Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement, usually in the areas of manufacturing, engineering, and business management. It involves taking frequent small steps to improve your process. After months or a year of making small improvements, you are way ahead of the place where you started.
I have adopted this approach to my law practice, and have made lots of changes over the past year or so. Often one improvement becomes possible only after a previous change. The result is that, over time, my practice has been transformed.
When I started my practice, the primary focus was on the administrative law judge hearing. Medical records are updated just ahead of the hearing, and a medical source statement was sought from treating medical providers. In more recent years, a hearing memorandum was written for the judge.
This worked fine, but had a few problems. The process was back-loaded, and most of the work was being done towards the end, in preparation for a hearing. We were getting excellent results, but we were constantly running around at the last minute getting claims ready for hearing. I started making changes to better our process and to improve the client experience.
Today we get involved much, much earlier in the claim. We keep in touch with our clients, at least monthly, starting at the beginning of our representation. We update our clients on the status of their claims, and we inquire about their upcoming medical appointments. As soon as we can, we obtain a medical source statement from treating doctors and counselors. We have claims that are nowhere near hearing that have two or more medical source statements in the record.
As a result, claims are much more developed as they approach a hearing. We are now frequently in a position where we can make an on the record request before a claim is scheduled for hearing. Even if that request is denied, the work required to prepare for a hearing has largely been completed. The practice is much more proactive, and is more enjoyable for the laywers, the staff, and the clients.
Our clients are much more involved with the process of preparing their claim for hearing, which helps to create a better client experience within a difficult Social Security disability claim process. Our results are even better, and we are writing more on the record requests than before.
This transformation resulted from a series of small changes. Take a look at your practice. Make a small improvement (no improvement is too small). Next week, make another. Repeat. You will be amazed at the difference 6-12 months down the road.