Law as a Process How Process Design Defines Value, Delivers Efficiency, and Drives Business Strategy
Updated: Dec 14, 2018
KorumLegal’s proprietary Korum Process Methodology (KPM) focuses on helping law departments “do more with less” by applying the best practices of Lean, Six-Sigma, and Agile methods to the delivery of legal services in the APAC region.
Legal process management in North America vs APAC
Legal process management has been around in North America for nearly two decades. Its roots lie in recognizing that legal services are often times delivered inefficiently and that typically communication between a law firm and its client is untimely and disengaging for the client on any issue other than the core legal issues being addressed. At this point, nearly every North American and European law firm of significant size has invested in project management training, and many global in-house departments have made similar investments. However, to date, there has been limited adoption of project management principals in the APAC region.
This limited adoption is attributable to three reasons. First, legal practice in our region of the world is different. We face a mixture of common law and civil law jurisdictions, a mixture of languages, and a different set of factors that drive both cost and risk in legal services. Second, process management in North America has been focused on delivering enhanced communication about a legal mandate, particularly around communicating changes in price and giving more notice around budget performance. It has not been focused on actually delivering efficiency, measuring those efficiency gains, and translating those efficiency gains into value for clients. Finally, this region has long been considered a growth market rather than a mature market and as a result the focus has been on increasing top-line revenue, not optimizing processes to improve bottom-line profitability. Although, that mindset has been shifting.
Where does the Korum Process Methodology (KPM) come in?
KorumLegal, an alternative legal solutions provider dedicated to creating the new reality in legal solutions across Asia, has stepped into this market shortcoming. As part of its ongoing commitment to offer a full spectrum of solutions for the operational and technical needs of legal teams in Asia, KorumLegal is now offering the Korum Process Methodology solution to drive efficiency, value, and strategic business success. KPM is the result of combining the expertise and experience of several KorumLegal consultant-experts across numerous disciplines, such as Lean Manufacturing, Six-Sigma Manufacturing, Agile Teamwork, Kotter’s Theory of Organizational Change Management, among others, to create a unique process improvement offering tailored to the needs of Asian legal departments.
As businesses have grown and developed, they have taken two basic approaches to their legal departments. Some have taken advantage of comparatively inexpensive legal talent to create large and heavily staffed legal departments to support the operational work of their companies. However, that approach is now being constrained by rapidly increasing labor costs for high-quality legal talent as well as the inability to scale these manual operations in the face of exponential growth. Others have approached legal staffing with a dramatically lean approach, leaving a very small legal team with responsibility for numerous business lines, numerous jurisdictions, and every possible substantive legal area as part of their team’s responsibility. That approach is now similarly strained as legal risk and regulatory complexity have rapidly grown over the last several years and the process for fielding a large set of outside law firm lawyers has become cumbersome and a drain on managerial resources.
How is the KPM implemented?
Focusing on this set of regional operational issues, KPM offers a solution to general counsels that are stuck between the “rock” of a growing business and the “hard place” of not being able to scale to meet the ever-growing demand for legal services. There are three main keys to the success of the KPM approach. First, as part of the process, lawyers and their key client-stakeholders are guided through a discussion to identify what value means in the legal services being delivered. Typically, there are several different things that are being delivered by the legal team: risk management, opportunities for revenue growth, negotiation advice, etc. However, the value that is perceived or asked for by the client may be substantially different: e.g. project management, institutional memory of previous transactions, driving the deal to execution, etc. The KPM process brings alignment between the lawyer and their client on what exactly is the value that justifies the legal department’s involvement in this process. By focusing on the concept of value, teams also enjoy enhanced risk management by making sure that risks are not only addressed, but also evaluated carefully in the context of the opportunities they create.
Second, the way that the legal department works on the process is closely scrutinized to ensure that the workstream is lean, focused and optimized to deliver maximum value with minimum required resources (time and money). KPM has identified seven kinds of legal waste common to legal service delivery, which are re-engineered out of your workstreams during the optimization portion of the methodology. Third, because process optimization fundamentally requires behavioral change across the people in your organization, KPM is fully integrated with a change management protocol that brings the legal department as well as its stakeholders along the change journey to ensure that the new process is not only designed, but actually adopted and used.
The impact of the KPM approach
Because the new process is value driven, the business will notice an impact on their overall business strategies because of the improved focus on delivering the results that count. Furthermore, by making the process as lean as possible, the most precious resource of any legal teams – time – is also freed to be reallocated to other tasks. This can allow your legal team to embed themselves more deeply into the business, focus their energy on business-critical strategic events rather than day-to-day operational needs, and get more deeply involved in mitigating the most significant risks the business faces.
The most immediate impact of the new process is generally felt in the accelerated speed to market that the legal team can now deliver. Typically, businesses face a bottleneck with their legal department taking too long and ultimately slowing down the process of getting deals done. Historically, applying the KPM optimization methodology has resulted in dramatic improvements in turnaround times – between 15% and 50%. This is delivered utilizing nothing more than the existing resources of your legal team; no technology investment is anticipated. This improvement can be directly quantified in terms of capacity and cost savings. Furthermore, KPM sets the foundation for further legal department transformation and scalability. For example, the detailed process map that is created as part of the KPM methodology can serve as the roadmap for further technology integrations to drive even greater returns in efficiency and efficacy.
KPM helps lawyers (1) focus on only doing the right things (2) doing those things extremely well, and (3) working effectively as a team with their clients. Whether the results are measured in money, time or risk management, the bottom line is always the same: operational excellence.
Bill is a senior litigator turned legal operations specialist with over 8 years’ experience in legal innovation roles. Bill has worked for both in-house departments and law firms across Hong Kong, China (Shanghai), India, Canada, and the USA designing and implementing various process and technology based initiatives. His clients span a wide variety of industries including TMT, heavy equipment manufacturing, consumer goods and financial services. Bill has a keen interest in the transformation of the legal profession and elevating the role that lawyers’ play in the strategy and operations of their corporate clients.