A recent post from Eric Elfman got me thinking about the ROI of process improvements versus project management for lawyers. Much attention is being given to legal project management (LPM) these days as the savior for attaining efficiency in a legal practice.
Eric’s point is that process improvement will bring more value to lawyers. In his words:
“Most of these (legal) processes are manual, paper intensive and cumbersome but they are effective on the margins. But why couldn’t they be better with technology?”
In one of those odd coincidences, on the heels of Eric’s post I read the updated intro to Susskind’s paperback version of his End of Lawyers? book. He suggests lawyers employ a “legal process manager” with two duties; “legal process analyst and legal project manager. He lists the ‘process’ role as primary, lining up with Eric’s suggestion.
My old rule kicked in: Hear it once – it’s interesting. Hear it twice – pay attention.
At the risk of upsetting the LPM crowd, I am going to side with Eric and push the envelope a bit. Two points:
1) Lawyers already project manage, just not with discipline and to a budget.
2) Within these ‘projects’ there are numerous repeatable processes that are highly manual.
Admittedly improved project management will bring value. But I see this as doing things the same way only better. Marginal efficiencies will be gained.
Whereas process improvement and automation will drive changes to the way things are done. By definition, process improvement means change. I will concede that at some point the ROI on process automation levels out, but there is a lot more air in this bag than the project management one.
My advice: If you’re in KM or IT, watch for process automation opportunities. One example we have already mentioned here at 3 Geeks is the KIIAC product from Kingsley Martin. This is one example of how dramatic a process change can be.
I look forward to more dialog on this subject.