Waste: to use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.
In the 90's, Toyota Manufacturing implemented a lean practice of identifying 7 wastes to increase revenue. Though the concept was originally created with factory production in mind, it can easily be adapted to law firms.
Increase your law firm's efficiency by identifying, reducing, and even eliminating wastes. By maximizing your time at work, you'll have more time for life. The same thought process can be applied to your home life, by streamlining certain processes (chores anyone?), you can reduce waste and spend more time on the really fun stuff!
Movement of work between areas that does not add value. This refers to the act of moving someone or something from one place to another.
- Are you taking time to mail bills when you could e-bill?
- If you do detention work, can you designate a certain day(s) each week that you'll visit the detention center rather than going every time you get a call?
More materials/information on hand than is required. Simply put, it means having too much stuff. Take a good look at your office (and your home too)…
- Are there old files to scan and destroy?
- Do you have unnecessary clutter? Are there unused items (old books, office supplies, etc.) to donate?
- Could you move to a paperless office?
- Could you downsize to a smaller but more efficient office space? Or open a virtual law office? (check out our article on creating a VILO: Virtual Immigration Law Office)
Unnecessary motion of yourself and your staff. While transportation is the movement of work, motion is the movement of actual people.
- Are files kept in an easy to access, central location?
- Are you going to a meeting/appointment that adds value?
- Are you taking the time to walk to the printer to give your clients printed copies when an email would do?
Waiting for material/information or any delay between one process ending and the next step beginning. Waiting for processing of cases and information from clients is a time suck and a time waster.
- Evaluate the process that you use to request paperwork and proofs from clients, can anything be improved?
- Are your proof lists clear and concise?
- Would it help to require a higher down payment or payment in full?
Adding more value to a service or product than customers want or will pay for. This is a big one for lawyers. Over processing is creating more work for yourself than is necessary, or the "sickness of busy."
- When doing work related tasks from home, is it necessary that you do it right then or can it wait until you're back in the office? Is it crucial that you answer that email during family dinner or can it wait?
- Are you doing more work for the client than necessary? Are they paying you to complete the work to that level of detail?
When more time and resources are used on a project than is necessary. Or making it earlier than requested.
- Are you spending more time formatting documents and making them "look good" than ensuring that the legal and documentary requirements are satisfied?
- When preparing a removal case, can you collaborate with the TA to narrow the issues so that you can write a shorter brief?
- Can you streamline an elaborate client tracking system of spreadsheets by using a case management system?
Errors or mistakes causing the effort to be redone.
- Have you streamlined your workflow to include self-checks and self-review to avoid small mistakes?
- Are your processes documented or do you have a training manual with instructions on how to do everything in your office, from processing the mail to preparing an I-130?
- Are you asking the clients the right questions upfront?