Business Process Management (BPM) is commonly misunderstood by Law Firms.
An academic definition of BPM goes something like this: Re-engineered Human Workflow + Re-engineered Business Systems Workflow + Business Systems Integration and Aggregation = BPM. What?? Exactly.
Let me see if I can do any better…
Law Firms that use BPM to their substantial competitive advantage have figured out that its: Redefining how work is distributed to get the work done by the right people + at the right time + armed with the right information (so they can do it faster) + in full compliance with firm policies and procedures + without having to retype the same things 3-5 times.
Now that makes good sense, doesn't it? And I bet you can see how that would save money, save time and mitigate firm risk. Welcome to the fundamental power of BPM!
How about a real-world example…
We just finished a BPM project for one of our law firm clients to extend their already automated New Business Intake process (which we implemented previously) to incorporate Alternative Fee Arrangement management for key corporate clients.
This request came straight from the Managing Partner, who recognized that his now large firm (with 20 offices) was beginning to hinder itself by negotiating differing Alternative Fee Arrangements across geographies for the same large corporate customer! He had no visibility into this until it had already impacted revenue and profitability…not the position a Managing Partner wants to be in, that’s for sure.
In addition, the firm's reputation was being damaged, as they looked like they had internal efficiency issues…a big problem when competing for corporate client work (we will be publishing an e-Book for law firms very soon that speaks to this key issue).
The minute this new extension of the New Business Intake process was deployed, rave reviews came back from the partners and risk management teams. The positive impact was immediate, and provided both risk relief and reduced effort.
For the partners submitting intakes for matters in these large corporate clients, they now get immediately visibility into existing standard fee arrangements (previously obscured from their view)…so they know exactly what the firm has pre-negotiated. This has reduced their propensity to provide additional discounts. In the end, this means their year-end distributions will rise! What a huge win for this growing firm and its partners. One user said "This is a dream come true!"
As I reflect on this, I recall our very first BPM implementation in 2003. I had NEVER seen a go-live produce such IMMEDIATELY MEASURABLE results. It literally shocked me.
In the turn of a key, the way this 12,000+ employee organization was being managed fundamentally changed. The re-distribution of responsibility and accountability for regulatory oversight happened instantaneously, with full visibility and safeguards built into the system for the compliance teams. The organization was immediately protected in ways never before possible, as policies and procedures were thoughtfully codified, enforcing compliance and raising actionable tasks when risk tolerance boundaries were crossed.
The thing was…I knew the project was going to produce unbelievable results. But the results and their immediacy exceeded even my high expectations. I was sold forever on the unparalleled value of business process management for all organizations, big and small, and have dedicated my career to it ever since.
I spend a lot of time working to educate law firms and corporations on these benefits. Often, even with clear Return-on-Investment calculations and references from peer organizations, they continue to struggle to believe it enough to cost-justify the project.
But when someone in the organization takes that first leap of faith…they never look back. Every single time, after the go-live of the first business process automation project we do with a new client, they are right back ready for the next one! The benefits are so immediate and so clear. The relief they feel so palatable. My favorite moment is when I see their eyes light up with the possibilities for other process improvements, because I know our collaboration has changed their way of thinking about their organization’s potential forever.