Can You Boost Your Practice Through Process Improvement?

Aderant Think Tank

Can You Boost Your Practice Through Process Improvement?

Amid rising pressure to increase revenues and profitability, lawyers are beginning to focus more on improving the processes they use to run their firms. In recent years, firms are starting to implement business strategies used by the manufacturing and commercial sectors. One example, continuous process improvement, is already being used to help firms to better manage their practice and increase profits.

A recent story titled Law Firms: Cut Costs, Attract Clients, Boost Profits, noted that firms’ current difficulty in raising fees is causing them to look more closely at their internal options. By increasing the efficiency of their processes, firms can accomplish the same goal as raising their fees without having to put their client relationships at risk.

Put simply, by examining how you run your daily business, and what it costs for each step in the process, you can begin saving money immediately. In fact, many process adjustments are just minor “tweaks” with little or no cost and can often be implemented fairly quickly. As a starting point, consider the four basic goals of process improvement:

  1. Identify the goal of the redesign
  2. Select the right process improvement methodology
  3. Recognize the challenges to achieving process improvement, and
  4. Overcome those challenges

Many firms already have changes in mind for their business operations, and a recent study reflects a trend toward more open thinking and modernization. Law Technology Today reported on a just-concluded survey of 800 solo and small firm attorneys, where they were asked about any plans to modernize their firm in 2015. Based on the responses, 49% indicated that revamping their website was a top priority, 47% want to move toward a paperless office and 25% said that investing in practice management software for the firm was a top priority. Even if just some of those changes took place in the typical firm, net profits would likely increase with no associated increase in fees.

European firms have already joined the process-improvement bandwagon. According to the Financial Times, firms in struggling economies such as Spain and Portugal are already reinventing internal processes and the UK legal market is close behind. The Times found that “The top 20 law firms in the UK by revenue all use some combination of outsourcing, paralegal support centres, contract lawyers, process mapping, project management and technology for legal and support work. Legal matters continue to be broken down into smaller component parts and resourced in more cost-efficient ways.”

Interestingly, these changes are occurring despite lawyers’ natural resistance to altering the traditional legal services business model. What’s more, terms such as “open innovation” and “best practices” are no longer ignored or mocked at the partners’ table. By embracing process improvement, firms can find huge value by simply looking inward.

Join the discussion on LinkedIn or Twitter @Aderant and let us know what you think!


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