The Benefits of “Supplaw” Chain Management
My brother, 14 months my junior, and I have always been fairly opposite in nature. Although we both attended Penn State, I pursued a degree in Spanish and international business and he pursued a degree in mechanical engineering. After college, I went on to get my law degree in the Pacific Northwest so that I could change the world; he went to the Southeast to get his MBA so that he could rule the world.
He ended up in supply chain management, and it took me about five years to wrap my head around what it is he actually does for work. Life has come full circle — my experiences and observations regarding the legal industry have led me to where I am now: reevaluating what it is that my brother does, because I am pretty sure my firm can benefit from it.
The Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS) defines supply chain management (SCM) as “the design, planning, execution, control, and monitoring of supply chain activities with the objective of creating net value, building a competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand and measuring performance globally.” Hmm … yes, my firm could certainly benefit from some of that, as could the entire legal industry.
Up until recently, if law firms had the words “supply chain management” floating around their offices, it was because the attorneys were advising clients in supply chain relationships and disputes. But it is time we consider the mechanism for our own businesses. The industry has slowly adopted legal project management over the last eight years. However, most firms that deploy it are implementing it for the chain’s execution, control and monitoring links and often have a hard time adapting the supply of the services within the confines of the chain if demand changes. SCM is all about optimizing operations.
SUPPLAW AND DEMAND
While SCM is an important concept for the legal industry, it’s also very much outside our comfort zone because it focuses on two concepts with which we are unfamiliar — speed and efficiency. This is exactly why we need it. After all, isn’t this what our clients are demanding? By using the concepts of SCM, we can create a system to get our product — legal services — to our clients more quickly, in turn allowing us to service more clients. SCM is about developing a competitive advantage without having to lower your prices. A more efficient operational model also makes you a more reliable service provider in the eyes of your client.