To remain competitive and profitable in today's legal services market, law firms need to continuously improve how they work.

This is the sixth of a series of sixteen articles that will explore the relevance and, for some law firms the existential importance, of W. Edwards Deming's Fourteen Points, especially for small and midsize law firms.

The fifth of W. Edwards Deming's Fourteen Points, Improve Constantly and Forever the System of Production and Service, calls for a never-ending commitment to enhancing quality and efficiency within an organization. This principle has profound implications for law firms, impacting not only internal operations but also profitability.

In a legal context, the "system of production and service" encapsulates everything from legal research and case preparation to client interactions and billing processes.  Deming's principle suggests that these processes should be under continuous examination and improvement.

Implementing this principle within a law firm may involve several strategic actions:

  1. Ongoing Assessment: Regularly evaluate all internal processes to identify areas that could benefit from refinement. This can include everything from the way cases are assigned to how client queries are handled.

  2. Embracing Technology: Invest in modern technology to enhance efficiency, quality, and profitability. For example, using artificial intelligence for legal research or adopting case management software can streamline processes, ensuring that the right information is accessible when it's needed. However, it is critically important to eliminate the causes of errors and inefficiency before applying the new technology; otherwise, you are simply speeding up a bad process and losing money faster.

  3. Employee Development: Continuously train and develop people to ensure that they are up-to-date with the latest legal developments, methodologies, and tools. It not only improves the quality of legal services but also enhances job satisfaction, fostering a more engaged workforce.

  4. Client Feedback: Actively seek and act on client feedback to provide valuable insights into areas where the firm can improve. It aligns the firm's services more closely with client needs, enhancing satisfaction, and loyalty. Client feedback is critical to a law firm's ability to meet the clients' needs and expectations "the first time and every time."

Now, what's the connection between continual improvement and profitability?

Poor quality in legal services can have tangible financial consequences. Errors in legal documents, delays in response times, or miscommunication with clients can all lead to dissatisfaction, jeopardizing current and future business. Corrections and rework consume valuable time and resources, reducing overall efficiency and profitability. In most law firms, one of the most significant causes of fee write-offs and write-downs is the unbillable time spent in fixing mistakes that could have been avoided.

Moreover, a reputation for low quality can harm a firm's market position. In a competitive legal landscape, clients have numerous options, and word-of-mouth travels fast. A single negative experience can reverberate through reviews and social media, potentially impacting new client acquisition.

On the other hand, a firm that embraces constant improvement as a core philosophy is likely to build a reputation for excellence and reliability. This reputation can become a powerful competitive advantage, attracting new clients and retaining existing ones.

In conclusion, Deming's fifth point isn't just a theoretical concept; it's a practical guideline that law firms must apply to enhance internal operations and profitability. By committing to ongoing improvement in every aspect of their practice, law firms are positioning themselves for success in a demanding market. It's a continuous journey, not a destination, reflecting the dynamic nature of the legal industry and the relentless pursuit of excellence that distinguishes the best law firms of any size.

Our next post: Institute traiining.

Norman Clark


W. Edwards Deming's Fourteen Points provide a framework for sustained growth, improved quality, and better client service. Their successful implementation will require commitment, leadership, and an ongoing dedication to improvement. The law firms that integrate these principles into their daily operations will be well-positioned for future success in the ever-evolving legal landscape.

To learn more about the Fourteen Points, consult W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, (Massachussets Institute of Technology, 1982). Future posts in the Walker Clark World View blog, will examine the strategic relevance and practical application of each of the Fourteen Points to law firm operations and management.  

The members of Walker Clark have been guiding law firms, corporate law departments, and other legal services organizations to introduce quality management since the 1990s. For more information about how we can help you integrate the Fourteen Points into a strategy for sustainable success in quality management in your organization, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.