Strategic Lessons Learned Process for Law Firms

Strategic Lessons Learned Process for Law Firms

Have you ever experienced a situation when your firm has encountered challenges, and struggled to come up with a solution that wasn’t the best approach - but one that you could make happen? Then you discovered that someone else in the firm had experienced the same or comparable circumstances, and they came up with a superior answer? If only you knew about and used their remedy, you might have moved faster, better or cheaper - with great results!

The above situation is a very common one. Law firms are often not very good at capturing and exploiting knowledge and experience gained from internal or external crises - departing equity partners, contract or freelance attorneys, paralegals, and support staff – as well as complex client matter success or failure - or the everyday problems or issues we all encounter at work. There is a process that can help- The“Strategic Lessons Learned” Process.

A“Lesson” is the result of a learning process – a past experience plus reflection, which:

  • Expands current understanding and / or behavior in a significant way
  • Creates a new understanding and / or behavior

A Strategic Lessons Learned Process is designed to “debrief” an organization to help surface and document important explicit and tacit knowledge that will be valuable to the firm. Explicit knowledge is the “what” has affected the organization. Tacit Knowledge is what is in partner and employees’ heads - in other words - the “how” and “why” operations or strategies have been implemented up to this point. After completing the Strategic Lessons Learned Process, the firm will be in a better position to make both strategic and tactical decisions that are based on documented knowledge of what has happened. You will also understand how it has affected strategy and operations, both inside of the firm and in the external environment.

How do law firms create Strategic Lessons Learned Processes that engage the organization without requiring large investments of time and resources? Sixkeys to successful lessons-learned programs are:

  1. Presenting simple, clear processes with experienced meeting facilitators
  2. Keeping discussions high level
  3. Developing a lessons-learned knowledge base and sharing findings
  4. Establishing methods for making recommended changes
  5. Communicating improvement actions
  6. Tracking, measuring, and documenting progress

The outcomes of a successful Strategic Lessons Learned Session may include:

  • A set of strategic directives and operational activities - tied to documented conditions - that can be implemented quickly and effectively
  • Less time spent reinventing the wheel
  • Higher productivity, revenues, and fewer repeat mistakes
  • Higher quality output and increased efficiency
  • The probability of better and faster choices in a similar situation

There are universal cultural reasons Strategic Lessons Learned Processes aren't widely employed. The first is a prevailing mentality of "we don't have time", as partners, associates,  or employees rush from one crisis to another. The second is concerns related to cost, especially when the organization is hemorrhaging cash. Both of these cultural avoidances will short circuit any attempts at well-timed and successful lessons learned processes.

One of the quickest ways to fail at creating a Strategic Lessons Learned structure is to over-engineer the program. Time-consuming or complicated processes can defeat the purpose and miss the moment, as well as feed the notion that identifying and using lessons learned requires too much effort. The key objective is that the output should be useful to others in your firm – currently and / or in the future.

The products of a Strategic Lessons Learned Session can take the form of:

  • New strategic initiatives
  • New or altered services, or new or altered practice focus areas
  • New or altered work processes and / or accountabilities
  • New or altered firm structures
  • New reporting relationships
  • New or altered marketing plans and relationships
  • More specific advice in a longer "How-To" knowledge document
  • And more…

Capturing and documenting lessons learned and converting them into improvement actions is essential. Without this step, change and firm growth doesn't occur. As stated above, fresh approaches may entail new or altered strategies, operational guidelines, policies, and processes.Identifying and implementing necessary changes delivers the tangible benefits expected from the StrategicLessons LearnedProcess.

Reapplying important lessons to prevent future mistakes is a core reason why the most successful and admired law firms capture lessons learned.

Let WolfManagement Consultants help you find a better way to maximize what you learn!!


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