There is often a gap between the way things function and the way things ought to function.

Law firms are bastions of doing things “the way they’ve always been done.”  Change is often not welcome within the legal field. See the continuous stream of complaints about legal writing [Hereunto, wherefore, premises considered, three (3) forms…] as an example. This same can be true for the manner in which matters are handled within your firm. Perhaps there is a set process for handling a routine matter. Something that was put in place ten years ago and does not take advantage of modern workflow procedures. Coming in with a fresh set of eyes and understanding of computers and technology, perhaps you see a way in which to improve and build on it. You see the incongruities and think you can fix them.

Stop. No you don’t. Policies and procedures that are in place are likely there for a purpose – a senior attorney has set it up that way for a reason. More than likely there is something there you don’t see. Something their experience and perspective provides that you can’t perceive. They are not looking at it on an individual basis, but how the process has been handled over the course of dozens of cases. The process is designed to address multiple problems that could occur along the way. What might seem inefficient to you, could actually be the appropriate amount of due diligence required to make sure something is done right.

If you are truly convinced you could offer a way to improve a process and add value to the firm – watch. Watch the process in a variety of matters over the course of a few months. Try to understand every aspect of it and the documents/communications that flow through it do so. If after a few months of observation, you still feel as though the process can be improved – develop a plan to improve the process and implement it – on a single matter in which you can exert some level of control. If your experiment is successful, break it apart.

Why did it work? Can it be broken down into easy-to-follow tasks? Is it something that can be rapidly taught and implemented by many people? Does it requires special knowledge of some kind? If after all has been said and done, you genuinely feel as though you can help improve the efficiency of the workplace – request a meeting with the senior partner responsible for the process.

Ask them questions. Why was it set up in this fashion? What is it designed to address? Does he have any ideas of how it could be improved? As you engage them on the topic, now is the time to bring out your plan and explain how it works.  Explain why you changed the process and why you believe ti works better. Depending on the senior attorney this could evoke genuine interest or a brutal cross-examination. Be prepared for both. Regardless, the senior partner should be impressed by one thing: you care. You’re not a mindless drone, coming into work to grind away at your desk. You are attempting to be more productive, help the firm, add value. Yes, doing this will make you stand out in your firm and attract attention – but why do you want to blend in?

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