About the Agile Attorney
I'm John Grant. I'm the Agile Attorney, and I help lawyers suck less.* Or more accurately, I'm an agile attorney, and I help lawyering suck less.
I'm not saying you suck—far from it! I do this work because I LOVE working with smart, passionate professionals who are using their skills to make a difference for their clients and their communities.
I've been there, and I know that work isn't easy.
But I also know that you're on to something when you ask yourself, “Does it really have to be this hard?”
(hint: it doesn't)
Read on to learn more about me, my methods, and whether you and your team could benefit from the work that I do to make law practices profitable, scalable, and sustainable.
* If you didn't laugh at this, just a little, then we probably aren't good fit for each other.
What is this "Agile" Thing Anyway?
Agile got its start in the software industry. It emerged as an alternative to overly-detailed project planning that never seemed to deliver on time or within a budget. Today it is by far the most common tool set for delivering high-impact knowledge work in the software industry and beyond.
Agile shares a lot of tools and practices with Lean, sometimes known as Lean Manufacturing or Lean Six Sigma. But where Lean is focused on building physical products, Agile is native to knowledge work, which makes it well suited to the legal world.
Kanban is one of the methods of Agile, alongside others like Scrum and Paired Programming (or Paired Development). It can get a little confusing because a lot of Agile methods (and even some Lean ones) use a kanban board, but capital-K Kanban is also a standalone thing.
The Kanban methodology works really well for people and teams that follow a repeatable sequence to produce custom work. That makes it ideal for a lot of legal work.
Kanban starts with a focus on making both the work and the workflow visible, defining a Goldilocks-level of detail in your process flows (not too loose, not too detailed), and being intentional about matching the work you take on to the capacity of your team so that your resources don't collapse due to over-burden.
It is both, but the key to success is to not try to do Agile; it much better to work on being agile.
Although many Agile tools will work within your existing management framework, over time they will guide you to convert to a completely new management style. Agile will help you see your work and your workflow with fresh eyes.
“The highest priority,” as the Agile Manifesto states, “is to satisfy the customer.” A focus on customer value colors every aspect of the tools, the practices, and, ultimately, the mindset of an Agile team.
According to the annual State of Agile report, teams who adopt Agile methods found the following benefits:
- 88% report an improved ability to manage changing priorities
- 83% report improved visibility for multiple initiatives
- 83% report improved team productivity
- 81% report improved delivery speed
- 81% report improved team morale
Source: VersionOne Software's 11th Annual State of Agile Report.
That's the question I first asked nearly 15 years ago. Today my answer is a resounding YES! And I can prove it.
I've worked with thousands of legal professionals across scores of teams to improve their workflows and their productivity using Agile methods. Because Agile is, well, agile, there are tools and concepts that I've adapted to almost every type of legal practice.
- I've helped teams that focus on flat fees like estate planning or immigration get more efficient (and therefore more profitable).
- I've helped practices with high-stress clients like family law, criminal defense, or civil litigation better track their cases in ways that keep clients seamlessly in the loop (without having to constantly bug the lawyer for updates).
- I've helped high-volume intellectual property and regulated industry practices manage agency filings and litigate disputes, developing triage systems that get the work to the right resource at the right time.
- And I've helped in-house teams manage the myriad inputs from their internal clients and keep track of matters across multiple external firms.
While I can't say I've worked with every type of lawyer, the beauty of Agile is that there is something in it to benefit everyone.