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Be Agile: FindLaw Gets Light on Its Feet

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 23, 2015 10:01 AM

When tech companies stress their values, you often hear buzzwords like "innovation" or "disruptive" used like clubs. But what about "agile?" While it's certainly very helpful for employees to be mentally and physically quick and nimble, when Silicon Valley talks about "Agile," you may be missing the big picture.

So what does it mean to be "Agile," and how is FindLaw taking part?

What is Agile?

Agile is a basic set of principles for developing software, one that seeks to remove barriers for communication and development in order to more reliably deliver working software on deadline. It was dreamt up by 17 software developers in 2001 as part of The Agile Manifesto. As daunting as it sounds, the Agile Manifesto merely lays out a set of value preferences:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

While Agile development doesn't require adhering to any one method, some common Agile implementations include Scrum (as featured in the HBO show "Silicon Valley") and Kanban. More than a decade after the Manifesto's release, tech behemoths like Salesforce and Twitter have developed their own Agile methods for developing working products and code in an incredibly demanding market.

So it should be no surprise that FindLaw is now working Agile.

Stand-ups, White Boards, and Post-Its ...

It's great to talk about being Agile in the abstract, but what is FindLaw actually doing to use this software development philosophy?

  • Stand-up Meetings. For starters, many of our teams have started attending daily morning stand-up meetings (more simply "stand-ups"). During these 15 minute meetings, all members of the development team share their wins from the prior business day, their goals for the upcoming day/week, and any obstacles they may be facing. Face-to-face communication breaks down the organizational barriers posed by emails, meetings, and filing tickets.
  • Story boards. A big component of Agile development is breaking a giant task into smaller increments or "stories" and then completing those stories over a small period of time (often called a "sprint.") Many FindLaw Agile teams have accomplished this with white boards and post-its for each story.

Since so many of us are not developers but lawyers here at FindLaw, you could ask, how does Agile work? Our lawyer-staffed content teams are also adapting many of the elements we just described when rolling out major projects. In addition, with the way lawyers usually work -- constant editing and changing tactics, quick turn around times to meet court deadlines, and lots of face to face hollering communication -- we think Agile is a natural fit for us.

Bottom line: Agile teams at FindLaw are ensuring that we are flexible, transparent, and efficient in moving a product from concept to production. It is just more one way we're keeping pace with the rest of Silicon Valley.

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