After partnering with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Center for Lean Logistics and Engineered Systems, Hunoval Law now offers Lean Six Sigma training to employees and has already incorporated its strategy into key business processes.
“The driver here is client results,” says firm founder, Matt Hunoval. “A firm like ours has a very different focus than a large general practice firm doing multi-billion dollar M&A deals or high-dollar mass tort claims. Such work, by its very nature, is highly customized and non-repetitive. On the other hand, a lot of what we do is highly process-oriented, where you are dealing with the same basic set of form documents with minor transaction-
Six Sigma, Lean and other data-driven, quantitative management tools were first used in manufacturing, and then adopted by large financial institutions after being championed by Jack Welch at General Electric.
“This is the language spoken by our larger institutional clients, and so I’ve made a commitment for it to be the language of my law firm,” he says. “This is not a passing fad, not a management flavor of the week. Six Sigma is in the firm’s DNA.”
Hunoval hired Kevin Divine as the new Director of Six Sigma to help guide the firm as employees learn the new process. Divine completed his Six Sigma black belt training at GE during the Jack Welch years, later utilizing it in process-improvement efforts at financial giants such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
“For the most part, law services have been performed the same way for hundreds of years. It’s a paper mill,” says Divine. “We wanted to start looking at what causes rework, defects, errors and inefficiencies so we can create a more reliable and repeatable process.”
Training occurs at the UNC Charlotte campus in a five-week program customized specifically for the practice. It’s designed to provide a Lean Six Sigma certification so employees will be skilled in quickly identifying defects, redundancies and eliminating waste—translating into faster processes done with fewer errors for the firm’s clients.
The center has collaborated with companies in manufacturing as well as the service sector to teach Lean Six Sigma, but this is the first time it has partnered with a law firm.
“Through proper training and cultural change, we believe that law firms such as Hunoval can create a dynamic continuous improvement culture, where the employees will be part of the solution, identifying and solving system-related issues as they arise. Lean Six Sigma will give them the proper methodology and toolset,” says Dr. Ertunga Ozelkan, Director of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management at UNC Charlotte and Associate Director at the UNC Charlotte Center for Lean Logistics and Engineered Systems.
Ozelkan and Dr. Gary Teng serve as co-Principal Investigators for the training process and work together to create tailored Lean Six Sigma programs that address specific needs of a company or industry. Education covers a wide breadth of Lean Six Sigma education - from the very basic overview levels to the most advanced theoretical mathematical levels.
By using real-life examples from the law firm, the training demonstrates how Six Sigma process analysis works to create less room for error and better efficiency throughout the workday.
And clients are taking note.
“Right or wrong, many of the firm’s larger clients tend to think of lawyers as Don Quixote figures, nobly tilting at windmills but somehow not quite getting it. We’re changing that perception,”
With the addition of Lean Six Sigma to the law firm’s business processes, the company is excited to deliver a streamlined operation for clients for whom more time and more errors equal more money—and, conversely, savings in time and reductions in errors directly translate into where it matters most. The client’s bottom line.
“We’re creating a process that you don’t have to worry about going haywire,” says Divine. “You can be sure that the product from yesterday is as good as the product you have today.”