blog wrote last year, “It is surprising there is so much waste in how legal work is done. Perhaps not that surprising; however, as hourly billing arrangements encourage wasteful working habits. You get paid more money the more hours you work on a file under hourly billing arrangements, so the temptation to over-work a file is there. Hourly billing encourages inefficiency, while fixed fee billing encourages efficiency.”

In other words, by definition an inefficient billing scheme is not maximizing profits, so productive efforts to make it more efficient, more lean, should yield positive results. In summarizing the Clifford Chance report, Ron Friedmann at Prism Legal argued that CI could be a game-changer for the legal industry. According to his reading of the report, the firm was sending several messages with the implementation of the CI program, including:

  • We are looking for best practices and improvements and we won’t take no for an answer. We have left the world of mythology for the one of science and industry
  • We have a standardized process, even in high stakes matters; banished is the view that “I am an artisan, every matter is unique.”
  • We solve another challenge most firms face, which is training new lawyers. Plus, we call on our professionals who are not lawyers as equals.
  • We understand that change management is hard but we won’t be daunted. We will work hard to make sure we don’t backslide.

In this challenging market with flat client demand, firms are slowly coming to the realization that greater efficiency and improvement in their internal processes might be the only path to increased revenues. As more firms adopt this philosophy, the net effect across the legal industry could be truly transforming.

Join the discussion on LinkedIn or Twitter @Aderant and let us know what you think!