• Over-processing: A close cousin of over-production, over-processing in legal
work often pertains to service delivery mechanisms. Unnecessary sign-offs and
unwieldy approval processes are rife with opportunities for other types of waste,
such as time. Extraneous calls and meetings can also result in
• Defects: Defects are quite literally errors or mistakes in the work-product that
erode quality and require rework. Not all defects in legal work can be rectified
by process excellence, but most can. Instituting quality control steps into critical
processes and ensuring robust knowledge management systems to reduce error
in data entry and management can cut down on defect waste. For example,
investing in the effort to develop work product templates, checklists and
guidelines designed to client specifications and then socialized with the authors of
that work product, can establish quality guardrails and assurances.
• Skills: Skills-driven waste occurs in one of several ways. Time spent doing work
that could be performed just as well by lower-cost resources creates waste.
Failing to solicit the advice and input of a subject-matter expert on the team can
lead to unnecessary work performed and to additional waste through defects.
Inadequate training and direction of junior lawyers can also create skills waste by
causing many rounds of review and feedback.
CASE STUDY: In-depth process analysis reveals
opportunities for ambitious projects
In 2012, the legal team at British Telecommunications identified two broad
strategic goals for the legal work supporting BT’s corporate and commercial
transactions across the globe: cost reduction and “a sharper operational focus.”
Noting internal client demand for “more legal service for less money,” the legal
team aimed to optimize resource allocation on a global basis so they could
better support the company’s key growth markets. To make this ambitious goal a
reality, the BT team turned their attention to the details: the tasks and processes
performed by their legal teams.
The BT team commissioned an in-depth time-motion study to gain a better
understanding of the current-state workload. This study analyzed the
complexity and value potential by task type and probed whether the current
triage and assignment processes matched each task to the best provider on a
cost and skills basis.