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Improve your process to improve your revenue: A case study

Law firms can often deliver better service and generate better profitability by refining the way they work. This case study of a US firm, Littler Mendelson, shows one example of how it can be done through their Littler CaseSmart® employment law product. Another example is Seyfarth Shaw’s SeyfarthLean.

I made these notes about Littler Mendelson's process improvements at last year's Legal Sales and Service Organisation (LSSO) conference in Boston. But I was reminded of them at today at the Annual ALPMA conference in Melbourne, where there was a lot of discussion about how process improvement can help generate revenue. Littler's process improvements showcase perfectly the direct improvement these kinds of changes can have on a firm's revenue and success. 

Littler Mendelson is a specialist Employment and labour law firm with 950 lawyers and 55 offices located mainly in the US. They identified an opportunity to defend EEO charges and employment litigation more cost effectively.  They also knew their client market was looking for ways to reduce legal costs, attain budget predictability, and limit their legal risks without comprising on the consistency and quality of advice.  Recognising the imperatives for change Littlers took a fresh look at their offer and how they could compete.  

Littler’s CaseSmart ® Solution was developed in less than 12 months

  • Goal was to build marketshare, increase revenues and improve margin for volume work.
  • Accomplished with a Project Management Focus + Customised solutions = costs savings
  • Required a shift in their business model

  • Based on a redesign of legal processes
  • Used an advanced technology platform
  • Included a customised client dashboard
  • Incorporated dedicated alternative staffing arrangements and dedicated client service teams – to work exclusively on one client.

A dedicated alternative staffing model

  •  Led by a National Program Director with State Program Directors.  The Directors are responsible for supervising teams of ‘flex time’ lawyers employed to augment existing client service teams
  • The goal was to increase share of wallet from existing clients only.  With a focus on existing clients the flex time lawyers don't cannibalise work from full time associates employed on traditional basis
  •  Flex time lawyers work from home.  They are not on time sheets as all work is done on a fixed fee basis
  • The flex time lawyers are employees not contractors
  • Located across times zones in US
  • No client development responsibility
  • Average 10+ years experience
  • Strong employment law backgrounds
  • Prior in-house counsel experience
  • Prior shareholders and ‘superstar’ associates.

Detailed process mapping used to create CaseSmart ®

  • To achieve focus and momentum on the project, the team of supervising lawyers (Senior Associates and some Partners) were 'locked' in a Boardroom for one week to create first iteration of process maps
  • The process started by defining ‘phases’ of the project.  More than 20 ‘phases’ were identified in the first year
  •  The team produced six flowcharts by the end of the first week.  After one year the firm had more than 100 flowcharts
  •  All processes are documented for training purposes
  •  Processes are not shared with client in original form.

Lessons Learned

  • Choose technology carefully.  Littler's started with Microsoft SharePoint for everything – transitioned to custom application development
  • Choose developers carefully.  Started with a Microsoft Partner for everything – transitioned to internal development resources
  • Lots of internal communications and ‘campaigning’ with regular progress reports. Needed to address issues re origination of work and where fees / hours were being recorded and demonstrate that CaseSmart could build market share rather than take away work from offices
  •  Have a good client on which to pilot system and find Small-Mid Enterprise (SME) clients that understand innovation.

Technical components of Littler CaseSmart ®

 Intake system - .NET Custom application

Client Dashboard - .NET custom application

Knowledge Managers' Team site -  Microsoft SharePoint Server

Document Automation - Contract Express DealBuilder

Reporting- Microsoft SSRS

Workflow - under review

Risk Analysis Module - Neota Logic

Contact Sue-Ella for advice on building better practices in your firm - sueella@prodonovich.com

Sue-Ella Prodonovich