I sat in yesterday on an event hosted by LexisNexis on the webinar/virtual panel entitled “The Discipline and Benefits of Project Management.” The two panelist were Bruce MacEwan, Founder, Adam Smith Esq., and Tom Birsic, Partner and Litigation Practice Leader, K&L Gates, and both had a lot to say about the current state of Legal Project Management (LPM) for in-house and outside counsel. It was interesting to hear both MacEwan and Birsic discuss how LPM is basically still in its infancy and that currently there is a ‘fuzzy’ distinction between what lawyers consider case management, and what lawyers need to change in order to accomplish Legal Project Management. Subtle though it might seem on paper, MacEwan went on to say that the law firms that figure out that distinction and are the first to act and explain the value of LPM will be at a serious competitive advantage over their peer firms.
I’ll list some of my notes that I took while listening in below, but wanted to reprint the overview of the discussion first, as I think it lays out a good overview of LPM and what the panelists were focused on discussing. Note: It was actually a video panel – vpanel – but the video was quite disappointing because it tended to freeze and make the panelists look like they were in the middle of a painful medical procedure. Apologies to Kevin, Tom and Bruce for posting this snapshot of the vpanel… but the video was pretty bad…
Overview of Panel:
Project management is nothing more than rationally supervising the process of
which have associated costs
to accomplish specified objectives.
Viewed this way, disputed matters and transactions are simply types of projects, albeit sophisticated ones. Learn more about how project management can help make alternative billing models more predictable, transparent, and effective, including:
Why your firm needs to focus on continually improving project management skills
Developing ways to more readily provide budget updates to clients
Ensuring that lawyers are skilled at clarifying and communicating expectations and guiding the engagement process
Implementing processes to review performance at the end of an assignment, or sooner, if need (“Lessons Learned”)
Applying the appropriate staffing model that provides the needed skills at an acceptable value.
Interesting topic going on over at the Hildebrandt blog on whether it is time to develop new ideas for measuring performance at law firms. In Lisa Smith’s post “Time for New Metrics“, she lays out some interesting new categories that law firms should develop to show how they are managing their business:
- Firm Performance – what are the relevant measures of firm performance, including the profit margin idea above?
- Expense Management – how do we measure the impact of changes in staffing models, leveraging technology in delivering services, outsourcing?
- Practice Management – how do we compare the performance of practices who may have very different profit drivers and pricing models?
- Partner Performance – how do we move from a billable hours and originations driven approach to measuring partner performance?
- Client Development/Market Strength – how do measure success in strengthening client relationships?
- Balance Sheet/Risk – can we assess the strengths and weaknesses of a firm’s financial practices?
- Management and Leadership – can we measure the effectiveness of strategic, talent management and other initiatives?
Differentiator: Good project manager
I always enjoy reading project management articles that are written for specific industries, and then seeing if they also apply for managing projects outside of those industries. This morning I came across one such posting on one of my favorite blogs, Heavy Mental. Although the post describes the ten keys of project management for an enterprise 2.0 project as presented at the Paris forum, many of these rules could be used verbatim in KM projects or IT projects or even Library projects.
1) Manage risks from the early stages of the project
2) Seek Executive supports
3) Know your business needs and address them
4) Knowledge sharing in complex and fast paced changing environment for distributed workforce is a common motive
5) ROI may be complicated to evaluate but some benefits are unassailable
6) Usability is key for quick adoption
7) Cross functional participation is critical
8) IT support is critical but IT Governance is crippling
9) Don’t use the S word
10) Top-Grassroot-Down is the new Bottom-up
Rules 1-7 are pretty straight forward project management rules that can be used in almost any project you’re managing. Rules 8-10 are pretty specific to the Enterprise 2.0 project topic, but with a little modification could be used in almost any PM topic. I do love how IT is specifically called out for being a necessary evil in this project, but let’s face it; almost everything we do needs some type of IT support these days, but doesn’t need to be run by IT. This topic was covered in a post on the Cloud Ave blog called “The Art of the Enterprise: Marketing Shrugged.” In that post, there is a hypothetical (at least I assume that it was a hypothetical) where one department did its best to boycott IT altogether because they did not want the project to go into the black hole of IT Governance.
Rule 9 specifically uses the “Don’t use the S (social media) word” for this Enterprise 2.0 topic, but there are many taboo words when it comes to project management in specific areas. I heard some KM managers say that they specifically no longer say “This is a Knowledge Management Project” to their attorneys or administrators. We all know there are certain words or phrases that raise the hackles on the back of some necks around our firms, so the best thing to do is to come up with another way of presenting the project without using the taboo words that cause such negative reactions.
Rule 10 is worded a little strangely, but basically says that Top-Down and Grassroots-Up are both essential to managing successful projects. Buy-in is needed on all levels and no longer can you force a project upon the end-users (no matter how great the project), nor can you make an unusable project work (no matter how enthusiastic the end-users are about the idea.)
Regardless of your project, these are ten good rules that can be adopted to fit your needs.
Great post from Lisa Rohrer (actually Lisa told us it was from Carla Landry) at Hildebrandt Blog on “Is It Possible To Turn Lawyers into Project Managers? Or Will They Crash & Burn??” Toby and I have had a number of conversations on this issue and I’ve gone back and forth on this question. Lawyer know how to practice law, but do they necessarily know how much it costs to represent a matter? One answer that we got from Matt Homann, over drinks one night, was that actually if you asked a lawyer his or her “gut” feeling on how much we should charge for a matter, their gut answer usually comes out pretty close. Unfortunately, most attorneys are afraid to trust their gut, and instead ask for report after report of the ‘history’ of charges the firm has charged for similar matters, only to be overwhelmed by the data and winding up more confused, and their ‘gut’ feeling has turned into a pit in their stomach.
- Former Practicing Lawyer who is brought on to be a full-time PM
- PM (non-lawyer) who has some type of experience working with lawyers, or can at least speak the ‘language’ to the lawyers and prove that he or she does know how lawyers work