Running a legal firm isn’t easy. There are a ton of operational processes that need to be tackled on a daily basis. Some of these get in the way of producing tangible results for clients, which in turn may affect a firm’s bottom line.
This article will serve as a beginner’s guide for process mapping legal processes, which includes everything from creating client contracts to litigation.
Existing issues of law firms
Chron claims that the unique structure of a law firm poses conflict in terms of reporting and supervision. For example, senior lawyers directly supervise the work of their legal support staff. However, these staff also need to report to HR for administrative and personnel matters. Having two different ways to report things creates conflict and isn’t very efficient.
Challenges on the management side are a case-to-case basis. Special Counsel details that common challenges typically cover consulting, tech solutions, attorney recruiting and legal talent, which is why there needs to be a specialized approach in every engagement. These approaches are mainly dependent on the clients that the firm is working with. For example, a firm that deals primarily with businesses will need to find ways to equip its attorneys with corporate business concepts, or recruit talent with the relevant experience. This is why mapping legal processes can be an effective tool for a legal firm. Although not everyone agrees.
Improving legal through mapping
Given the complex needs of the legal industry, there is a demand for legal firms to integrate business process mapping into their operations. This is despite the fact that Atty. Karen Dunn Skinner wrote on LinkedIn that litigators believe process mapping won’t work for them. This is because they argue that their work can't be plotted, as it is unpredictable. In fact the opposite is true.
Mapping improves everything that a litigator needs for mental processing. It can streamline everything that happens outside a lawyer's mind, such as the sourcing and storing of data, drafting client contracts, preparing for motions, and standardizing pleadings. Process improvement targets the administrative and specialized activities that get in the way of performing a task efficiently.
Benefits of process mapping
Mondaq describes process mapping as “a visual representation of every step, touch, task, person, and resource used to complete a legal transaction.” It’s an interactive procedure that helps a firm reveal duplication tasks, bottlenecks, misallocation of resources, and activities that don’t add value to your clients. The visual tool identifies inefficiencies in the workflow and serves as a baseline for improvements. The overall goal of mapping legal processes is to identify and implement solutions that help in optimizing workflow through “reducing errors and waste, and increasing quality and productivity.” This is also an opportunity for management to identify which activities are ripe for automation or digitalization. The end goal is for process mapping to allow law firm employees to spend more time with their clients.
How to get started
The first step is taking the time to understand the problem. In this case, it helps to imagine the issue from the side of the client. Next is to observe the activity that the problem is embedded in. Hear what team members who are actively involved in the task have to say.
After that, you’re on to mapping. List down the complete description of steps taken to complete the process. BEM’s Perigon Method is effective for outlining a firm’s workflow. If you’re more comfortable with traditional pen and paper, you can start with that then finalize through a digital platform later on. Keep in mind that this requires collaboration, since staff level positions might have more hands-on experience with the work than top management.
Your map will be the springboard to looking at ways in which to improve business operations. Plotting it out is half the battle, but it’ll be much simpler afterwards. In creating a visual tool, areas that are inefficient become clearer and easier to prove. Analyzing legal systems may seem overwhelming, but process mapping is a device that can combat this.