Skip to main content

Running a law firm involves an intricate balance of various tasks such as client consultations, research, court appearances, and administrative functions. In any startup environment, law firms included, workflows are designed out of immediate necessity. These are the pipelines that facilitate task completion, meet client needs, and keep the business running smoothly. However, as the firm evolves, what frequently happens is the addition of “bolt-on” sub-processes—procedures tacked on to answer new challenges. Over time, this ad-hoc approach gives birth to what can best be described as “Franken-Flows,” workflows cobbled together as needs arise. At The Law Firm Management Academy (TLFMA), we specialize in untangling these Franken-Flows and streamlining your legal processes for maximum efficiency through the application of Lean Six Sigma principles.

Franken-Flows: The Frankenstein’s Monster of Your Law Firm

Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The monster, cobbled together from various body parts and given life, is an unnatural existence that wreaks havoc and tragedy. Similarly, workflows within a law firm can become a chaotic amalgamation of processes, stitched together as your firm expands and faces new challenges. Just as Frankenstein’s monster was an unintended consequence of Victor’s ambitions, Franken-Flows are the byproducts of rapid, unstructured growth.

Visual Representation: Seeing is Believing

One of the first steps we take at TLFMA is to create a visual representation of your workflows. This graphical illustration serves as a magnifying glass, revealing inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and redundancies that are often overlooked. It’s one thing to assume your processes are inefficient; it’s quite another to see it laid out in a comprehensible manner. The power of visualization cannot be overstated; it’s an essential step that allows stakeholders to grasp the scale and intricacy of their operational mess.

The Lean Six Sigma Approach

Lean Six Sigma was first developed by Motorola in the 1980s as an approach to quality improvement in manufacturing. Rooted in statistical analysis, Six Sigma was initially aimed at identifying and eliminating defects in a product or process to improve overall quality and efficiency. It uses a variety of data-driven techniques and quality management methods to improve the output of a process. One of its foundational methodologies is DMAIC—Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Visualizing DMAIC, one could imagine a flowchart where the process starts from problem identification (Define), progresses to data collection and analysis (Measure and Analyze), moves onto process improvement (Improve), and concludes with maintaining the improvements (Control).

In the manufacturing sector, Lean Six Sigma can be a game-changer. For instance, in an automobile manufacturing plant, Six Sigma techniques could be used to reduce the number of defective parts produced, thereby increasing overall production efficiency and customer satisfaction. The ‘Lean’ part of Lean Six Sigma, rooted in Toyota’s manufacturing methodology, aims to eliminate waste, defined as any activity that does not add value to the end customer. In manufacturing, waste could be in the form of unnecessary inventory, motion, or over-processing.

However, the power of Lean Six Sigma goes far beyond manufacturing and has shown remarkable results in service-oriented industries, including legal services. Unlike tangible products, services are often considered more challenging to measure and improve. Nevertheless, the principles of Lean Six Sigma have been applied effectively in these settings. For example, in a law firm, ‘defects’ could be anything from delays in legal services to inaccuracies in legal documentation. The ‘waste’ could be excessive paperwork, inefficient use of human resources, or redundant steps in service delivery. Here, DMAIC can be applied in the same structured way: Define the issues causing client dissatisfaction, Measure the scope and impact, Analyze to find root causes, Improve by implementing changes, and Control by maintaining new, higher standards.

Just as Lean Six Sigma has been used to reduce the manufacturing cycle time to get a product faster to the market, it can be applied to reduce the time between a client’s request for legal representation and the firm’s ability to deliver those services effectively. For instance, by applying Lean Six Sigma, a law firm could streamline its client onboarding process, reducing the time and effort required, which in turn improves client satisfaction and retention rates.

By marrying statistical rigor and process improvement, Lean Six Sigma transcends industry boundaries, providing a versatile toolset for enhancing quality and efficiency, whether you’re manufacturing automobile parts or offering legal advice.


The DMAIC process, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control, is the cornerstone of the Six Sigma methodology. This process improvement framework originated as a structured, data-driven approach aimed at improving, optimizing, and stabilizing business processes and designs. Each stage in DMAIC is meticulously designed to convert a process from being defect-prone to efficient and effective.


Workflows in Law Firms: Transforming “Franken-Flows” into Efficient Processes

In the Define phase, the problem or the defect is clearly outlined, and project goals are set. In the Measure phase, various metrics related to the process are identified, collected, and assessed. Analyze is when this data is studied in-depth to identify the root causes of the defects or inefficiencies. Improve is the phase where solutions are crafted and implemented to eliminate or mitigate the root causes. Finally, the Control phase is dedicated to monitoring and maintaining the improved process, ensuring that the defects do not recur.

Why is DMAIC so important? It provides a structured, systematic approach that focuses on achieving substantial and sustainable improvements. It does so by involving all stakeholders, relying on data to make decisions, and ensuring that the solutions are practical and actionable. DMAIC takes the guesswork out of the equation, thereby increasing the odds of not just identifying and solving a problem but also keeping it solved.

Let’s consider its application in manufacturing first:

Example in Manufacturing: Car Assembly Line with Faulty Brake Systems

    • Define: The problem of faulty brake systems is clearly identified, with an objective set to reduce brake system failures by a specific percentage.
    • Measure: Data related to every aspect of brake assembly is collected for assessment.
    • Analyze: The collected data is scrutinized to identify the precise aspects of the process leading to brake system failures.
    • Improve: Solutions to mitigate or eliminate the root causes are developed and implemented.
    • Control: The improved process is monitored to ensure the solutions hold and the rate of brake system failures remains low over the long term.

