The latest post from Jim Hassett’s blog Legal Business Development.
Fact 2: Experts disagree about the best way to define LPM (cont. from Part 1)
In defining LPM, we believe that lawyers must take a systematic approach that is closely related to the Agile approach to project management. Stated simply, we encourage lawyers to use an iterative process that focuses on key LPM issues, one at a time, in their order of importance.
In an article entitled “Agile: A Non-traditional Approach to Legal Project Management,” Kim Craig, then SeyfarthLean’s global director of legal process improvement, and Jenny Lee, a senior project manager with Seyfarth, explained why Agile is particularly relevant to the legal profession:
Traditional project management focuses on robust, comprehensive, mandatory project documentation with lengthy project charters, detailed project plans, complex status reports and rigorous, formal change control logs… [But] the world of legal service delivery is fast-paced and unpredictable. In legal matters, we cannot possibly know everything that will be involved with litigation at the outset. Developing an overall strategy is generally common practice, but detailed, cradle-to-grave planning is impossible.
Agile contrasts with the more traditional approach to project management which holds that every project should start with a well-defined plan. Only after that is completed and approved do you begin working your way to the end, one sequential step at a time.
The traditional approach is also known as the “waterfall” approach because progress is seen as flowing steadily from the top to the bottom (as in a waterfall). It typically sees projects in terms of five key phases or steps such as:
In some cases, firms have hired LPM Directors based on their “waterfall” project management experience in construction, government contracting, and other areas where traditional techniques are used and Agile techniques are not. This has led to many stories of LPM Directors who could not or would not adapt to a legal environment, and who ended up working with the very small group of partners that were interested in project charters and Gantt charts.
So, if anyone tells you that LPM is defined by five steps such as analysis, design, implementation, testing and evaluation, beware. They are describing the traditional waterfall approach, not the Agile approach which applies better to lawyers. As the old cliché says, “you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” and attempts to apply the traditional waterfall approach have set back the cause of LPM at many firms.
Fact 3: LPM success requires long-term managerial support
In our work with hundreds of law firms, we’ve seen the importance of follow-up over and over again. In every single case where we have seen a firm make significant LPM progress, it was led by influential partners or members of the executive committee who were strong believers in LPM. In a few cases, we’ve seen LPM programs make an enormous amount of progress when they were led by a powerful internal champion, and then slow to a crawl when that decision-maker left the firm.
Many firms have individual lawyers or practice groups that are quite advanced in LPM, but in our opinion not a single law firm in the world can yet say that LPM has truly taken hold across the entire firm. LPM aims to change habits that have been reinforced over decades, and to help firms constantly adjust to evolving client demands. Having long-term managerial support is critical to success.
Fact 4: Law Firm Partners Don’t Know What to Do Differently
According to Altman Weil’s 2019 Law Firms in Transition Survey (LFiT, p. 44), most law firm partners (60%) don’t know what to do differently, and that’s why law firms aren’t doing more to change the way they deliver legal services. That might also explain why most law firm partners (69%) resist most change efforts (LFiT, p. 44).
If you’re a law firm leader who wants to make positive changes at your firm, you absolutely must be able to demonstrate how things can be done differently, and with positive results. At LegalBizDev, we have been successfully coaching lawyers in LPM over the past decade. In this way, we help law firm partners become internal LPM champions who advocate for LPM by sharing their success stories with other lawyers at the firm.
This blog series was adapted from the fifth edition of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, an online library of LPM tools and templates which is updated twice a year.
Law firm leaders who are interested in legal project management (LPM), but too busy to dig into the details, should focus on the four critical facts presented in this 2-part blog series.
Fact 1: Clients want LPM
Any law firm that has responded to an RFP in the last few years knows that client requests for LPM are growing rapidly.
Similarly, survey after survey has shown that legal clients are seeking greater efficiency from firms. For example, in its 2019 Chief Legal Officers (CLO) Survey (p. 49), Altman Weil provided 238 CLOs with a list of ten possible service improvements, and asked “please select … [the improvements] that you would most like to see from your outside counsel.” The top three things clients want were all closely related to LPM:
Even when clients fail to ask for LPM by name, the results that clients are looking for definitely fall under the term, including minimizing surprises.
