ACC VALUE CHALLENGE - Guide to Process Improvement
The earliest application of process improvement to legal work predates the economic
downturn by a few years, but a familiar narrative underpins the efforts of Tom Sager,
then general counsel of DuPont, who pioneered the use of Lean Six Sigma principles to
“As a manufacturing company, [DuPont places] a premium on efficiency and
productivity, and we are very sensitive to productivity among internal practices and our
supply chain,” Sager said. “This includes our legal services. They are not
treated differently.” 2
Through a combination of panel convergence, alternative staffing, and process
improvement, DuPont developed a new approach to early case assessment, document
management, and discovery to achieve millions in cost savings. Since then, process
improvement has helped many forward-thinking GCs elevate the efficiency and
effectiveness of their departments.
CASE STUDY: Top of license practice through standardization
Embraer, a global aircraft manufacturer, launched a lean manufacturing
initiative in 2008. Keeping the legal team in sync with the organization’s culture
of continuous improvement was a motivating factor for executive vice president
and general counsel Terena Rodrigues.
Recognizing the potential for economic impact, Rodrigues and her team set out
to streamline and standardize processes in contract negotiations so that the
in-house team could return to top-of-license practice: “We tried to stop doing
standardized, mechanical things, and focus our attorneys’ time on relevant
“We tried to stop doing standardized, mechanical things, and
focus our attorneys’ time on relevant legal work.”
The team invested $400,000 into an initiative to create simplified forms, pre-defined workflows for each type of document, and a web-based system. The
system provides guidance to business leaders through each step in the process,
through legal revision, approval, execution, and storage.
The Embraer team achieved a 30 percent reduction in cycle time and increased the
ratio of standard to non-standard agreements from 39:61 to 45:55. The increased
use of standard forms eliminates the need for legal review, freeing up the
legal team to focus on higher-value, strategic work.
2 Rohrer, Lisa, and DeHoratius, Nicole, “SeyfarthLean: Transforming Legal Service
Delivery at SeyfarthShaw,” Harvard Law School, The Case Studies, May 19, 2015.