Legal teams seeking to trim waste from their operations have many formal process
improvement disciplines at their disposal, each with varying degrees of rigidity and
formality. For in-house departments seeking to improve the efficiency of their operations
and effectiveness in serving internal clients, what is most important in choosing a process
improvement is whether it will work in their specific environment. The rest of this guide is
written with the in-house perspective in mind; however, all of the principles and tools apply in
the law firm context as well.
Drawing from diverse sources, we identify the following core principles as critical keys to
success for legal teams pursuing meaningful change:
• Client-defined value: Articulate a definition of value from the viewpoint of the client.
• Reliance on data: Use quantitative methods in process analysis to measure current
state effectiveness as well as the performance impact of any improvements.
• Structural improvements: Analyze client problems to identify and address root causes.
• Waste elimination: Identify and eliminate systemic sources of waste, such as extraneous
tasks, activities, and roadblocks in communication or knowledge sharing protocols.
• Quality through consistency: Establish standardized best practices
that can be operationalized through default workflows.
• Change management through controls: Ensure adoption of the new process by all
relevant teams and stakeholders through active engagement and control mechanisms.
While this guide draws heavily from classic principles and techniques in Lean, Six Sigma, and
Lean Six Sigma, nearly all have been adapted significantly to the specific needs and constraints of
legal practice. In addition, we have also integrated lessons from other disciplines in product and
service design as well as foundational concepts in professional services management.
Lean Six Sigma and DMAIC
Many companies have adopted Lean Six Sigma as their process improvement methodology
because it combines the best elements of waste elimination and quality controls, respectively
refined through Lean Six Sigma.
Guiding principles. Classic Lean thinking examines a set of processes on a “mile-wide” basis,
with its practitioners looking to create value and eliminate waste across multiple steps. This