Getting Lean With Corporate Legal

Getting Lean with Corporate Legal

Corporate Legal Departments must be Lean. Whether your group is 2 people in one office at the headquarters or 100 people across 10 offices and 3 countries, being operationally ready and prepared to support and grow with the Corporation are critical. Corporate Legal Departments CAN be Lean. Lean Six Sigma, that is.

The legal world is changing, and Corporate Legal is NOT exempt.

We are being asked to do more with less –fewer human resources, lower operational budgets, and a lower threshold for pain from our client – The Parent Corporation. While the Legal Department might not generate revenue for the Corporation, its work impacts the revenue generation of all departments. Proper risk assessment, timely advisory opinions, efficient contract review – all affect the bottom line for the Corporation. The budget to run a legal department is tight – and because we can’t analyze the successfulness of the legal department by how much the lawyers billed, the department often gets analyzed based on how well they did to protect the corporation, how well they managed and identified risk, how quickly they review contracts, how much they spend on outside counsel and how efficient it is to work with the legal department.

So why Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is the marriage of two main philosophies: Lean and Six Sigma. Lean is about removing waste, compressing time and process to be more responsive and provide better quality services to the greater corporation  - it’s focused on doing the right things.

Six Sigma is a management philosophy that is focused on doing things the right way, the first time.  In other words, looking for ways to reduce mistakes and errors. It is focused on results and management’s active involvement is critical to the success of any efficiency initiative.

At the end of the day, Lean is about taking steps to ensure we are providing things that the Corporation values and eliminating waste. Six Sigma is about doing those things with the fewest number of mistakes possible.  

Getting Lean isn’t easy – and for Corporate Legal Departments, the variety of work that comes into the office makes it even more challenging. From an understanding of Human Resources, Employment, Discrimination and Workers Compensation Matters to Compliance, Finance, Tax, Treasury Regulations, Securities, Patent and Trademark, Immigration, Litigation, Contract Review and Civil Litigation, to the need to manage requests and needs from every single department in the Corporation, the people, process, and technology in the department must be at their best.

Considering the breadth of the issues and departments Corporate Legal must manage, we often find that people, process, and technology have been piecemealed together, focusing on one need at a time, and resulting in a disjointed and nonintegrated system of managing matters and getting work done.

Contract management, calendar management, advisory opinions, FOIA requests, document management, deadline management, collaboration and oversight of outside counsel, project management, reporting…. for the 9 challenges listed above, there is a good chance there are 9 different technologies in use to manage it.

When one department needs a report showing the status of the advisory opinion request, the contract review, and the employment discrimination matter pending for their department, we go to 3 systems, run 3 reports, then try to work magic in Excel and glue them together in a meaningful way. And forget about how many places our contact exists for the main person we deal with in that department.

Oh, and don’t forget the need for the Legal Department to use a Corporate wide calendar and email system. Just another wrinkle – but no worries, you can still get Lean. It just takes time, and commitment.

Applying Lean Six Sigma in the Corporate Legal Department gives your team an opportunity to see things from a 10,000-foot view, to identify where processes can be streamlined, where technologies can be merged or applied, and where people might be in the wrong place, or, tasked with the wrong thing.

Start with self-assessment. Pen and paper. And write down the following:

  1. Every practice area / matter type you may be asked to handle
  2. Every department at the Corporation
  3. How each inquiry or request for assistance gets to your office (Email? Phone Call? Corporate intranet or portal? Somebody walks in your office?)
  4. All the different ways Contact information is managed
  5. All the different ways Documents are managed (how they are named, where they are saved, how they are SHARED with people inside, and, outside the Legal Department)
  6. How Deadlines and Calendars are managed
  7. How reports are generated

Running out of paper?  There is room for improvement – for the elimination of waste, improvement of service to the Corporation, and for simply a better way.  Challenge your team to be innovative – to take the initiative to find a better way to get their work done.  And, aim for continuous improvement which is measured by being a little bit more efficient today than you were yesterday.

If you have any questions about Lean Six Sigma, reach out to us any time! Just call us at 877-676-5492, or request a consultation. 

Legal Operations Starter Guide

Jennifer Ramovs

Written by Jennifer Ramovs

As Affinity Director of Practice Management, Jennifer specializes in consulting and training legal professionals on practice management software and technology that addresses document assembly and document management needs. Jennifer meshes her knowledge of different technologies with her own experience practicing as a lawyer, and her unique ability to analyze law office workflow to help firms develop policies and procedures that maximize both productivity and profitability.

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