It looks like one large law firm finally sees business benefit in developing best practices. 

Heller Ehrman announced in September that Suzanne Hawkins joined the firm as Chief of Practice Excellence. She

“will be responsible for developing best practices to ensure that the highest quality legal work will be delivered to clients, and that that the firm provides services that are efficient, cost-effective and responsive to client needs. Her responsibilities include the development and implementation of processes and training to enhance the delivery of legal services.” (emphasis added)

Interviewed in in Law Firm Inc. (10/2007), Hawkins says her position is “all about people, processes, and technology. There are a lot of opportunities in legal departments and law firms to improve their systems and methodology of delivering services to clients.”

It will be interesting to observe her impact at Heller. Her role seems more senior than most practice support positions. She is one of six Heller “Chiefs.” Hawkins was previously senior counsel for legal operations at GE and then consulted at both Hildebrandt and Huron. So her background is not typical for practice support.

The role could end up with a focus on quotidian e-discovery issues, the usual application development, and bits and pieces of knowledge management. If so, so what. Or it could focus on systematically and empirically testing and adopting best practices and, as importantly, communicating the benefits to clients and prospects. If so, what an exciting development.