SeyfarthLean® Background

Almost ten years ago, Seyfarth Shaw set out to see if there was a better way to drive value for our clients than the traditional model of delivering legal services.

What we heard from our clients was the same then as it is now—a need for the efficient delivery of legal services, lower costs, budget predictability, quality work and value for fees. Urged by clients who had successfully implemented Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma in their organizations, we invested in the approach to see if it might help us better meet our clients’ needs.

The solution developed by Seyfarth was to work with experts to create a tailored version of Lean Six Sigma that could be implemented without the challenges presented by the strict Six Sigma and Lean approaches. We chose what we believe was best from both approaches for the legal industry and applied them to how we deliver legal services. Improved collaboration, communication, and efficiency are key objectives in adopting the process-driven methodologies that constitute this approach. With SeyfarthLean, we continually strive to perfect how we work with our clients and every day find new ways to improve the way we provide services.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a business process improvement methodology which was introduced in the early 1980s. Born in the manufacturing departments of Motorola and championed by Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO, Six Sigma has become well-known across many industries. While historically used in the manufacturing industry as a quality control mechanism, in recent years a growing number of companies have realized its benefits to help them develop and implement their business strategies, improve on financial and business reporting, manage and mitigate risk, and drive systematic and cultural change.

The term “Six Sigma” is a statistical measurement of success. To reach Six Sigma a process can only fail to meet a customer requirement 3.4 times out of a million opportunities. While this is a stretch goal for many project outcomes, the purpose is to ensure that the disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (anything outside of customer specifications) in any process—from transactional to manufacturing and from service to product—is accomplished as close to that goal as possible.

The fundamental objective of Six Sigma methodology is the implementation of a measurement-based strategy that focuses on process improvement and variation reduction. The Six Sigma “DMAIC” process (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) is a staged approach to evaluate existing processes falling below specification and needing incremental or greater improvement.

What is Lean Six Sigma? 

Lean Six Sigma is the combination of Six Sigma and Lean, another leading approach to performance improvement. While many of the Six Sigma principles are very relevant to legal practice, the “off-the-shelf” version of Six Sigma created cultural and logistical problems in the law firm setting. The primary difference between the methodologies is that Lean Six Sigma is process and data-driven, whereas Six Sigma is only data-driven. Lean is a body of knowledge and tools organizations use to remove all non-value added time and activity (waste) from their processes. Lean’s roots are traced back to Henry Ford and the early days of mass production and its techniques are grounded in the drive to make business operate faster. Lean was further developed at Toyota mid-century and more recently by James Womack, author of Lean Thinking. Driving principles of Lean today include focusing on what’s important to the customer, realizing which steps in a process add value and which do not, eliminating waste from the process that comes from delays, and continually pursuing improvement.