Legaltech News recently published an article by Janelle Belling and Andrew Pratt, both of Perkins Coie LLP, which discussed the need for a greater focus on quality management in the practice of law. Their article focuses on eDiscovery, but it goes beyond that. Law firms need to create a legal quality management process in their firms.
At the 2015 LegalTech conference in Atlanta, I listened to several speakers talk about whether hiring high quality lawyers can save you money in the end. But if the law firm has no quality management processes, does it really save you money?
Novus Law, a legal services provider, credits its award winning One-Touch system with improving quality by reducing the number of times that “paper” is touched. The data that Novus Law presents indicate that its quality results meet a far higher standard than its selected group of AmLaw 100 firms.
I question their premise that a lawyer can achieve a 99% successful decision rate with only one pass at a document, unless we are talking about the most basic documents. But I completely concur that most law firms, in fact, most businesses, could use some major improvements in their quality management programs.
That involves tightening up processes to improve efficiencies, eliminate waste, and reduce the number of times that we need to touch the same piece of paper. I know that there are ongoing efforts in the legal community to use Six Sigma principles and improved processes to streamline work.
But, I frequently get frustrated when we apply Six Sigma principles to the work done by human beings without recognizing the complications. I wrote a blog about that here.
I am a huge proponent of building quality into all of your project plans, rather than trying to fix the quality at the end. There are four steps to quality management that law firms, as well as other businesses, would profit from taking.
Step 1 – Define the quality goals for each major activity.
Regardless of whether your activity is a document review in an eDiscovery effort, the deposition of key witnesses, the drafting of preliminary bond documents, or the software coding for an enhancement to your law firm’s new time and billing software, the challenge is the same. What quality objectives are needed to ensure that the deliverable on this activity will meet the needs of the client and result in a successful conclusion on the project? Write the answer down.
Step 2 – Determine how, when, and who will test each quality goal.
The size of the project, the number of quality objectives, the money and risks at stake, the number of people involved, and the nature of the quality objective will all factor into the decision about how and when to test each quality specification. But figure it out, and write it down. Those who have been trained in Six Sigma may tend to get a little mathematical on the rest of us, but regardless, they are right. We need to test the quality on our work products.
Step 3 – Determine who will approve the quality test reports.
It doesn’t matter whether your testing involves a fairly straightforward deliverable review or a complicated defect measurement protocol; someone needs to be charged with the responsibility of approving or disapproving quality test results. Who will that be? You guessed it…, write it down.
Step 4 – Ensure that quality testing is actually done, and test results reviewed.
Regardless of whether you use Smart Projex, which has a system in place to remind you that a quality objective needs to be tested, or a test has failed, you need to have a system in place to ensure that your quality testing is actually done and that test results have been reviewed.
It is clear: Law firms need to create a legal quality management process in their firms.
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By defining, testing, and fixing quality early and often, your law firm will save money, improve client relationships, and achieve more successful legal results. And then, you can factor the lessons that you learned into your next project. Learn more here.
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