Regardless of the area of law you’re working under, taking an agile approach in the way your firm operates serves as a bold and compelling step towards becoming a more efficient practice.
When the term was first introduced in 2001, the term “Agile” referred to the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (aka the Agile Manifesto), and pioneered a movement in the computer and technology industries that has since been adopted as the “agile methodology”. The concept hasn’t changed much in the past 15 years either, due to its foundation as a set of principles, rather than rules, that govern the progress of an organization.
According to Wikipedia, the agile methodology can be boiled down to this: "[Agile] describes a set of principles for software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.These principles support the definition and continuing evolution of many software development methods."
Does this sound like the firm you’re currently running? If so, then congratulations on being an agile law practice. If not, here are some tips on how to transform your firm by applying the agile methodology:
Workflow management is a two-fold process covering both staff and processes contained within the law firm. With regards to legal staff, this is typically defined as having a system in place that utilizes the strengths of each member of your team during each phase of a cycle, and then passed on to the next individual in the workflow to improve the speed of delivery.
For instance, if you currently have numerous members of your staff touching a task at various stages of its lifecycle, it would serve your firm and your client better to have a process delineating step-by-step procedures for every type of project. This means knowing exactly what staff member gets the task first, and upon its completion, who they send it over to next.
Technological processes at your firm work in much the same way. Using tools such as case automation software to speed up collaboration among employees, improve communication with clients, and better organize your firm’s day-to-day, you allow yourself to work in your practice instead of on your practice. If your firm’s day consists of performing case management tasks, tracking time, taking care of billing and providing progress reports, let the case automation software do the work for you.
Collaboration is a key component of workflows, but how does it work inside the agile law methodology? One way to ensure collaboration becomes a big part of how your firm operates is by pulling your team together and searching together for ways to solve client problems versus simply fulfilling client requests.
How much your client values you as a lawyer is critical, and it comes from having your team focus their efforts on providing exemplary service from start to finish. This is achieved by being in frequent communication with the client, but it’s also under the umbrella of improving communication and collaboration among members of your staff.
After speaking with your staff about improvements in collaboration, these processes can then be implemented through case management software that allows your firm to associate client documents with matters, tag documents with case-related descriptions and synchronize collaboration across multiple devices. From here, your ability to provide better service to clients is radically amplified, and typically pays off in client referrals and lengthened retainers.
Revisit the Processes Often
Being a creative, high-performing law firm takes a lot of planning, and it often requires reexamining processes to ensure they are working correctly or can be improved on. Usually, the initial reorganization of your workflows and the way your team collaborates has a perceptible learning curve. It can sometimes take weeks or months before flaws in the methodology are realized. On the other hand, this then gives you an opportunity to rethink problem areas or entire courses of action.
Yet, even if you’re unable to spot any issues after the new workflows have been implemented, it’s always wise to revisit these processes on a regular basis. Doing so, your firm will truly live by the closing refrain of The Agile Manifesto, which encourages continuous development at every stage of agile execution.