Legal Service Design Jam - Report 2: Process

Following on from our introductory article ‘Legal Design Jams – 9x more productive than Jack Bauer’, Panicos Iordanou reviews the output from the ‘Process’ team at the Legal Service Design Jam hosted by LexisNexis, in conjunction with The BIO Agency, at Janders Dean’s ‘Horizons’ conference in May 2016.

Reviews of the output from the other two teams can be found here:

Identifying the main issues

The ‘process’ group started by brainstorming the key process-related issues and challenges facing law firms.

While there were a number of ‘smaller’ issues many of these were ultimately just symptomatic of two larger issues/problems.

The first was that lawyers - and indeed law firms generally –often ‘re-invent the wheel’ due to a lack of properly defined processes Tasks that should have be approached in a standard way across a firm – such as the onboarding of new clients – are often handled in an almost ‘ad-hoc’ manner.

The second was that law firms are not doing enough to continuously learn from and improve their processes.

How to stop re-inventing the wheel

If a law firm followed a similar approach to that taken by the ‘process’ team at our legal service design jam, the starting point would be to conduct an internal ‘tasks audit’. The objective would be to identify those tasks which, by virtue of their frequency and/or their impact, should be prioritized in terms of reducing inefficiency.

The next exercise would be to identify whether, for each such task, any process (good or bad) is in place. With that done, it would be necessary to identify whether the process is flawed, not being followed, or both.

This would lead to a fairly simple matrix of situations and required actions:

  • No process: create one
  • Flawed process: improve it
  • Good process that isn’t being followed: work out how to drive adoption of the process.
How to continuously learn from and improving processes

The group identified that, in order to learn from and improve processes, law firms would need to:

  • Collect and record data
  • Present/analyze data
  • Share learnings
  • Implement learnings

Many (if not most) of the processes the teams discussed would (at least in part) be performed and/or tracked electronically. This would throw up technical challenges such as:

  • being able to track a huge number of interactions across multiple teams and offices; and
  • being able to process all of that that data and present it in a useful way (e.g. visually).

The group also identified a number of people-related challenges to tracking/improving processes, such as:

  • some data might only be generated if somebody actively asks for it (e.g. feedback from a client after a matter closes);
  • some data won’t be recorded unless somebody documents it (e.g. attendance notes taken by lawyers during meetings);
  • lots of potentially relevant data will not be caught by the system at its point of origin and may require (logistically or even politically where lawyers and ‘their’ clients are concerned) one or more people to consent to and/or assist with making that information available to the system.

Against that background, the team considered what steps a law firm could take to ensure that people have the time, information/tools and motivation to do what is needed to generate, learn from and improve processes.

Suggestions included:

  • paying close attention to end users where tools are concerned (e.g. consider including lawyers in decisions around tools and technology rather than just IT and knowledge managers);
  • facilitating relationship-building and collaboration by introducing agile, open-plan, inter-departmental workspaces;
  • introducing rewards-based incentives for sharing knowledge and information;
  • finding ways to make the required activities more fun and less burdensome, in some cases by ‘gamifying’ the required actions; and
  • in the case of lawyers, putting knowledge sharing and other process improvement activities on an equal footing with billable hours in terms of performance criteria and reviews.
Examining a real-world process

frontendAs mentioned earlier, a firm’s priority should be to avoid re-inventing the wheel for its most frequent/important processes. The client matter handling process is perhaps as frequent - and as important - as a process gets in a law firm.

The team therefore set about designing a new end-to-end process for handling client matters from the very first interaction with a client (or potential client) right through to the matter being closed.

dashboardAn important feature of the process would be enabling law firms to track where in the process a matter was and how ‘well’ it was going (by reference to specified criteria relevant to the matter-type) at any given time. This would bring a number of benefits including:

  • helping people working on the matter to stay on schedule and identify any potential issues;
  • facilitating the clearer and more comprehensive sharing of updates with clients; and
  • creating data that can be analyzed for future insights, learning and improvement.

Given the need to depict a lot of data in an accessible and useful way, the team arrived at the idea of creating a visual ‘dashboard’ and even managed to get a first draft down on a paper within the final hour of the day!

 More jam here...

Don't forget to read our reports on the output from the other two teams:

Report 1:People

Report 3: Technology

Or, for a brief overview of the legal service design jam and to find out why legal service design jams are 9x more productive than Jack Bauer read this post.

Finally, to read more about the actual process of running a design jam, read this article by Alex Smith (Senior Product Lead - Platform Innovation at LexisNexis).

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