August 17, 2004
Why Law Firms Need to Understand (and Even Embrace) Six Sigma
Now, after having joined Caterpillar Inc. as their Legal Services IT Manager, and experiencing firsthand a fully-immersed 6 Sigma culture, I would say it's worth heavy consideration for some law firms, for several good reasons:
I've taken the Green Belt training, and am serving as such on a number of Legal IT 6 Sigma projects. A personal observation: One of the greatest challenges with this process is that it was initially developed in a manufacturing context. Thus it's much easier to sample and measure the exact dimensions of a metal part than it is to apply these principles to "soft" service areas, such as the practice of law and customer service. In this regard, sometimes one has to become quite creative, and the path to success isn't as obvious. Thus savvy judgment is required to balance the thoroughness required in arriving at an optimal set of recommendations vs. taking the additional time the process adds to get there. If you're looking for a quick fix or snap decision to leap ahead, then in my humble opinion, a full Six Sigma process isn't the right tool to use.
As Larry said, it's a major culture change for law firms. However, properly implemented, I can see where firms can obtain both internal benefits as well as cultivating deeper and more successful relationships with their larger corporate clients. And in my book, that's something that deserves more than a passing glance.
By the way, and somewhat contrary to Larry's advice, I wouldn't recommend trying to bluff one's knowledge of Six Sigma, particularly with a savvy corporate counsel who's gone through the training. Personally, I'd give outside counsel more credibility for acknowledging what they don't know, as long as they understood the underlying philosophy and weren't just trying to snow me to get my business. I do, however, recommend reading up on Six Sigma basics before broaching the subject.
Topic(s): Law Practice Management
Posted by Jeff Beard