The 10% Solution

The 10% Solution

I was recently asked about the improvements that law firms can expect to achieve when they establish a serious quality assurance program.

"Does all this quality stuff really produce results?"

We need to be clear that quality assurance is not just a lot of slogans or exhortations to the people in the firm.  It is a system that seeks to improve the way in which people work.

When I talk about "quality assurance," I also exclude traditional after-the-fact inspections to catch and fix mistakes that have already been made. That can be better described as an attempt at quality control.   These methods, although frequently necessary, have proven to be a costly and relatively unreliable method of ensuring the quality of the service or product delivered to the client.  Running spell-check on a document is an admirable habit, but it is not quality assurance.

Instead, I am talking about a methodology that improves internal work processes to reduce or eliminate the causes of mistakes, delays, and inefficiencies.  A law firm does not have to waste unbillable time fixing mistakes if it can avoid them in the first place.

Searching my experiences over the past 20 years of assisting lawyers and law firms in this area, both in-house and, since 1996, as an external consultant, I cannot recall a single instance in which the firm did not improve overall productivity by at least 10%.  A more typical improvement has been in the 25% to 40% range.  In a few cases, I have seen even higher improvements.

What makes even a "10% solution" remarkable are these facts:

  • In almost every case, the improvements were accomplished with no increase in staffing or other operating expenses.  In other words, the improve productivity was "pure profit," because the organization could produce more fee generating work with no increase in costs.
  • Lawyers and law firms experienced these results quickly, sometimes in less than 30 days and, in almost every case, within 90 days.
  • The improvements were permanent.
  • The experience produced a noticeable improvement in morale and teamwork.
  • The results almost always quickly led to further improvements that improved productivity and profitability even more.

Most importantly of all, quality assurance is not an "off the shelf" solution that is designed and imposed by outside consultants. External resources like my colleagues and me at Walker Clark, LLC, introduce the concepts, methods, and tools. However, it is the people who do the work every day in the law firm, and who know it best, that produce the results.

Read more on the Walker Clark Worldview Blog.