Practice Excellence

Practice Excellence

What is Practice Excellence®?
 
Barley Snyder’s Practice Excellence® initiative is an ongoing effort by everyone in our firm to constantly increase our capacity to provide excellent service, professional quality and outstanding value to our clients.

Practice Excellence® includes:
  • Client service, as enumerated in our Client Service Principles.
  • Quality work, emphasizing attorney work product, peer review, collaborative effort and continuous improvement based upon Lean process improvement and performance management systems.
  • Knowledge, incorporating our consistent emphasis on building our professional education and experience, continually acquiring more insight into our clients’ businesses and industries, and sharing our knowledge and experience with clients.
In March, 2014, our PE program was highlighted in an American Bar Association article noting that our firm began “targeting efficiency in the mid-2000s and eventually embracing Lean Six Sigma”. 

Why did we start Practice Excellence®?

While large law firms have recently started to pay attention to process improvement, Barley Snyder started our Practice Excellence® program in January, 2008. Led by firm management, Practice Excellence® is a firm-wide and pervasive program of continuous improvement in the quality, service and knowledge aspects of our work. The challenge to improve processes and efficiency faced by our profession that was quite apparent to us - before the “Great Recession” forced other firms to make changes. We have studied and evaluated techniques utilized in other industries and Practice Excellence® represents our commitment to assure that the work we provide to our clients is distinguished by quality control and performance improvement processes.  
 

Also related to Practice Excellence, Barley Snyder has begun to embrace Lean Six Sigma in its practice. Lean Six Sigma is a recognized business strategy for increasing efficiency, identifying and eliminating obstacles, lowering costs and improving the quality of the product or service. The application of lean principles is relatively unique in the legal profession. As part of this effort, the firm engaged Lean practice management advisors to provide firm-wide training. With this required training completed, every member of the firm can now speak the same “Lean” language and is incorporating lean and quality control processes into our work product, services and culture.

Why focus on process improvement?
  • In today’s environment, law firms must achieve real efficiencies in their professional work, or they will fail to meet the expectations of clients
  • Clients demand value
  • Our business clients are using process improvement to drive their businesses and want to see their legal partners do the same
  • Clients want their lawyer to be focused on their critical issues and decisions. We want to have processes and efficiencies that allow us to focus on delivering responsiveness, pragmatism and perspective
  • With lean process improvement, we streamline the more routine processes and reduce errors which allow the attorney to focus on critical and creative problem solving for clients

Who leads Practice Excellence®?

Our Practice Excellence® Champions, who are also attorneys, are dedicated to the mission of applying lean process and quality improvement within the firm. The PE Champions meet regularly to discuss projects and to share ideas and advice across practice disciplines. In order to further our lean efforts, one PE Champion has recently completed a formal Lean Six Sigma process improvement course at Villanova University.

If you are interested in learning more about our Practice Excellence® initiative, please contact Kimberly Decker.


Practice Excellence® Success Stories:

As part of our continued commitment, we engaged Gimbal, a firm of Lean practice management advisors, to provide Lean Six Sigma training to members of the firm. For more information, you can read the official press release here: Barley Snyder Takes Process Improvement to the Next Level.

A major firm client needed a mechanism to reduce the time to give quick and specific legal advice to their managers. The inside legal team needed to focus on specific strategic projects and asked our firm to design a system to provide additional legal support. We developed a secure “ticket” system which is a shared internet-based system available to the client’s managers and our attorneys. The managers complete a ticket detailing the legal issue. The ticket is assigned by the firm’s client team leader and forwarded to the appropriate attorney in the firm. The attorney then responds directly to the manager in a prescribed timeframe. The client’s senior management team can access the system and review all requests and responses. We have received positive feedback on the system from the client, as it recognized that we developed a solution to meet its business needs. In addition, the client gains a system that assists them in identifying training or follow up needed with managers.     

Beginning during the 2008 recession, our finance & creditors' rights group developed comprehensive foreclosure checklists and processes. By using specialized document production and generation software to reduce errors, we improved the consistency and quality of foreclosure and confession of judgment forms to benefit our clients. We held regular meetings with members to keep up to date on emerging regulations and to continuously improve processes and identify work flow impediments during a time of upheaval in the industry. Later, when serious concerns were raised about the foreclosure industry’s lack of compliance with foreclosure laws and responsible business practices, our banking/foreclosure group could point to our systematic process and quality control measures as evidence of our sound practices.  

Our Employment group maintains its Gold Star Portal, an electronic-based resource for our practitioners with sample form agreements, model handbook provisions, agency model forms and templates, litigation notices and topical briefs and memorandum. The Gold Star Portal also includes a database of training materials on employment-related topics ranging from the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, workers compensation, hiring and firing, union avoidance, workplace violence, diversity, FERPA and student conduct issues, and the Fair Labor Standards Act and wage and hour issues. The group meets quarterly to share best practices and recent developments that impact our practice.


The following are additional practice and process improvements completed or underway:
  • a post-closing checklist process we are using to assure all matters are addressed after the closing of a transaction
  • second review processes in certain securities, mergers and acquisitions and estate planning and administration matters
  • creation of checklists and paradigm documents for some recurring business matters that require very prompt responses
  • mapping of processes for matters in the litigation, estate administration and employment practices, with links to our template documents, research and checklists
  • mapping of processes in the intellectual property practice linked to upgraded docket control software and the almost completed goal of becoming our first “paperless” practice
  • developed a comprehensive task list for our estate administration process whereby each responsible party is assigned tasks to be completed within a designated timeframe. This task list enhances the overall efficiency of our estate administration practice