US briefing: Leap of faith
At the height of the securities boom in 2006, Seyfarth Shaw real estate partner Andrew Pearlstein was feeling the pressure. His client, Merrill Lynch, was awash in mortgage-backed securities and insisting that the law firms working on these transactions cut their rates. "We were doing 60-70 real estate finance closings a year," Pearlstein says. "Our clients were these financial institutions; and we were getting squeezed tighter and tighter. [They were demanding,] 'Can't you get your fees down? Can't you get your fees down?'" At the time, securitisation work was plentiful, but there was stiff competition among law firms. So Seyfarth began looking for novel ways to improve its turnaround time and cut costs on these deals. Stephen Poor, the firm's managing partner, and Lisa Damon, national chair of Seyfarth's employment practice, had recently been talking to each other about Six Sigma, a method by which business processes are broken into discrete tasks and each step is carefully examined. The methodology had never been formally adopted at a law firm before, but some in-house lawyers had been using it for years.
How much will Six Sigma pay off for Seyfarth Shaw? DM Levine reports
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