The latest post from Jim Hassett’s blog Legal Business Development.
A few months ago, when I wrote in this blog about “How Agile is being used to increase legal marketing innovation at Fasken Martineau,” I noted that Fasken’s Chief Marketing Officer, Brenda Plowman, had provided her entire Senior Management Team with copies of the book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time to spur innovation. The primary author, Jeff Sutherland, was one of the 17 software developers who attended the Agile Manifesto meeting that started this movement in 2001.
This book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to adapt innovative Agile project management techniques to the legal profession. While Sutherland defines the term Scrum broadly (others see Scrum as a subset of Agile), he emphasizes that neither is an easily defined step-by-step process. "There is no methodology," he says (p. 16). Instead, Scrum and Agile are approaches "based on a simple idea: whenever you start a project, see if what you’re doing is heading in the right direction, and if it’s actually what people want. And question whether there are any ways… of doing it better and faster" (p. 9).
Here is a list of 15 of Sutherland’s top tips that apply directly to lawyers. All are direct quotes that can be found sprinkled throughout the book:
This brief summary just skims the surface. If you want to consider how Agile can be applied to legal matters, buy Sutherland’s book.
This post was adapted from LegalBizDev’s new LPM Tools and Templates.
Since I started writing this blog in June 2005, I have published 667 posts: at least one per week.
Have you had time to read them all? I didn’t think so.
I have now decided to reduce the frequency of posts in this blog to every other Wednesday. The next post will appear on Wednesday, April 19.
This change is related to my new position as LegalBizDev’s chairman. Our COO Tim Batdorf has taken over responsibility of all day-to-day responsibilities of running LegalBizDev so that I can have more time for research and writing on how to improve LPM results. Some of this research will appear in this blog and some will be developed for the exclusive use of clients who license our new LPM Tools and Templates.
Six leading law firms have recently started to take their legal project management (LPM) programs to the next level by purchasing licenses to LegalBizDev’s new library of online LPM tools and templates which lawyers can access on their laptop, tablet, or phone. The six firms are:
Based on our experiences using these templates with over 100 law firms, LegalBizDev consultants are working with each license holder to create a strategic plan that fits each firm’s unique culture and resources, including tasks, objectives, and timelines to assure that lawyers use these tools. The results they achieve will be described in this blog in coming months.
The concept of just-in-time training is old news in most professions. 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 book. They simply find the exact information they need in online help, precisely when they need it.
But the adoption of just-in-time training techniques has been slower in the conservative legal profession. Law firms love precedents, and many did not begin to think seriously about legal project management (LPM) until 2010 when Dechert, a firm with over 800 lawyers, announced that they had held traditional training classes with all their partners in this emerging field. This led to a wave of imitation, with numerous firms conducting training classes, then publishing press releases announcing their success.
There was just one problem with all of these traditional classes: few lawyers actually changed their behavior and applied the principles they learned in class. As the chair of one AmLaw 200 firm told me in an interview for my book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability, “Every shareholder and top level associate [at our firm] has had a full day of project management training. I’d like to tell you they use it, but they don’t (p. 180).”
Long-term readers of this blog know that LegalBizDev has, from the very start of the LPM movement, maintained that the best way to change behavior is for motivated attorneys to directly experience immediate LPM benefits and then become internal champions who spread the word. The most efficient way for lawyers to experience those benefits is to work one-on-one with a personal coach. This is one type of just-in-time training, since it uses the tools and templates in our Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide to focus on each lawyer’s immediate needs. Our web page includes several case studies showing exactly how this approach has worked.
But until recently, the piece of the puzzle that’s been missing has been an extensive library of online LPM tools which lawyers can access anytime, anywhere. It is time consuming and costly to develop and test LPM tools and templates, so to date the only available online tools have been limited to a few templates created by individual firms.
LegalBizDev has now taken the next step in the just-in-time training approach by offering licenses to use electronic versions not just of the tools and templates published in the fourth edition of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, but also of additional new tools and templates that we will continue to develop and release every three months. These tools and templates make it possible for lawyers to better plan budgets, define scope for new matters, improve client communications, and improve efficiency in other areas by simply looking up what they need when they need it. Our goal is to create the single definitive online resource for the latest information on LPM and to keep adding to it as the field grows.
Instead of paying to reinvent the wheel, these six law firms and others that license these materials in the future will start from a proven foundation of what’s worked at other firms, and what hasn’t, based on six years of development, research, and testing with over 100 law firms.
As soon as just one lawyer who is responsible for a large engagement accesses the right information at the right moment, the return on investment will quickly exceed cost by:
For more information on licensing these materials for your firm, contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-217-2578) for details, including the introductory discounts we are offering through June 30, 2017.
