The business of our justice system is ripe for change! Set aside the legal aspects and just focus on the business side of the industry. The fact is, corporate counsels offices typically operate on an unlimited budget. Most of the time, there are soft budgets applied to show some type of fiscal restraint, but those restrictions typically are blown relatively quickly. No other department within any organization in corporate America is allowed to operate in such a reckless manner.
Secondly, most lawyers have not attended business school, nor are they trained in business fundamentals and operations. Their focus is typically on the practice of law, with limited fiscal constraints. Furthermore, lawyers are entirely unfamiliar with the methodologies of Lean or Six Sigma. The practice of law and protecting the interests of the client do not currently require managing workflows, improving efficiencies, reducing costs or delivering added value. These are alien concepts to most lawyers.
In today’s business climate, organizations are starting to demand “business-only” strategies be applied to their practices. Clients are demanding efficiencies and refusing to pay for unnecessary work, demanding legal operations remain within a set budget. The court system itself suffers from many of these weaknesses, and requires some fiscal belt tightening.
The principles of Lean Six Sigma can surely be applied to the practice of law and the business of the judicial system. The methodologies require constant improvement of quality based on the measurement of performance indicators. Specifically, Six Sigma can focus on service delivery, since the legal and judicial system is completely service oriented.
As with any other industry, this change will require attention and support from leaders within legal and judicial offices. Lawyers and judges will need to understand the methodologies and require experts from their organizations to properly implement the methodologies. Changes have already started to impact the industry, and attorneys are quickly focusing on meeting the expectations of their clients’ fiscal limitations. Lean Six Sigma can now define critical success factors to include engagement, management involvement, communications, resources, projects, discipline and consequences.
Lean Six Sigma, applied to the U.S. civil justice system, might seem strange at first, but the concept is right at “home” when discussing discovery. Applying Lean Six Sigma to discovery can assist in improving the primary review of documents and reduce overall costs, as the philosophy forces practitioners and courts to look at the bigger picture and ask—why is this discovery task done this way?