• Inventory: Excess can be tricky to understand as it is closely related to
other types of waste such as waiting and skills. Law departments experiencing
unevenness or instability in staff utilization should probe work intake, triage,
assignment, and case status tracking processes. Often, inventory waste is a result
of inefficiency and backlog in intake processes. Given the unpredictability of some
areas of law, such as litigation, inventory waste can also be caused by a lack of
visibility and ineffective information flow about activity levels on open matters.
Lastly, the law department may be overstaffed or staffed with a sub-optimal mix
of talent (e.g. insufficient support staff can cause excess inventory of in-house
lawyer time, even as the law department falls behind its service levels).
• Motion: In legal practice, excess motion is closely related to problems in
information and knowledge management. Time spent searching for documents in
multiple places represents motion waste. Duplication of data entry into multiple
repositories and time spent moving information from one place to another can
also create waste (e.g. multiple team members manually filing the same case-related emails into personal folders within their inboxes).
• Waiting time: Because legal practice depends so heavily on communication
and collaboration, waiting time is a common source of waste. Inefficient hand-offs and time spent waiting for key inputs from internal clients, outside counsel,
and relevant third-parties can add significant bloat to cycle times across different
types of legal work. Waiting time is often sensitive to the presence of other
types of waste, including transportation, motion, over-processing, and defects.
Often, wait time is a result of delays in providing information in a timely fashion
— such as outside counsel providing a draft motion for summary judgment to
the law department for their review. This causes unevenness in the workflow,
especially where a hard deadline exists, and this delay results in a shortened
timeframe to finalize the work product in order to hit the filing deadline. This
approach jeopardizes the quality of the work product. A more effective method
is to provide information in an even, predictable timeline so that appropriate
resources are ready and available to execute the next step in the process in an
• Over-production: Legal practice is especially susceptible to over-production,
or “overlawyering.” In a classic example, outside counsel often draft extensively
researched and cited memos for legal issues of low complexity. Often, this is a
result of poor communication and unclear scope definitions. For in-house teams
attempting to keep pace with ever-increasing speeds of business, over-production
can creep into many routine processes, creating friction with the business
stakeholders who can see legal as “getting in the way.” These pain points often
present critical, high-impact opportunities for improvement, such as extensive
legal review of routine documents that could be standardized to minimize risk.