Lean Thinkers

Tom Harper believes in Lean Thinking. We partner with our clients so the legal services we provide play a part in the value stream of our clients. We are constantly asking ourselves “What is the real value here for our clients?” and “How can we eliminate waste and create and increase the value that our clients receive?”

Our map of core services includes:

  • employment litigation;
  • claims and charges before governmental
    agencies;
  • prevention of employee disputes;
  • advice on employee issues and compliance with employment laws;
  • development of personnel policies and procedures;
  • supervisory training
  • advice on systems and procedures that increase employee retention and job satisfaction while reducing ¬†turnover and employee issues.

An example from one of our core services: Employment Litigation

Having defended hundreds of employment lawsuits. we have studied the steps involved in employment litigation and constantly evaluate the most efficient manner to obtain the client’s goals. We determine if each specific activity creates value for the client? Wasteful and unnecessary steps in the litigation process are eliminated.

For example, in implementing Posner & Dodd’s Cross Examination: Science and Techniques, we plan for trial from the very first conversation with the client. We conduct a thorough investigation and make an early case assessment making sure the client understands the process of employment litigation and allowing the client to set goals they would like to obtain. Once the goals are set, we work with the client to decide the most efficient way to reach these goals without wasting time or money.

From the first meeting and witness interviews, we work with the client to develop a theory of the case, case themes, goals for cross-examination, opening statement, closing argument, and the development of issues for summary judgment (so that a court can end the litigation short of a jury trial and possible appeals). Employment litigation is often a 1-2 year process; delays cause the loss of efficiency as facts are remembered, new facts are uncovered, studied and remembered. It is more efficient to outline from the beginning the key issues to be discovered and attacked and to focus on these issues through the litigation so the client’s goals can be obtained without waste.

The defense of an employment lawsuit is, we believe, type 1 muda, or necessary, but not actually creating value for our clients. As such, our clients often work Harper Gerlach to reduce employment litigation and, thus, reduce costs. This leads to the law firm participating with the client in a study of the entire value stream of legal services that includes the client’s approach to Human Resources. When we work with a client we are constantly looking for ways to avoid legal services and we prepare a written list of our suggestions for the client. This gives our clients, in writing, a path for eliminating legal services in the future and eliminating costly employment litigation.

Harper Gerlach reaches out to those clients who are interested in becoming a Lean Enterprise to involve all of the supply team members that service the client. For example, in Human Resources this might include the Human Resource Department, in-house legal counsel, staffing agencies and outside consultants. We enter into a dialog with all of these service providers to re-think the value stream of Human Resources to find ways to reduce waste and improve efficiencies. Thus, as a provider of legal services, we are not only looking inward toward our own operational efficiencies at Harper Gerlach, but we are also looking to our clients and the entire process and product so we increase the value that we provide through the eyes of our clients.

We know what employment litigation costs and what is involved in the defense of an employment lawsuit. As a Lean Enterprise, we think it is important to set numerical goals for the service we provide and this includes the total cost of defense as well as time frames for the projects we are working on for our clients.. We have seen how cases can be defended efficiently and we dialog with our clients to achieve their goals. As an example, recently our client’s goals were achieved in the defense of wage hour claim in Florida. After a thorough early investigation and case assessment, a strategy was developed to take the former employee/plaintiff’s deposition to obtain key admissions to be used in the early resolution of the litigation. With the admission of certain “key facts” we were able to have the lawsuit dismissed, without payment of any settlement monies by our client.

Our Management Philosophy: Continuous improvement

Applying kaizen, or “Continuous Incremental Improvement,” we believe there is no end to the process of reducing waste, effort, time, costs and mistakes while offering legal services that are closest to what the customer actually wants and needs. To achieve this, we reach out to our clients to develop a continuing dialog of their goals and needs.

We are in a continuous process of study and analysis to pursue perfection in reducing costs while improving the quality of our legal services. We view ourselves as partners with our clients. We also strive to be transparent in the services that we provide by keeping our clients informed and knowledgeable of the progress on their goals.

As evidence of our belief in continuous improvement of our skills, in 2007 Gregg Gerlach took the state examination in Florida to become Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Labor and Employment Law. Mr. Gerlach passed the examination and became Board Certified during 2007. In addition, in 2008 Tom Harper completed over 40 hours of formal training on mediation and attended numerous mediations. In 2009 Mr. Harper qualified to become a Florida Supreme Court Certified, Circuit Civil Mediator and now serves as an employment law mediator. See, www.WorkplaceMediator.org.

All of the attorneys with the firm are frequent speakers and presenters at seminars and conferences. Examples of our speaking engagements are listed on our home page. From 2007-2010, Mr. Gerlach served as a committee chair for the Client Dispute Resolution Committee of the Jacksonville Bar Association. From 2007-2011 Mr. Harper serves as the chair of the Labor & Employment Law Committee for the Jacksonville Bar Association. Both of these chair positions required our lawyers to lead continuing legal education seminars for members of the Jacksonville Bar Association.