Paralegals and Process Management

ABAJuornalreports that the new office buzzword is “process management.” In process management firm attorneys focus on discussing how they could develop a model for efficient law practice in various contexts.

Much as a builder relies on blueprints or an automotive assembly line can be used to put together the base model, law practice, too, can be standardized, as far as some elements are concerned, Goldstein and others tells the legal publication. By focusing on such process management, a law firm can more efficiently handle standard work while freeing up seasoned attorneys to oversee strategy and other aspects requiring greater skill.

Process management is expected to reduce law firms’ need for associates, as they outsource some work and use paralegals for other projects that have traditionally been handled by lower-level attorneys. But that, says Silvia Coulter of Hildebrandt, will mean more profits for partners. [Emphasis added.]

In my view process managment is not just about developing efficiencies so paralegals can do more work formerly done by attorneys. Effective use of professional paralegals, who can manage time, dockets, clients and workload is process management.

It also seems to me that firms are making a mistake if it is only the attorneys who are “focused” on this process. No process set up to increase efficiencies through use of paralegals will be as effective as it could be unless paralegals are involved in the process of developing process management! After all, the paralegals are frequently the members of the legal team intimately involved in, and familiar with, the existing process, so they are best situated to improve that process.

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