Legal Teams Turn to Six Sigma to Improve Legal Ops Departments

Legal Teams Turn to Six Sigma to Improve Legal Ops Departments

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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For those outside the world of law, your image of lawyers may revolve around what you see on television and in movies: conferences with clients, grilling a witness in court and making a closing argument.

But those in the profession know there’s an important part of the legal world few people see. This is called legal operations, or legal ops.

A legal ops department handles the business end of the legal world, including the copious amounts of paperwork and complex billing the industry produces. Canadian Lawyer magazine defines a legal ops department as needing people who have skills in:

  • Knowledge management
  • Technology management
  • Financial management
  • Compliance
  • Contract management
  • Intellectual property management
  • External resource management
  • Strategic planning
  • Metrics and analysis

Right. Nothing difficult about that. It’s a good thing that people in the legal industry are beginning to see the value of Lean Six Sigma.

Canadian Firm Looks For Outside Help

Larger organizations have had legal ops departments for years. It’s now spreading to other companies as the interest grows in having legal departments perform more like a business unit, including generating performance metrics.

Legal ops are changing. For example, Canadian Lawyer reported that SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal-based company with 75 lawyers across five continents, started its legal ops team with a one member, attorney Jean-Francois Denis. But now they’ve hired a person to help him from outside the legal world.

Denis remains the director, but the trend is toward hiring people with business and process improvement skills rather than legal skills. Denis told Canadian Lawyer, “You need to speak the language of your C-suite…In terms of an increasing sophistication of departments coming up with sound, better reporting, it’s a must.”

Sun Life and Lean Six Sigma

In another example, Sun Life in Canada hired Mimi Bowen as the legal ops director. Bowen is not a lawyer. Rather, she’s a Lean Six Sigma expert who was among the first Black Belts to work at Ford Motor Company and Maple Leaf Foods. She is considered an expert in operational excellence.

Ken Savage, the vice president for corporate legal and governance at Sun Life, told Canadian Lawyer, “We thought that it would be best to have legal operations headed up by someone with Lean Six Sigma skill sets.”

Bowen not only has learned how lawyers work, but also has built a culture of acceptance of Lean Six Sigma principles. She also has brought the concepts of Agile into the company’s new offices in downtown Toronto.

A Growing Area for Lean Six Sigma

These two examples from Canada are just the latest showcasing the use of Lean Six Sigma in the legal world.

For example, a Louisiana law firm put principles of Lean to work to speed up the processes involved with reviewing documentation and cataloguing information. The legal team at 7-11 has employed Lean Six Sigma to improve operations. The University of Calgary now has a course that teaches students how to apply Lean Six Sigma to law firm operations.

None of this comes as a surprise to Catherine Alman MacDonagh, author of “Lean Six Sigma for Law Firms.” Her approach tries to answer two primary questions:

  • What problems are the most important to solve?
  • How will you know when you have solved them?

Getting there involves many elements of Lean and Six Sigma, including DMAIC. She believes law firms and legal departments with large companies should try learning Lean, Six Sigma and project management all at once. However, if they must choose one place to start, she suggests project management.

“After that, the firm can train project managers and others using optimized processes,” she writes in her book.  She notes that every process generates waste, and the ones in legal are no exception.

The adoption of Lean and Six Sigma practices has made the legal world more efficient. It’s also offered those who become experts in Lean and Six Sigma another area for them to use their talents.

The post Legal Teams Turn to Six Sigma to Improve Legal Ops Departments appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

By: admin
Posted: April 24, 2019, 7:00 am

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