Lean Six Sigma For Lawyers — Ways To Identify Waste
Just about every industry leader in the world wants to make their company ‘lean’. It’s a buzzword that’s been said so often, the meaning of the word is often misconstrued. Couch critics say that’s it’s just doing more for less. However, our guest on The Rankings Podcast, Yehia Said, thinks otherwise!
As Weitz & Luxenberg‘s Director of Business Operations, Yehia has implemented processes from one of the most popular performance-improving methodologies for organizations: Lean Six Sigma. This contemporary approach was pioneered by Motorola in 1986, but its framework for organizational culture change still resonates today.
What is Lean Six Sigma?
Lean Six Sigma is about reducing defects in your process and waste and aims to harbor a cultural change in employees’ mindsets. The goals are continuous improvement, process optimization, maximum efficiency, and profitability. Now, who wouldn’t want some of that?
Eliminating Waste For Law Firms
One of the key tenets of Lean Six Sigma is the elimination of waste. The Lean Six Sigma methodology uses the mnemonic ‘DOWNTIME’ to split waste into 8 categories. Fujio Cho of Toyota defined waste as:
“Anything other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, space, and workers time, which are absolutely essential to add value to the product”.
But can it be applied to law firms? We’ve retrofitted the Lean Six Sigma 8 types of waste with a legal spin to demonstrate how your firm could work it to its advantage.
“A defect is a product that is declared unfit for use. This requires the product to either be scrapped or reworked, costing the company time and money.”
Law firm translation: wrong client details, incomplete forms, bad drafting, billing mistakes, data entry errors and omissions, or missing a filing deadline!
“Over-production refers to a product that is made in excess or made before it is needed.”
Law firm translation: too many people involved in meetings, excessive printing or photocopying, creating the wrong kind of social media assets, starting work before clearing conflicts, too many communications.
“Waiting involves delays in process steps and is split into two different categories: waiting for material and equipment and idle equipment.”
Law firm translation: waiting for clients, employees, or opposing counsel to respond, starting a call or meeting late due to late arrivals, slow IT systems.
“Non-Utilized Talent refers to the waste of human potential and skill. The main cause of this waste is when management is segregated from employees.” Wh
Law firm translation: partners performing associate-level work, not using lower-cost resources such as paralegals that are capable of doing tasks, not hiring for values, over-staffing.
“Transportation is the unnecessary or excessive movement of materials, product, people, equipment, and tools.”
Law firm translation: moving files from one place to another, sending hard copies rather than emails, manual rather than digital billing.
“Inventory refers to an excess in products and materials that aren’t yet processed. This is a problem because the product may become obsolete before the customer requires it, storage costs time and money, and the possibility of damage and defects increases over time.”
Law firm translation: work in process, unanswered calls and unread emails, marketing materials (collateral, promotional items, event materials), unused printers and other hardware.
“Motion is unnecessary movement by people. Excessive motion wastes time and increases the chance of injury.”
Law firm translation: time-wasting through excessive travel arrangements, delivering files by hand rather than email, poor office layout, poor manual or IT workflows.
“Extra-processing is doing more work than is required or necessary to complete a task.”
Law firm translation: double-entering data, unnecessary double-checking, lack of standard templates, too many authorizations.
So What Should You Do With All That Waste?
If you nodded your head to a few of those, then the Lean Six Sigma methodology might be worth checking. There are a ton of courses available in person or online, and we can highly recommend this thorough and insightful article about Lean Six Sigma for Law Firms by the non-profit British Columbia Legal Management Association (BCLMA).