Letter from a Tech Guy to a Lawyer

One top priority dilemma that most lawyers have during their daily routines is “billable hours.” On How to Improve Law Firm Cash Flow the author offers great information about making the most of your day, automating repetitive tasks, using case management software to organize your information, etc. Still, it’s hard to find ideal content on how to manage your priorities effectively, so you don’t end your day with the feeling that you worked a lot, but at the same time, you haven’t accomplished anything significant. Have you ever felt this way? I’m sure you have.

As a software builder for more than 20 years, I knew that the common issue in my industry of writing good software on-time and on-budget depends mostly on the way we prioritized tasks rather than the number of those tasks

The way we ordered tasks, the tools we use to follow-up, the processes, the length of work cycles we defined, the way we parallelized multi-project teams—everywhere we looked, we found something holding us back

Then we started adopting methodologies that were originally used by manufacturers, especially in the automotive industry back in 1948. We adapted these ‘Lean and Agile” methodologies to our daily routines, tasks, skill sets, etc., and now we are capable of building entire digital-based companies in months with these adapted processes. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than before? Absolutely!

Following the legal industry for more than 10 years as a tech services provider, I can say that applying Agile methodologies to your practice is a bold and necessary shift. If you’re suffering from a lack of prioritization, the correct cadence of tasks, the speed of your cases, and any other productivity-related subject, you must try it.

You can apply Agile to your legal work by doing small changes in the way you and your team manage the cases, by breaking it up into several stages and incorporating constant collaboration with stakeholders and continuous improvement and iteration at every stage. In an attempt to translate the Agile Methodology’s four main values to the legal industry, I’d express them as:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  2. Focus on the client’s needs over the service you provide;
  3. Clients collaboration over service’s scope negotiation; and
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

With Agile, the approach to planning in shorter and iterative cycles means priorities can be shifted from iteration to iteration to fully address the customer’s needs.

Do you want to learn more? Check this 2016 article from Harvard Business Review about how agile methodologies are spreading across a broad range of industries and functions, and it keeps propagating.

What I’ve learned working with lawyers so far is that Agile methods help to improve productivity and efficiency. So, do you still think the legal profession doesn’t need workflow methodologies?
Please share your thoughts in the comment box below; I’d love to learn more about your experience with agile at your firm.

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