With ever-shrinking corporate budgets and more eyes turned to where dollars are going, clients are demanding accountability from their legal representation.
Strategies that were once considered “business-only” are finding a home in the legal world. The push towards optimization practices like Lean Six Sigma is increasing as the high costs of legal discovery and litigation are creating unrest in the legal world.
Understanding Lean Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma is an optimization concept with its roots in Henry Ford’s groundbreaking continuous assembly line. The idea involves reducing business workflows to the essential processes that increase customer value and streamline operations. Much like how Ford revolutionized the automobile manufacturing industry with his optimized workflows, big businesses like Toyota, General Electric, and Samsung have adopted similar strategies in search of reduced organizational waste.
Specifically, Lean Six Sigma is viewed as a method of defining, measuring, analyzing, and improving processes with the overall goal of increased efficiency. Moreover, while these processes have traditionally been business facing, they function well in legal settings too.
Applying Lean Six Sigma to Legal
The legal world has its own, if outdated, structures for process optimization. The federal rulemaking process promotes judiciary efficiency, but this 80-year-old system is very different from the Lean strategies being adopted by businesses today. In the past, the civil justice system prioritized comprehensive discovery over cost management. This lead to chronic overspending on discovery and forced settlements based on financial restrictions rather than case merits.
However, recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) may change the way discovery is handled. These amendments alter discovery limitations and place responsibility on attorneys and judges to justify how proportional discovery is to the needs of each case. The goal of these amendments, particularly Rule 26(b)(1), is to protect against redundant and wasteful discovery costs by encouraging attorneys to look at the big picture of each case. When discovery must be justified with specific and defensible assessments, optimization will be a matter of course.
This concept is the central tenant of applying Lean Six Sigma to legal cases. Much as the 2015 FRCP amendments reduce waste, Lean Six Sigma forces individuals to look at the entirety of a case and ask hard questions about which processes are essential. As legal teams adapt to more conservative discovery practices, the benefits of deploying Lean workflows will become more apparent. Just as Henry Ford changed the manufacturing world, business optimization practices make waves in our outdated legal infrastructure.
Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization
Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.