Leverage Business Process Management in the Delivery of Legal Services
Business process management is a very useful element for the success of law firms
A lot has been written about how the world has shifted in the era of COVID-19 and how the pandemic pushed law firms to adapt and evolve, serving as a catalyst for some much-needed change.
Despite being common sense that the adoption of remote work at scale has made the role of technology become even more apparent, implementing tools without first understanding its implications and evaluating if they are a good fit to your firm’s needs is a risky move and can create a lot more problems than benefits.
While going through the process of identifying organizational needs and pain points is a tough job to perform – even when we consider a pre-pandemic scenario –, being able to do it with a dispersed workforce has become critical for success. Although it might sound impossible, this is where Business Process Management (BPM) comes in handy.
According to Gartner’s Glossary, “a business process coordinates the behavior of people, systems, information and things to produce business outcomes in support of a business strategy.” In other words, business process management is about getting the work done as efficiently as possible in order to provide clients with a product or service at the best value, on time and exactly as required.
It st arts by mapping all the steps in a process, identifying the data, activities, resources and people involved as well as the desired outcomes, and continues all the way to managing the processes and making updates to drive efficiency and compliance with constantly changing regulations.
Before you jump into conclusion that mapping the specific procedures that attorneys follow is hard or even impossible, due to the complexity of the activity they perform, I invite you to read a little further and find out how law firms can benefit from it.
Spoiler alert: it is not the legal work that usually needs to be mapped.
Contrary to what many people believe, clients do not hire law firms to perform complex legal research, write long, technical briefs or prepare oral arguments. They hire lawyers to solve business problems in a law abiding way.
It is also important to highlight that, as clients come in many shapes and sizes, each of them have specific preferences and needs regarding the way legal services is better delivered to achieve internal corporate goals. This means that, in addition to providing a high quality technical service, it is necessary, for example, to input the information into the case management software used by the client in an appropriate and timely manner.
Documenting these requirements and providing the right steps to follow minimizes the margin of errors, increases productivity and consistency, and enables lawyers to focus their time on higher-level tasks, delivering service with the same quality, in a uniform way, wherever they are working from.
Before going all in and starting to map processes randomly, it is generally a good idea to talk to the professionals involved in the execution of the tasks that will be documented and assure them that this is not an attempt to replace their job. It is important that they understand what the end goal is.
When we started using BPM to document relevant procedures at our firm, over five years ago, we decided to start small, with one specific practice group, and let the results attract the curiosity of other professionals. By creating visual representation of the steps of the process, the understanding about the “big picture” became much clear. It also helped us identify bottlenecks and overlaps.
Once the other areas of the firm started to realize that jobs were not being replaced because of this new initiative, they became more willing to cooperate and to benefit from it as well. Soon we started to experience unexpected benefits from these efforts, like helping our clients improve their internal processes that were driving inefficiencies on our end.
Course-correction is also extremely easier when the workflow is properly documented. Any changes that will need to be made – either because of shifts in client demand or due to the adoption of new technologies – can be easily pinpointed and adopted quickly.
Since we are living unprecedented times and there’s no playbook to navigate this pandemic, it can be an excellent opportunity for law firms to proactively adopt BPM to improve efficiency and client service. Firms that accomplish this will definitely differentiate.