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(The Lean Law Firm Blog)

E204: How non-utilized talent wastes time and money for your law firm

process improvement productivity Oct 18, 2023
People working a law office or law firm

You’re hard at work on a big case. You need everyone focused on what they do best, but you find one of your best paralegals helping other staff members with administrative tasks around your office instead of assisting with the motions you need to meet your 5 p.m. deadline.

Every member of your team stepping up to help where needed, as needed, is good and supports your collective efforts, right? Wrong. Sometimes, it can be a waste.

We’ve been using the  DOWNTIME framework to dig deep into the wastes that can be hard to uncover. In this tip, we're talking about N for Non-Utilized Talent. [LINK: https://www.gimbalcanada.com/e200-how-to-spot-waste/]

The Tip: To be efficient and profitable, you need to use the skills and talents of all the members of your team to the best of their abilities. Not doing that—letting the wrong people do the wrong work—wastes time and money.

How often do you get pulled into doing work you can’t bill for, or lower-value work someone else could do, when you could (and should) be doing higher-level work? Each time this happens, it’s a waste.

In every process improvement project we’ve worked on, the biggest benefit comes from shifting work to the most appropriate resources. Here are just a few examples of how our clients have eliminated the waste of non-utilized talent:

  •  automating expense reporting to free up 3 FTEs, who could be allocated to other administrative work, rather than adding headcount
  •  allowing legal assistants to create starting point documents from approved templates, saving hours of attorney time, and reducing write-offs in litigation matters.
  •  shifting work from partners and associates to staff attorneys and paralegals, taking a fixed-fee practice from loss-making to profitable.

Your Action Item: Identify a task that you do regularly that should be done by a lower-cost resource (or by automation)

Start by looking for:

  •  junior people who have the aptitude to take on a more challenging task if they had additional training, a checklist, or a good set of templates.
  •  opportunities to outsource some or all tasks related to business services and copying, HR, accounting, and legal work that falls outside your core offering (or is routine and commoditized, or requires the expertise of specialized outside counsel).
  •  new practice technologies that free up people to do more value-adding work.
  •  if you’re in-house, any work you can push back onto the business units.

Efficiency is having the right people doing the right work. Every time you move a task to a lower-cost resource, you’re freeing yourself up to do more of the “right work” for you: the work that adds more value to your bottom line.

Pro Tip: When you’re looking for non-utilized talent, start at the moment a potential client raises their hand to connect with you: intake. It’s a process that’s often packed with non-utilized talent. Check out our Ultimate Intake Package to see how you can get the right people doing the right work in your intake process.

You’ll get a customizable process and step-by-step guide to handle new client inquiries, from initial contact to client onboarding, seamlessly and efficiently, with everyone on your team focused on what they do best. 

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