Kanban Boards and Your Next Law School Project!

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Guest Post by Julie Wooldridge

When you have a large paper with multiple parts or a collaborative project with people working on a multitude of tasks, tracking the progress of the project and identifying issues or roadblocks can be difficult and time consuming.  Kanban boards can be a useful tool to help keep your next project or paper on track and save you time in the process. 


Kanban (or in the original Japanese) is a lean method inspired by the Toyota Production System, developed by Taiichi Ohno in the 1940s.  Literally translated from the Japanese term, Kanban means “billboard” and indicates the “available capacity (to work)”.  For decades, Kanban boards were utilized primarily for manufacturing and production.  David J. Anderson in his 2010 seminal work entitled, “Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business”, built on the work of his predecessor Taiichi Ohno and others, and brought the Kanban concept from production to IT, software development and knowledge work in general. 

What is a Kanban Board?

Simply put, a Kanban board is a whiteboard with columns and sticky notes.  The board encapsulates a project.  Columns represent a stage or phase in the workflow/project.  Sticky notes represent a task, issue, or step, which can be easily color coded by task or person responsible.  

While classic Kanban board models have three columns, “To Do”, “Doing” and “Done”, the number and title of the columns can be adjusted to fit almost any project.  As the project develops you add sticky notes to the board to the “To Do” column.  As work begins on a task, the representative sticky note is moved through the phases (columns), allowing you to visually track the progress of a project at a glance. 

Kanban boards are essentially a system of efficient communication and signaling.  They increase visibility and transparency allowing for better workflow management, while the flexibility and responsiveness of Kanban boards allows them to be adapted to nearly any project or workflow. 

Use in Law School

One of the benefits of a Kanban board is its flexibility. A board is adaptable to a variety of projects you may encounter in law school, such as drafting a brief or journal article.  For example, if your project involved the completion of a final paper that involved legal research you could use the columns: To Do, Researching, Writing, Editing, etc.  Sticky notes could represent issues that have been identified and need to be addressed in the paper. 

Additionally, Kanban boards aren’t limited to physical white boards or walls.  For collaborative projects, newer online Kanban board systems are available and allow for group editing and access.  Online group access allows team members to effortlessly keep their team up to date on their progress.  This visual update eliminates wasted time spent checking in on the status of tasks or projects and increases transparency, allowing for a more efficient workflow. 

More Information

If you are interested in learning more about Kanban Boards, here are some resources to help you get started:

Posted by Nicole M. Downing on Mon. January 10, 2022 1:00 PM
Categories: Uncategorized

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