In looking at how and why we go about our business of being a law firm, we realize that there are some flaws in the process. Law firms are often set up on a system wherein tasks are matched with specific people. I send dictation to my secretary. The endless flow of paper goes through the tagging and routing process towards the scanner and then through the process of digital and physical filing. GAL posts are sent to Katy for transcription. Nick handles much of the scanning. Jenny does much of the calendering.
I don't know why it didn't occur to me sooner. We have been moving aggressively towards a task-based business model to deliver legal services. The extranet brought something to light that I had not really anticipated. In the extranet, we are able to create finite tasks which need to be accomplished in order to realize client goals. The smallest tasks are documented and assigned. But, sometimes the tasks were assigned to workers who were not necessarily the right person for the job. That person might not be available to preform the task the quickest. That worker might not have the specialized interest in the issue presented. Why don't I let workers claim tasks?
It was a bit of a revelation. By putting tasks into play and prioritizing them, we can allow workers to claim tasks that are of interest to them and which they feel comfortable achieving within the time frame set forth. After all, who knows better what at workers availability is than the worker them self?
This got me thinking about our internal operations. Why should tasks be arbitrarily associated with people? Isn't the most important thing about a task it's priority? The things that have to be done right now should be done by anyone certified to preform that task. An appropriate business model should not limit that task to a person.
We now prioritize all incoming mail on a rating scale of 1-4, with #1 being something that has to be handled right now. As I consider what to do next, I don't have to look far. My #1 tasks are staring at me.
As I route the paper back to my staff for routing, scanning, transmittal, mark-up and digital filing, I prioritize each document 1-4. Again, #1 is something that has to be done right now.
The scanning is further rated on a scale of 1-4. Important documents by settlement offer make their rounds around the office in the one category from beginning to end. The client gets the document as a PDF (perhaps even marked up with audio comments) quickly and efficiently. Some of the #2 items become #1 items, the #3 items eventually work their way to #2. The #4 items (junk mail) wait for that day in the future when I have nothing to kill but time.
I would encourage anyone who is considering out of the box options for their legal process to consider letting priorities dictate tasks, not the availability of people.