Design Build Legal
Design Build Legal


Thoughts, Tips, and Articles from DBL's Founders

#DBLon Process Mapping


When we talk to lawyers and staff about the idea of "creating a process map", we tend to get a lot of nervous looks. This is because (ironically?) process mapping tends to be done ... pretty inefficiently.

Typical situation. Get the six or ten or 15 people who work on the process. Put them in a room all morning. (Or all day? I'm sorry, but I have to place you under citizen's arrest.) Bring in lots of coffee. And have them turn a blank whiteboard into a masterpiece of multi-colored paper and dry erase pen marks.

The mission might be admirable, but the execution is a killer. One person tends to dominate the conversation, not necessarily because they are the most knowledgable, but perhaps because they're the most senior. Or people defer to them because they're the "owner" of the process. Meanwhile, the others check their phones, weighing in occasionally, and everyone feels like "shouldn't we get back to work soon?"

At Design Build Legal, we take a different approach. First, we find the most knowledgable person about the process.  This is often an associate, secretary or paralegal, not the most senior partner. We will spend an hour with them, maybe a bit more, but it's an efficient use of their time: they're going to get us 80% of the way to the full map.

Then, we bring in a couple of other folks for 20 minutes each to fill in the blanks and add context. Once we think we've got our map, only then do we convene a larger group. That group might spend an hour together, but we're accomplishing two things: confirming the current state, and talking about hot spots -- places to dig in -- with a focus first on hot spots that the client sees or touches (if applicable). Finally, we go back to whichever key individual(s) play a role in those hot spots, and have individual meetings to fix the process.

It sounds like a lot of meetings. (And it is!) But other than that first person -- again, typically a non-billable staff member, or a more junior lawyer -- each member of your team is coming into a couple of shorter meetings, rather than being taken out of their job for an extended period of time. Instead, we are the ones putting in a lot of time, so your folks don’t have to.

We think this is a better process for ... fixing a process. We do, however, use a lot of Post-Its like everyone else. That part is required by the law!

Andy PetersonComment