This is a live blog post from the College of Law Practice Management (COLPM) annual Futures Conference (agenda). This session is Presentation of the 2012 InnovAction Awards. 

[Posted at end of session; please forgive typos and failures to capture every detail accurately.]

Tim Corcoran is moderating. Scott Rechtschaffen of Littler and Lisa Damon of Seyfarth are on stage to receive InnovAction awards.

Tim provides background on the InnovAction Awards: worldwide search for innovation in the legal market. Tim talks about lawyers’ ‘race to 2nd place’ and how these awards are meant to encourage the first movers. The ten entries this year come from around the world.


Selected for Littler CaseSmart. Background:
– Littler subject to pricing pressure for decades
– Matra: “Let’s break Something”
– History of experimenting with alternative delviery methods
– Little CaseSmart (“LCS”) is a firm within a firm

The problem / challenge: client asked firms to reduce spend by 20%. Partner in charge said, ‘we’re only doing 20% of their work but what if we got all of their work and re-engineered work to reduce cost”

LCS is a re-designed legal process and includes a proprietary technology platform. Re-engineering included assessing who did what work and pushing work to the least cost competent worker. Greatest value in LCS is information for clients, both at macro and micro view. It creates actionable intelligence, for example, identifying where claims occur so client can take action address root causes of the legal problems. Knowledge management, wikis, blogs support the work.

Dedicated flex-time staff attorneys do the work, supervised by shareholders and other full-time lawyers. The fomer are onshore, Littler employers. Though they are virtual workers, firm includes them in meetings and firm activity. They have average 11 years experience and strong EEO backgrounds. One is even ex-shareholder who wants more flexibility.

Client was concerned that Little was not making enough. Client want stability / longevity. 3400+ charges processed through LCS in 2 years. 80% of charges defended v. settled. 1.7% cause findings, well below national average. BI from system has changed employment practices.

Motto has been: Have a big vision, start small, then scale quickly.


Seyfarth and Littler compete vigorously but have united to try to disrupt the traditional market.

Seyfarth is an AmLaw 100, full-service, international law firm. 800 lawyers. The usual mix of partners, some very resistant to change.

Fundamental Principles:

  • Legal industry took a wrong turn (law firms became about themselves; compensation tied to closely to minutes; we became vendors not business partners)
  • Belief that listening closely to client, firm could really solve client problems; those solutions would delight client and they would reward firm with deep business relationships.

Lisa remembers skepticism of many partners that lowering client bills would be good for firm. But she turned out to be right.

Why Lean Six Sigma? Lean is a journey, not an endpoint. Always need to improve. Firm need a process and an approach to deliver service better. Firm stopped, looked at how it worked, re-designed how it worked, then went to market. The firm put all leaders through Lean training. Seyfarth started big – all leaders went through 4-month Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt training. Ultimately, lawyers hung in because they saw that Lean is more than a process or a tool – it’s a way to think. The firm kep Lean thining and discipline but shed some math and jargon.

Projects span all offices and practices. Not all partners have bought in but the number grows regularly. Lean applies equally to one-off bet-the-company cases and to commodity work.

Quick case study: routine litigation portfolio. Not huge stakes but a lot of cases and fees. Analyzed costs, which depended on task coded billing. Initially, firm had to go back to improve accuracy of task codes. Now, lawyers are better at task coding their time. Look for where costs spikes are in matters and focus process improvement on what causes the spikes. Firm now has 180 process maps.

Continuous Improvement: culture of root cause and ‘why’; lessons learned [after action reviews]; lean discipline and process mapping (including with clients); wonder of metrics (used widely and with clients); tools and technology to support client; understanding what we do well and where we need help; loving disruptive thinking.

What’s Next:
– Embrace disaggregation, including working closely with competing law firms
– Continuous work on developing knowledge resources and tech for client service
– Loving e-billing and working with clients on metrics
– Work with clients, firm, law schools to reshape law school education