If you believe that your clients are different and that they care only about legal quality and not about cost, consider yourself very lucky. But note that if you are wrong, you are at risk of losing these clients to competitors who focus on improving service with LPM.
Fact 2: Experts disagree about the best way to define LPM
There is widespread agreement that clients want LPM and that it can pay off for firms by protecting business and increasing realization and profitability. But experts still disagree about exactly how LPM should be defined. These arguments have slowed LPM’s progress, as seen in this quote from an AmLaw 200 firm leader from one of our past surveys (p. 89):
We were just at a board meeting last week where we were talking about whether we should do formalized project management training. My answer to that is obviously yes, we absolutely should. But first we need to agree on what legal project management is.
For years, we have argued for a broad definition that embraces a very wide range of management techniques, including pricing, communication, process improvement, and much more: LPM increases client satisfaction and firm profitability by applying proven techniques to improve the management of legal matters.
By our definition, any lawyer who has ever planned a budget or managed a team has served as a legal project manager. But what was “good project management” for lawyers a few years ago is no longer good enough. Clients are now choosing law firms based on their ability to apply a more systematic and disciplined approach that delivers more value more quickly.
Our systematic approach to LPM revolves around improvements in eight key areas:
The key to success in delivering more value more quickly is to find the “low-hanging fruit”: The management tactics that are most likely to help each individual to increase value and/or profitability.
As Barbara Boake and Rick Kathuria summarized in their book Project Management for Lawyers (p. 14): “project management is a tool box—choose only what you need to most effectively manage [each] project.”
In part 2 of this blog series, we will discuss how our approach to LPM is similar to the Agile approach to project management, and how LPM success requires long-term managerial support.
This blog series was adapted from the fifth edition of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, an online library of LPM tools and templates which is updated twice a year.
In part 1 of this blog series, we explained how our online library of LPM tools helps law firms implement a robust internal LPM coaching program, and we also listed several benefits firms have experienced when using this resource. In Part 2, we describe what your firm can expect if it licenses our online LPM library.
What specifically does the license include?
We will help you develop a well-defined program that fits your firm’s culture and resources. This will increase buy-in by helping to ensure that lawyers use the tools to increase efficiency, client satisfaction, and profitability at your firm. Specifically, each license includes:
Tell me more about the consultation that’s included with the license.
Each license includes four hours of consulting support, plus materials to help build a stronger culture of LPM within your firm, including:
What are the contents of the online LPM library?
A complete list of the current LPM tools and templates can be found on our website.
All files are delivered in both Word and PDF format so that they can be made available on your firm’s intranet, and, when necessary, customized to fit your firm’s or practice group’s needs.
New tools and templates are added every June and December so that lawyers can easily keep up with developments in this rapidly changing field.
How much does it cost to license the resource?
The answer to this question depends upon the number of lawyers at your firm. If you want a customized quote, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What we can tell you is that this online LPM library can offer a rapid return on investment. As soon as one lawyer who is responsible for a large engagement adopts an LPM best practice, the return on investment can quickly exceed the license cost by, for example:
What else can you tell me about this resource?
Four previous editions of these tools have been tested and refined in firms around the world that encompass over 100,000 lawyers. Additional details can be found on our website, including:
In over a decade of research and consulting with hundreds of law firms, we’ve seen that one-to-one coaching is the most effective way to accomplish the goal of increasing LPM results. To assist legal professionals in implementing LPM tactics, it is imperative that law firms have a proven and effective way to easily provide LPM resources to their lawyers and legal staff when they need it.
This blog series explains how our online library of LPM tools and templates can help your firm implement a robust internal LPM coaching program, as well as what your firm can expect if it purchases our license.
Note: Although we use the term “LPM coaching” in this blog series, it does not matter whether your firm adopts that terminology or not. Whatever your firm calls it, and however your firm does it, the critical element for increasing LPM results is to implement a program that changes the behaviors of your firm’s legal professionals.
