Jenna Giguere, Esq.
Deputy Chief of Legal Services Department of Business Regulation
I submit this opinion piece to share a few interesting points about the concept of "Lean" and how I strive to apply this concept in my practice as a government attorney.1 I use the term "Lean" loosely here to refer to process improvement efforts that may range from tactical to strategic,2 from "Go Dos" (like finding a question that can be eliminated from an application at the push of a few buttons) to more extensive Lean projects that undergo some level of design and development review. I believe that lawyers in government positions can offer valuable contributions to Lean initiatives and that sharing some thoughts on how they can do so will be of interest to the bar at large as consumers of government services.
Learning about Lean and going through several Lean projects has helped me develop a kind of Lean "radar" to help spot red flags, which leads to process improvement. For example, one such red flag is where more than one unit or person seems to be repeating the same work effort twice.3 This may occur as part of the supervisory chain (both attorney and paralegal doing the same step) or when different units have overlapping scopes (a document needs both policy review and legal review). When I see one of these red flags, it does not always indicate that a change/improvement should be made, but it does present an opportunity to ask questions.
I have found that government attorneys are in a great position to help identify the statutory, regulatory, or other legal barriers that policy makers must be aware of in implementing process improvement efforts. I also strive to stay informed of trends, for example, through involvement with associations of government leaders and lawyers and industry that provide opportunities to track what issues other states are facing, many of which may be expected to come to Rhode Island in only a matter of time. This enables "strategic sensing," the capability to anticipate issues and trends so that an agency can act proactively...