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New Buzz Phrase in Efficiency Efforts: Process Management

Posted Oct 20, 2009 3:44 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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When Seyfarth Shaw first brought in a consultant to train attorneys in a new efficiency concept known as process management, the law firm got considerably more detail than it bargained for.

"We were dying," Carla Goldstein, the firm's director of strategic management, tells the Legal Intelligencer. "They came in with these binders of jargon and statistics and numbers and the lawyers' eyes were rolling around in their heads."

Although the firm believed that the concept of process management would be helpful, the training definitely needed to be streamlined, she recounts. So, under a new "SeyfarthLean" approach, jargon and statistics were eliminated, and firm attorneys focused on discussing how they could develop a model for efficient law practice in various contexts.

Much as a builder relies on blueprints or an automotive assembly line can be used to put together the base model, law practice, too, can be standardized, as far as some elements are concerned, Goldstein and others tells the legal publication. By focusing on such process management, a law firm can more efficiently handle standard work while freeing up seasoned attorneys to oversee strategy and other aspects requiring greater skill.

Drinker Biddle & Reath is also looking at the approach, and considering whether its office space could be more efficiently used, says Gregg Melinson, the firm's marketing partner.

Process management is expected to reduce law firms' need for associates, as they outsource some work and use paralegals for other projects that have traditionally been handled by lower-level attorneys. But that, says Silvia Coulter of Hildebrandt, will mean more profits for partners.

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