Before hitting the road you will most likely want to get a map and plan your route. In business, if your goal is to achieve success, you’ll need a map as well.
In legal, planning is an essential part of innovative workflows. A lawyer without a plan can only react. A lawyer with a plan analyzes, predicts, and leads the way towards a desired outcome.
That’s a short story on how to become a successful lawyer.
A lawyer without a plan can only react. A lawyer with a plan analyzes, predicts, and leads the way towards a desired outcome.
But all these tools won’t get you far without a plan.
To help you plan better, build effective strategies, and track your department’s performance, you need a visual management board.
In this blog post, we will:
- discuss the difference between lean and agile approaches to legal project management
- look at the 7 key visual management boards examples and discuss their benefits
- Discover how document workflow automation software can help you in your planning
Each of the boards described in this blog has both offline and digital versions. In both cases, a visual management board for your legal projects will be a worthy addition to your growth strategy.
Choose an approach that’s right for you
There are two main techniques to legal project management—lean and agile.
Agile is the methodology targeted at building a better product, placing everyone in the ongoing fine-tuning cycle. Lean, on the other hand, is focused on constant improvement of the process itself, with product quality being the intended outcome.
Agile methodology is focused on product improvement, while lean is all about improving the production process.
While lean methodology is mostly used on production sites, agile approaches are loved by software developers and project managers. They have their differences, and it is important that you understand where each is best used.
This way, you will be able to correctly apply it to your planning, and the organization of your legal projects will have a better chance to succeed.
Define the product of your legal project
Since a legal department is not an industrial factory, applying lean methodology, which focuses on the production, may seem unnecessary.
But if you look at legal contracts as one of your products, your goals may look like this:
- Sign as many contracts as possible
- Reduce the cost of your contracts and time spent drafting them
- Eliminate non-billable time and bottlenecks related to drafting, approval, and negotiations
Same can apply to matter management—handle as many matters as you can without spending too much resources on them.
Plan ahead, make adjustments on the go
Agile boards focus on the development processes and give you full visibility over the following:
- Stage of completion
- People responsible
A backlog and all distributed assignments can be hard to keep in mind. Putting them all on an agile board every week can help you outline the scope of work and spread evenly throughout the week.
Since priorities can shift quickly and urgent matters tend to appear out of nowhere, agile boards give you the flexibility of changing your schedule and not losing any of the tasks from your backlog from view.
Now that we know the approaches, let’s look at different types of visual management boards that go along with each approach, and choose the ones that suit your legal project most.
Colored labels are the simplest way to visually differentiate your tasks based on their type and priority. Here’s an example of colors and how to use them:
- Yellow: medium priority/urgency
- Red: high priority/urgency
- Blue: low priority/urgency
- Green: special/other task
Put down a list of tasks for a week, assign priority to each, and spread them throughout the schedule.
By looking at the coloring of your calendar you can quickly determine which tasks are in progress and if there are any urgent matters that require your attention.
Read more about the most popular color-coding method—Andon board.
Standard Work [LEAN]
IMAGE SOURCE: iSixSigma
Standard work is a cornerstone of the continuous improvement in lean methodology. It is a board that has detailed specifications and action plans to get results at a certain pace.
It consists of the three key factors:
- Takt time is a time required to complete a single task to meet the customer demands.
- Work-in-progress specifies the amount of tasks that are optimal for a single lawyer to manage at a time
- Sequence of operations describes the step-by-step processes that a lawyer should follow in order to minimize risks and avoid downtime
Using standard work in your legal projects can help you reduce procrastination and avoid overwork at the same time, always keeping your performance at a steady pace.
While not being suitable for creative tasks, a standard work board is great for defining the processes for routine work, such as drafting documents.
If you’re looking for a more detailed overview, iSixSigma has a granular guide on Standard work boards.
Kamishibai boards [LEAN]
IMAGE SOURCE: Tracc
Kamishibai (Japanese: Paper theater) is a type of visual management board that helps supervisors monitor the progress of their department’s work, namely:
Kamishibai is easy to use, and gives anyone a quick visual representation of the current situation in the department:
- Is the board being used
- Are the tasks carried out in the right sequence
- Were any problems encountered and logged
Such a board is great for overseeing critical issues and important legal projects.
Kamishibai boards were first introduced in the Toyota Corporation.
Kanban Boards [AGILE]
The classic Kanban board is quite simple. It consists of 3 columns:
- To do
In each column, you put in the tasks that either have to be done, are in progress, or have already been completed. It’s that simple.
For legal teams, though, a Kanban board can be modified to help with processes such as:
- Matter management
- Legal Review
Visit our more detailed blog post to find out more about kanban boards legal teams use most.
How document automation & visual boards work together
When planning your daily and weekly tasks, it can sometimes be hard to determine exactly how much time a manual process will take. You can spend 30 minutes on drafting a document, or you can spend half a day looking for the right clauses.
With document automation software, your contract-related processes are:
- Faster and almost always take a set amount of time (e.g. from 57 seconds to 15 minutes on drafting a contract)
- Streamlined for maximum efficiency and take you from choosing a template to draft all the way to signing a contract without skipping any process
- Designed to minimize human input and thus make no room for mistakes. No copypasting, no missed compliance, no unnoticed redlines.
Another valuable feature of document management software is reports and dashboards. They give you the ability to oversee all your contracts, determine next steps, and track your performance.
Always know how many contracts were drafted and how much time was spent. Use this data in your planning and your growth strategy will work with close to zero friction.
There is no one-size-fits-all board. But there are boards enough to fit any teams and legal projects of all sizes.
Just pick the one, or a couple, that work best for you, train your team to use it, and the performance of your legal department will constantly improve.
Also, discover AXDRAFT QuickDocs and the magic of self service document automation that can help your legal team start spending 0 minutes to draft simple contracts, and engage with the next important task on your board.