US corporations invest a lot in process improvements. And now law firms show signs of doing the same.
Two recent ILTA white paper
excellent articles (Dont Support the Practice of Law – Support the
Business of Practicing Law and The Value Proposition of the Business
Analyst Role) describe large law firm staff positions that focus on
supporting law practice and business analysis.
Last year I completed a 15-firm benchmarking study for Hunton & Williams
CIO Jamie Booth on the role we called practice support consultants.
We wanted to learn firms views of practice improvement initiatives and
compare how they staff and organize to support this goal.
our hand-selected sample, most firms aspired to improve law practice
and had at least some dedicated staff working on process improvement.
Among the findings: (1) Though firms wanted staff in this role to
initiate improvements, many pressures kept them more reactive; (2) The
person in the role does not have to be a lawyer but must be familiar
with law practice.; and (3) Organization and ownership of the role vary
That law firm CIOs focus on business and practice
process improvement might be surprising. Yet its not obvious who else
in a firm would take on this mission. The Custodian Of Business Processes in the June issue of Optimize Magazine explains why CIOs in many companies own process improvement, even outside of IT.
Separately, a November LegalIT article, Taking charge of strategy,
notes the new, strategic role of the CIO: Responsibility for
technology costs, support and development at the firm is no longer
enough . An understanding and adoption of the firms business culture
and external market positioning is also essential.
and I spoke after we both noticed the ILTA articles. We share the view
that there are great opportunities to continue improving law practice.
Jamie summed up his current thinking: Our four practice support
consultants keep working closely with our practices. They respond to
demands and uncover hidden needs but as you found, there is tension
between the two and also between operations and innovation. But as
competition in the legal market heats up, I think more lawyers and
firms will see the need for and value of this position and a focus on
practice and process improvement.
[Strategic Legal Technology]