A Kanban system for Law Firms & Legal Practices

I’ve had quite a lot of interest in my experiences of introducing Kanban to a law firm several years ago. Although I couldn’t capture any photos of the card wall due to client confidentiality I’ve pulled together the following diagram to illustrate the key features of the Kanban system. It is from memory so may not be entirely accurate, but it should capture the essence of the system.

law firm kanban

Outcomes

  • Improved visibility of bottlenecks across the whole practice
  • Customer satisfaction improved due to improved responsiveness
  • Practice staff swarmed to resolve bottlenecks and blockers
  • Much better appreciation of the working state of the entire practice in a single view
  • Daily stand-ups for Lawyers, Case Managers, Paralegals
  • Cultural shift – from individual partners and fee-earners to a wider capability resulting in the whole outweighing the sum of the parts
  • Reduced stress, closer team spirit, created a “buzz” around the practice
kanban for hr metrics work balance chart

The cycle time control chart turned out initially to be very difficult to create. This was due to the HR workflow automation software not supporting basics such as date/time stamps of when work started to when it completed. I was able to create some custom fields in most of the apps to capture the required data but they didn’t do it out of the box and hence wasn’t captured. By tracking cycle time we hope to understand more about variation in the process. In addition to the cycle time control chart we produced a weekly throughput control chart.

Practices

We took advantage of a number of other practices from the Agile community:

  • Daily stand-ups – were introduced and accepted as a real positive. Prior to this the HR teams did a weekly team meeting lasting about an hour. They were surprised at the interest from other teams such as IT, Finance, Legal and Facilities who regularly attended their stand-ups and improved collaboration.
  • Retrospectives – every two weeks the teams got together and looked at their ways of working. They identified actions for improvement and implemented them. From these retrospectives each team embarked on their own journey of discovery about what worked well and what didn’t. Each of the teams now have very different card walls as a result of constantly analysing and adapting their ways of working.
  • Swarming – the concept of individuals swarming around the card wall to reduce bottlenecks and focus on end-to-end flow.
  • Pairing – Encouraging individuals to pair up to spread the knowledge of particular specialities within the team and to improve flow when pairing across departmental boundaries. Pairing also helped to increase overall team throughput.

About Ian Carroll

Ian is a consultant, coach, trainer and speaker on all topics related to Lean, Kanban and Agile software development.

Connect with Ian at the following

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