Now, let’s consider how a law firm might apply DMAIC:

Example in a Law Firm: Client Onboarding Delays

    • Define: Acknowledge the issue of delayed client onboarding and set a target for reducing the time spent on this process.
    • Measure: Collect key metrics, such as time spent on each sub-process in onboarding, client wait times, and error rates in document preparation.
    • Analyze: Identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies in the onboarding process that are leading to delays.
    • Improve: Develop and implement solutions like a streamlined documentation process or automated scheduling.
    • Control: Monitor the new processes to ensure they are delivering the desired outcomes of quicker and more efficient client onboarding.

Now that we understand the origins and foundational principles of Lean Six Sigma, as well as its versatile application in different industries through the DMAIC process, it’s worth delving deeper into its utility in service-oriented businesses. While the methodology initially thrived in manufacturing environments, its applicability transcends this sector, offering invaluable insights into streamlining operations in service industries as well. So how does this translate to a setting like a law firm? Let’s explore the nuanced applications of Lean Six Sigma in service-based businesses, like law firms, where the ‘product’ being delivered is often intangible but equally impactful.

Application in Service-Oriented Businesses

The law firm landscape is as competitive as ever, and efficiency and consistency have become the twin pillars that elevate an organization above the rest. Lean Six Sigma is ideally poised to contribute to this operational excellence. Let’s take a detailed look at its advantages:

Eliminating Non-value-added Steps: In the high-pressure environment of a law firm, wasted time equates to lost opportunities and reduced client satisfaction. Lean Six Sigma allows firms to scrutinize their existing processes and identify steps that add no value to the client or the firm. For example, a document review process may include multiple manual checks for formatting or spelling errors. However, a single automated software can perform these tasks more efficiently and accurately. By identifying such redundancies, Lean Six Sigma can pave the way for automation or complete removal of these steps, increasing efficiency.

Standardization for Quality: Six Sigma aims to reduce process variation, translating to more consistent and high-quality service. Let’s say a firm has multiple attorneys handling divorce cases. Without a standardized process, each attorney may adopt a different approach, causing service quality to differ significantly from one client to another. Implementing Six Sigma would mean creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) that every attorney would follow, ensuring consistent service quality. This standardization not only elevates client satisfaction but also mitigates the risk of errors or compliance issues.

Resource Optimization: Lean principles help to remove bottlenecks and ensure resources are utilized to their maximum capacity. In a law firm, this could be optimizing the assignment of cases to prevent attorney burnout while maximizing billable hours. For example, Lean Six Sigma could identify that senior attorneys are spending an inordinate amount of time on tasks that junior staff could perform competently. By reallocating these tasks, the senior attorneys can focus on more complex issues, thereby better utilizing their specialized skills and reducing operational costs.

Client-Centric Approach: In today’s competitive landscape, client satisfaction is the cornerstone of long-term success. By focusing on error elimination and process speed, Lean Six Sigma helps law firms to drastically improve service quality. For instance, Six Sigma tools can help a firm identify why some client cases take longer to resolve than others.

Once the root cause is identified—be it a procedural issue or a human error—corrective measures can be swiftly implemented. This proactive problem-solving directly translates into higher client satisfaction and retention rates.

By understanding and applying these principles, law firms can strategically position themselves for sustained excellence. Lean Six Sigma isn’t just a set of tools but a comprehensive philosophy that can infuse a culture of continuous improvement within the organization. Whether it’s making incremental changes to document review processes or completely overhauling client onboarding, the methodology provides a structured approach for driving improvements.

TLFMA’s In-depth Process for Leaning Out Workflows

Our philosophy at TLFMA is that process improvement is not a one-time event, but a journey. We follow a structured, multi-step approach to partner with your law firm’s key stakeholders and implement lasting changes. Here’s how we do it:

Workflows in Law Firms: Transforming “Franken-Flows” into Efficient ProcessesGap Analysis: The first step in our journey together involves a meticulous review of your existing workflows. We perform a Gap Analysis, which is essentially an audit that identifies the difference between your law firm’s current processes and industry best practices. For example, if document retrieval in your firm takes longer than the industry standard, that’s a gap we need to address. Knowing where the gaps are allows us to create a roadmap for improvements that align with your firm’s strategic objectives.

Prioritization: With the Gap Analysis in hand, we move to the prioritization stage. Not all inefficiencies are created equally; some have a greater impact on client satisfaction or the bottom line. Whether it’s backlogged cases or delayed responses to client queries, we help you prioritize which processes require immediate attention. This ensures that the most critical issues are tackled first, providing rapid improvements where they’re most needed.

Team Training: In our experience, sustaining improvements in workflow requires the entire team to be on board and equipped with the right knowledge. Therefore, we include an intensive training module on Lean Six Sigma principles for your in-house staff. This training not only equips them with the tools to sustain existing improvements but also imparts the skill to identify future areas for enhancement.

Implementation: The rubber meets the road during the implementation phase. We roll out the newly streamlined processes and closely monitor the execution. For instance, if we identified that document reviews were a bottleneck, the new process might include automation software to assist with the task. During this phase, we’re particularly vigilant about watching for unintended consequences or resistance to change, ensuring the smooth adoption of the new procedures.

Feedback Loop: Finally, our commitment to continuous improvement does not end with the implementation. We help your firm establish feedback loops, such as client surveys or internal audits, to ensure that the process improvements are producing the intended results. This feedback mechanism allows for ongoing refinement, making sure that your workflows are continually aligned with your firm’s strategic goals.

Through these five carefully designed steps, TLFMA brings a scientific, data-driven approach to solving the often-complex operational challenges faced by modern law firms. Our methodology ensures not just short-term fixes but long-term, sustainable improvements.

 Why let inefficient processes stifle your law firm’s potential?  Contact TLFMA today via email or call us at (844) 672-4736. We specialize in turning your law firm’s potential into peak performance.

Leave a Reply