Why use just-in-time training materials like our online library?
The primary goal of any LPM coaching program is to help legal professionals apply LPM tactics quickly to find “low hanging fruit” and directly experience such immediate benefits as (1) increasing realization and profitability, (2) reducing risk, (3) protecting current business, and (4) increasing new business.
As explained in our white paper, The Keys to Legal Project Management Success, the five most effective ways to increase LPM results are to:
A critical component of any LPM coaching program is to provide legal professionals with the resources they need “just-in-time” to help them resolve real-world challenges they face on a daily basis.
In most professions, “just-in-time” training materials like ours have become the standard way to teach new skills. For example, when people need to use an unfamiliar feature of Microsoft Word, very few would consider taking a class or looking it up in a manual. Instead, they simply look it up online, exactly when they need it.
Although LPM coaching is the most effective way to change lawyer behavior and achieve quick wins, there are a number of different ways that LPM coaching programs have been structured internally at law firms. Regardless of the approach, however, it is essential that law firms have a proven set of LPM best practices to offer to their legal professionals.
Our LPM tools and templates have been developed and refined over thousands of hours in our one-to-one LPM coaching programs. Our online LPM library provides LPM Directors, LPM coaches, champions, group leaders, and others with over 170 tools and templates that have been proven to increase client satisfaction and firm profitability. Each license also includes consulting support and supplemental materials to ensure that lawyers actually use the materials.
Who should license the online LPM library?
Any law firm that is interested in changing the behavior of its legal professionals to implement LPM practices should consider licensing this library. It is absolutely critical for firms to have an online LPM resource if they want to provide “just-in-time” LPM training materials to lawyers and legal staff. A key question then is whether firms want to “reinvent the wheel” and develop these materials on their own or license them.
To create a quality online LPM library takes thousands of hours of time over several years. It makes sense that firms would want to rely upon proven LPM best practices, and they would want to obtain the “know how” to promote and implement an online LPM library in a way that ensures it is actually used by firm lawyers. Instead of paying to reinvent the wheel, firms can now start from a proven foundation that has helped thousands of lawyers.
What are the general benefits of licensing the online LPM library?
Law firms have reported the following benefits as a result of licensing the online library:
In Part 2 of this blog series, we will describe what your firm can expect if it licenses our online LPM library.
Q: In the first part of this post, we talked about the big picture of your approach, and the success it has produced. Now let’s go into the nuts and bolts, and discuss how the matter management side of your team operates.
A: The matter management team is a small but mighty part of our group. In many ways, it is the glue that holds the group together. Once we agree with clients about pricing, the matter management team takes over and is involved for the rest of the matter. It makes sure we properly track and manage what we’ve agreed to and communicates with the client about what is happening. It also helps drive all of the client technology we are building. It talks to our internal and external clients about what they need and develops the requirements that help our technologists build solutions.
When I came to Ballard Spahr four years ago, many of our interactions with clients centered on the pricing function. That’s why it’s so great that the matter management team now plays a prominent role. While pricing is incredibly important, once matters are underway our clients also want to know how we deliver on what we agreed to. If we don’t engage in matter management, costs quickly escalate. This can jeopardize client relationships and affect the firm’s bottom line.
Q: That’s very interesting. As you may remember, several years ago we interviewed 15 LPM Directors, including you, about how their job was defined. At that time, most spent more time on setting prices for new matters than on managing the work to help assure that lawyers stayed within these budgets. We concluded that (p. 298 in the fourth edition of our Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide), “in our opinion, improving the management of existing matters would lead to a faster financial return [than improved pricing].”
A: I completed your Certified Legal Project Manager® program and received tremendous benefit from it. I agree that matter management is absolutely essential.
