Catherine Alman MacDonagh, JD, Founder and CEO, Legal Lean SigmaCatherine Alman MacDonagh, JD, Founder and CEO
Project management and process improvement concepts like Lean and Six Sigma are not new, but their traditional applications are typically used in manufacturing to streamline and error proof manufacturing. Now, they are used by law firms and legal departments to transform the way work is being done and delivered – and culture.

Service-based businesses benefit from Lean and Six Sigma’s frameworks, strategies, and tools. Like any organization, they use physical, administrative, knowledge, legal, service, and management processes, all of which can be improved. Each will gain from creating a culture and approaches where everyone is involved in finding and seizing opportunities to improve.

The Legal Lean Sigma Institute was established to translate, teach, and apply these concepts from the manufacturing world to the legal space.

In an exclusive interview with Manage HR, Catherine Alman MacDonagh, JD, founder and CEO of the Legal Lean Sigma Institute (LLSI) and creator of Legal Lean Sigma and the Legal WorkOut, discusses how her company is integrating various methodologies when working with law departments and firms.

Legal Lean Sigma Institute at a Glance

Our mission is driven by a people, process, and platform approach. We teach and consult in the legal space to enable cross functional, diverse teams to work collaboratively and effectively.

Process improvement helps us determine the best way to carry out a certain kind of work to achieve efficiency, excellent quality of work and service, high probability of successful outcomes, and predictability, but the way we employ PI, PM, and Design Thinking in the legal environment is different. Legal Lean Sigma and the Legal WorkOut are so unique that each is a registered trademark.

We offer the first and only combined process improvement and project management certification courses, as well as curricula, workshops, and other programs, designed specifically for the legal profession. LLSI offers a spectrum of consulting services that starts with an understanding of each client combined with our flexible adaptation of (and adherence to) PI, PM, and change management approaches.

We help organizations build a continuous improvement culture, including building business process architecture and designing and implementing programs that help them deliver work and service in ways that improve the client and the employee experience. We help them build a framework to surface, select, prioritize, and resource projects. Often, training is experiential; we introduce a concept, then a tool, and give people a chance to apply them to an actual process. We also share relevant case studies, examples, and success stories.

Enhancing Client, Employee, and Brand Experiences

There’s never been more pressure to be more efficient or innovative in ways that create competitive advantages. The increasing complexity of compliance, changing client expectations, the war for talent, frequent regulatory changes, technological advancements, and productivity demands are driving legal organizations to change. These complex challenges drive the need to streamline workflows, capture and use knowledge more effectively, and do things better, faster, and for less money.

A culture of continuous improvement engages employees and clients in new ways, where ideas and changes can be surface and worked on by a cross functional, diverse team. In turn, this supports a positive brand experience. When everyone wants to make things even better and there is a structure to support that, organizations can expect ongoing improvement of products, offerings, services, and processes via incremental and breakthrough improvements, which leads to deep client and employee satisfaction and competitive advantages.

Embracing the P+ Ecosystem

Because everything and everyone are connected, we want to understand the potential or actual impact of work in one area on others. We developed the P+ Ecosystem, which incorporates key Ps, including planning, pricing, performance metrics, professional development, people, profitability, performance management, and practice development/innovation as a framework for this.

Our assessment tool, the P+ Scorecard, is used to determine organizational maturity and how different individuals evaluate the current state and opportunities. We can show where there is consensus and readiness in each “P” so, we provide recommendations and co-design a plan for a unified, matrixed approach.

The Legal WorkOut – An Award-Winning Approach to Success

We pioneered the Legal WorkOut, an award-winning approach that helps diverse, cross-functional, and cross-organizational teams collaborate, solve the most important problems, and produce rapid results and long-term gains.

An excellent case study is the Aon Global Law Department, which was under pressure to optimize how they worked, decrease expenses, and increase overall efficiencies.

Helping organizations transform in a way that enables people to work better using process improvement, project management, and design thinking to harness the power of teams motivates us

We held workshops with four diverse, cross-functional teams comprised of people from Aon’s law department and a primary law firm focused on different business and legal processes. Goals included faster completion time, lower costs, and fewer errors. We facilitated discussions and exercises that enabled teams to discuss, map, and examine how they performed their work. In one day, they identified the root causes of inefficiencies and developed, then presented solutions that we were approved and implemented to “get the work out” of the processes.

The results were so striking – in the billing process alone, we achieved a 64 percent reduction in the number of line items rejected – that Aon and the Legal Lean Sigma Institute won multiple, significant awards. One of our biggest joys is when clients achieve great results and receive recognition after entrusting us with this important work.

Taking Organizations to the Next Level with an Unparalleled Team

The depth and breadth of our tremendous global team’s experience in the legal space have shaped our services and helped us grow into the company we are today.

At Legal Lean Sigma, we have trained and delivered projects with thousands of legal and business professionals worldwide. We enjoy what we do; since this can all be achieved without tradeoffs. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Our motivation stems from our passion for helping organizations transform in a way that enables everyone within an organization to contribute and to work more efficiently and collaboratively. It is our ability to flexibly employ concepts and tools and use them in a way that works best for each organization that makes us stand out.