When the State Bar of Michigan invited me to write an article about legal technology, I aimed to make it a call to action with a framework and roadmap for legal-services innovation. Many lawyers and legal-services organizations now grasp that they must engage in innovation to improve legal services. But where and how should they begin? That’s what I attempt to address in Leveraging Technology to Improve Legal Services: A Framework for Lawyers, published in the June 2017 Michigan Bar Journal.
My article focuses on a “people, process, technology” framework for re-engineering legal services, identifying categories of legal-technology competences, and employing “lean thinking,” not only to improve processes, but to create organizations focused on continuous improvement and innovation from the bottom up. My proposed roadmap, however, is less explicit. I plan to develop this further in future posts. For now, I’ll highlight a few key components of the roadmap:
- Client Focus – Begin with your clients (the “voice of the customer”). What problems do you solve for clients? Engage with your clients to learn how you can provide greater value to them and work with them to co-create value. Remember, the client defines value.
- Lean Thinking – Lean is about more than process mapping and eliminating waste. Lean provides a framework for innovation and empowering everyone in an organization to provide greater value to clients. For an introduction to lean for legal, take a look at the slide deck that Jim Manley and I created for a 2014 presentation (when I was an equity partner at Honigman): Applying Lean Thinking to Legal Services. (Also see Bradley Staats and David M. Upton, Lean Knowledge Work, Harvard Business Review (October 2011)).
- Plan, Do, Study, Act – PDSA is the fundamental scientific method as applied for continuous improvement, knowledge creation, and innovation. Lawyers spend the vast majority of their time in “do” mode. Said another way, we lawyers spend our time working “in the business,” but very little time working “on the business.” We spend little time planning to improve legal services and even less time studying how things went after we undertake action to improve. Walter Shewhart from the famed Bell Labs originally developed PDSA, a foundational tool for lean. Many systems for improvement and innovation promoted in books and articles mirror PDSA, with little difference other than terminology. Whatever it may be called, PDSA is an essential element for continuous improvement and innovation. The Deming Institute provides an overview of the PDSA Cycle, including a video by quality-movement leader Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who popularized PDSA. (Some refer to PDSA as Plan, Do, Check, Act, but Deming preferred “study” to emphasize the analysis required, as opposed to a mere “check” of the results following the “do” stage.)
- Business Model Canvas – Use the Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas to quickly capture your legal-service delivery model and communicate it to others. Iterate through various versions of your business model, creating a new canvas for each. This exercise will help you and your colleagues evaluate your value proposition, competitive advantage, and other important elements.
I look forward to further developing these ideas in future posts. If you have any questions or comments about this post or my Michigan Bar Journal article, please comment below, tweet at me (@DanLinna), or send me an email at the address in my MSU bio.