General counsel grumbling about outside counsel bills and services is mild compared to the real pressures doctors face: insurers, employers, and malpractice risks. These pressures cause medical practice to change far faster than law practice. The Wall Street Journal today reports on a healthcare innovation that could inspire forward thinking law firms. 

To Reduce Risks, Hospitals Enlist ‘Proceduralists’ (6/1/07, $) reports that hospitals are “creating special procedure services and new procedure-training programs” motivated by “growing concern about patient safety and the risk of malpractice claims from botched procedures.” One hospital reports lowering the “complication rate for medical procedures to less than 1%, compared with a national average of 2% to 5%.”

As firms grow bigger, shouldn’t they have specialists for certain common legal “procedures?” I’m not sure that they do. Arguably, knowledge management, with its increasing focus on experience location, tries to fill this apparent gap in well-defined procedures. One example of a lawyer proceduralist is the “e-discovery attorney”. One can imagine others: litigation risk assessment, due diligence manager, damages evaluation, contract drafting experts, and alternative fee assessment specialists. I am convinced that defining processes and executing them consistently could help control legal costs and reduce risk.