At KaiNexus, our mission is to spread continuous improvement and we love speaking to others who share the same goal. We believe that continuous improvement can be applied to any industry, and our friends Karen Skinner and David Skinner from Gimbal Canada, Inc, agree. With over 40 years of international law experience between them, Karen and David have now been working for the past three years to improve legal services using Lean practices and initiatives. We spoke with them about innovation in professional services firms in this webinar:
In this webinar, you will learn:
- Trends in service delivery innovation for professional service firms
- How Lean can support critical innovations in pricing, project management, and knowledge management
- How a culture of continuous improvement can support innovation
- Where to start and how to avoid typical pitfalls
Here are the highlights of the webinar:
The Challenge of Spreading Lean in Law Firms
The challenge is that law firms are typically traditional, conservative, and risk-averse, which makes them very resistant to change. However, pressure from technological innovations, economic downturn, globalization, commoditization, and competition are mounting on firms to innovate their practices. Additionally, there is also pressure from clients to move away from more traditional practices toward changes in billing structure and evidence of efficiency.
Law firms have consistently been pushing their innovations toward knowledge management, legal project management, pricing and alternatives to the billable hour, and process improvement, in that order. Karen and David have been advising clients to start with process improvement and use Lean to build a foundation for the innovations that law firms are beginning to implement.
How to Deliver a High-Quality Service in Less Time and with Less Cost
The question that clients have asked is “Can firms deliver in less time and less cost?” The answer is to increase efficiency. The first step is to optimize the process, then turn to legal project management. Firms have even used Lean and Six Sigma to optimize litigation, something that is often thought too complex to make more efficient.
Some firms have begun to move toward a flat fee structure instead of a pay-by-hour rate to deliver reduced cost for clients. Evidence shows that firms that change pricing structures without first optimizing the process see a reduction in profitability. Optimizing small processes is important and in the long run will save time and can increase productivity.
Where to Start
Well, where do you start? Pressure is often mounting in the legal industry and decreasing pressure is important to make lawyers more efficient.
The key equation is Pressure equals Volume of Work divided by Time. The more work that needs to be done over a short amount of time creates an increase in pressure.
There are two solutions to decrease pressure: either reduce the amount of work or find more time. Reducing work is the less favorable solution. By optimizing processes, saving even a little bit of time adds up. Small changes work.
Here we find the essence of Lean. Simply put, add value and eliminate waste. To get started, Karen and David recommend DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), which we have covered in the past, as well as creating a process map.
The Elephant in the Room
With such a simple solution, what can go wrong while implementing Lean? The biggest challenge is not getting people to buy in. It's not hard to get lawyers to focus on the incremental process and how small changes can make a difference in their daily routine.
The elephant in the room is the question that many pose: “Won’t this mean fewer billable hours?” In their eyes, being more efficient will equal less money. This doesn't have to be the case, though; by using Lean and building for more value and less waste, they focus better and do more of the work that they enjoy, more productively.