In recent months, we have seen a dramatic increase in interest from Law firms and practitioner in the use of Process Mapping and Process Improvement tools and systems. Having spent some time talking to these firms over this period it would seem somewhat of a trend is emerging.
Many law firms are not new to leveraging technology. Litigation practices in particular know the value of storing documents in large databases, scanning and indexing them to ensure their expensive staff can research many aspects of cases prior to going to trial. In fact, this ability to leverage technology to their advantage has led an increased number of out of court settlements, in large part due to improved “discovery” techniques.
In addition, law firms have also been using process mapping technology for the management of IT systems, which are often under tremendous demand to meet this industries deadline driven activities.
Recently, we are seeing things change, and firms are looking for process documentation technology to change the way they are running their operations.
The process driven law firm
Law firms are now looking for areas that will give them an edge in this demanding economic situation, all the while trying to minimize risk and control quality. What better way to do this than standardize on their own “best practices”.
In order for this to happen these must first be documented in order that others may follow them. It can take years for a freshly minted Law student to become a seasoned attorney, practices that take advantage of process mapping to train new hires will save years when it comes to fast tracking their attorneys.
Areas of focus for many firms we are working with now include:
- IT best practices
- HR practices
- Client engagement processes
- Practice specific processes
- Billing and account management
- Linking all these processes to document repositories and client specific workflows
Familiarizing clients with legal processes
One of the great fears of those making use of legal services is fear of the unknown. Not understanding procedures, what’s going to happen next, and projected outcomes all add to the confusion.
Using process maps to demystify these processes can help dramatically, not just for the firm’s clients, but also in the development of a strategy.
As the TaskMap below shows, just outlining the steps of what happens in a particular situation can help greatly. In this case, the flowchart for how a misdemeanor case could be handled will help a new client become familiar with the processes involved. This chart below illustrates clearly:
- Who is involved
- Who makes the decisions
- What are the potential outcomes from a decision
- What resources and guidelines will be followed
- What happens next