There are several disciplines borrowed or adapted from the manufacturing context to improve
legal work processes – Six Sigma, Lean, etc. They can be useful, but the point is simply to
eliminate waste, such as extra steps; streamline processes to be more efficient; and, most
important, to relentlessly address root causes – not just of mistakes or inefficiencies, but also of
legal work itself. Prevention of disputes is the most potent way to control legal expenses.
To best leverage process and technology, the law department can ask itself the following
• Do defined processes exist?
• Are they clearly understood?
• Are they used consistently?
• How could they be more efficient?
• Are there any redundancies?
• What is the current workflow?
[From the ACC Guide to Value-Based Staffing]
When most successful, process improvement initiatives can help organizations better
articulate and focus on what matters to their clients. By assessing processes through the lens
of client-defined value, organizations are able to achieve meaningful gains in efficiency and
quality by eliminating activities that do not add value to the quality of the client’s product or
The business case for process improvement is simple and straightforward. Process
improvement techniques provide a varied, robust repertoire of tools to help law departments
and firms enhance the overall value delivered to clients by:
• Streamlining workflow;
• Managing and reducing cycle time;
• Capturing and managing years of knowledge;
• Eliminating hidden costs and barriers to quality;
• Improving internal and external team communications; and,
• Implementing process controls to ensure improvements are adopted.
When done right, process improvement can result in best practices that help legal teams
optimize staffing, sequence of work, duration of matters, efficiency, cost predictability, and
ultimately, value to their internal clients. Further, law departments with robust process
improvement capabilities are better positioned to set expectations and manage service delivery
to elicit process excellence from their outside counsel.