Ballard Spahr has a requirement that attorneys must submit budgets for the majority of their matters when we open them. This requirement encourages us to take a disciplined approach to managing our matters from day one. The budgets go into our matter management application, which gives our attorneys real-time access to the matter to see budget-to-actual information. One of the challenges we face, however, is that budgets are iterative and often change over time. This is where the matter management team comes in. It takes an active role in working with our attorneys on updating budgets, setting up phase and task codes that track budgets, monitoring, reporting on, and actively managing ongoing matters. The team helps attorneys proactively address with clients out-of-scope issues that may arise.
Q: The function of the value-based pricing team seems obvious from the title. Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: The pricing team plays a crucial role in our department and is often involved with matters before they come in. The team works with our attorneys to identify the diverse team members who will be responsible for working on the matter or matters and to model several pricing options from which clients can choose. During the RFP process, team members are often also involved in communicating the benefits of our program to clients and demoing our Ballard360 client technology.
Q: What about the data management part of the team?
A: Our data management team is busy right now working on an enterprise data warehouse that combines all of the firm’s data and stores them in one place. One of the challenges clients and law firms have is that we collect a lot of data that go unused or are difficult to use. The data warehouse combines and normalizes data from all firm applications and many of our vendor applications. Having the data warehouse helps us build dashboards with more sophisticated reporting and data analysis capabilities. Our goal is to move away from simply providing our clients with data and having the conversation end there. We want to be seen as a strategic partner to our clients. That means using data analytics and information we’ve gained on client and industry trends to make recommendations regarding how clients should approach business issues and manage client matters. In 2020, we also will focus more heavily on how we can incorporate more artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into this process.
Q: And what about the practice technology team?
A: Our practice technology team is an interesting group because it includes IT Developers and Legal Solutions Architects, who are trained lawyer technologists. The Developers help us start conversations with our clients about what they want in terms of technology, and then build and implement that technology. We follow an iterative process that we constantly modify and improve based on feedback obtained from clients. Current projects include client extranets, document automation, case management, and financial and knowledge management dashboards.
Q: Do the four teams work together?
A: Absolutely! It’s essential. The key is having constant conversations and interactions with one another so that we are all rowing the same direction and share the same vision for how to get there. Having team members who are focused on different aspects of pricing, matter management, data, and client technology is extremely valuable. Suppose there’s a complex commercial litigation matter that requires an annual fixed fee with a collar. It’s unlikely that the IT developers or data people are going to understand the way the matter needs to be priced, set up, or managed, but other members of the team do. Once the matter is in the door, and is up and running, then the data and technology teams step in to help us implement Ballard360 technology for the client that delivers cost-effectiveness, value, and efficiency. Having a diverse team that works together so closely is how we move the needle to quickly and proactively support our clients and address issues that arise.
Q: Can you give me another example of this collaboration?
A: We’re now using client portals to manage our real estate transactional work. We build an extranet site for each new matter, upload the tasks that will be required, and use a color-coding system to manage the tasks related to the matter. This allows the Ballard team, the client, the borrower, and third parties to communicate and exchange documents and information relating to the matter. It's an extremely efficient, cost-effective, and interactive way to manage deals.
Q: Has your view of LPM changed as you’ve worked with this group over the last few years?
A: My view of LPM has definitely evolved over the years. When I first started doing LPM, my primary focus was scoping, budgeting, and budget-to-actual reporting. I then started to focus on process improvement efforts. Now, we do both, but we’ve incorporated a focus on using technology and data analytics to manage our matters. I view LPM as a tool kit you use to manage matters. Some matters need all the tools we have to offer, while others need only one or two.
Q: You referred to the matter management subgroup as “the brains behind the entire client-value innovation function.” Would you say they are the most important piece of the puzzle?
A: LPM is definitely important, but it’s just one of the ways our team provides value to clients. Each person’s role on the team is important, and the team is doing amazing things. I am excited to see where we go in the next year or two.
Q: Where do you predict you will be focusing most of your energy and resources in the next year or two?
A: The team’s importance is growing because what we are doing is so vital to clients. We may need to continue to grow or borrow resources at the firm to support this demand in a strategic way. We’re also doing great stuff with technology, and the team’s work is paying off. What we are doing next year at this time will probably look completely different. More to come!