After action reviews
According to the ACC Value Challenge Briefing Package, law firms should “Conduct after action reviews at the end of each matter to help continuously improve performance” (p. 8).
The concepts are basically the same as the questions discussed above, but the details of the process and the term “after action review” originated in the US Army. This approach is organized around four key questions:
Jeff Carr has written and spoken extensively about how lawyers should adapt after action review concepts. (Jeff has worked with Valorem Law Group since retiring from his position as General Counsel at FMC Technologies in 2014.)
In an interview published on the ACC Value Challenge web page, he notes that:
One element of the approach is the “hot wash,” a simple brainstorming session that solicits comments at the end of a matter and classifies each under two columns: What went well, and Take a look at.
Ron Friedmann described in his blog how Carr used this approach in a conference several years ago at Georgetown Law School:
In a comment at the end of Friedmann’s blog post, Jeff Carr wrote:
More questions to ask
The following list of questions was inspired by Jeff Carr’s ACES (Alliance Counsel Engagement System) Report Card, a system FMC Technologies developed to calculate performance fees awarded to outside counsel, based on their grades on six key factors:
If you plan a longer review, some or all of these questions could be adapted to your situation:
Internal review meetings
In addition to your lessons learned discussion with clients, it can also be helpful to have a meeting strictly of your internal team to increase team efficiency and morale. For firms that have a formal knowledge management system in place, meetings like this can be especially helpful in capturing insights and experiences that can be of great value to the firm in the future.
Obviously, some of the questions you ask in an internal meeting will be different from those you would ask a client. In the book, Implementing Value Pricing, Ron Baker provided a long list of questions for such meetings (p. 317), including:
The last two questions can yield important knowledge management results, including exhibit formats, checklists, briefs, innovative arguments, and more. And, as noted on the web page Knowledge Management Online:
A final thought
Given the potential benefits of a lessons learned discussion at the end of every important matter and at critical junctures in large matters, why would anyone ever skip this step?
Because you are already too busy on the next matter? Because you hate to put time into non-billable activity? Because you feel awkward about discussions like this?
In the long run, these are terrible answers. As the legal profession becomes ever more competitive, lawyers who fail to find time to understand what clients want and need today may find themselves with a whole lot of free time tomorrow.
This post was adapted from LegalBizDev’s new LPM Tools and Templates.
Some lawyers hold meetings at the end of every significant matter to review what worked, what didn’t, and what could be done better the next time. In large matters, they also conduct these “lessons learned” reviews after completing each significant milestone or phase.
These discussions are a learning opportunity and a marketing opportunity. Such a discussion can enhance your relationship, help you learn more about what an existing client values most, and enable you to provide more value. If a large matter is at a pivotal point, a mid-course review and redirection could be the difference between success and failure. Could you possibly think of a better way to develop new business?
The lessons learned review could be long or short. You could hold a formal group meeting and send the questions in advance, or you can simply ask your client some of the questions below. If you think of this as marketing, it will be obvious that it is better to have the discussion in person, maybe even over lunch. The phone can be a good second choice, but email is a distant third. You want to get people to open up and speak freely, and that is unlikely to happen via email.
The length and formality of the process should depend on the size and significance of the matter, your relationship with the client, and on how much work they are likely to have for you in the future. This section lists a number of different questions you might ask. In many cases, the first two will be enough.
The two most important questions
Unless there is a major open issue requiring an immediate joint review, or a client requests a lengthy discussion, we recommend that you assume that clients have little time to spare. This may mean limiting the debrief to two simple questions:
The first question is a classic “easy to answer” opening. Ask this one first, because it will get people talking freely.
The second question is the one you really care about, since you are likely to learn far more from criticism than from praise. No matter how much clients like your work, they can always like it more. And in today’s highly competitive environment, it is in your interest to turn every client into a raving fan.
If the second question opens the door to a laundry list of complaints, do not get defensive. Do not argue, disagree or explain your position. In fact, at most lessons learned meetings you should say very little and listen more than 90% of the time. Keep probing for more information. These meetings are designed not to understand reality, but rather to understand the client’s perception of reality. Because when it comes to client satisfaction and new business, perception is everything.
When clients raise problems, you need to reassure them that things will be better in the future. But in most cases you should not get into the details at the initial discussion. You need time to think about the best way to solve the problem, and to assure client satisfaction. So be prepared to say something like, “That is an important issue. Let me talk to a few people about the best way of preventing that from happening again, and then I will get back to you.”
Of course, if you do promise to get back to your client with a solution, you must put a high priority on completing follow-up as soon as possible.
If your time is limited, and your clients’ time is too, you can stop here. But if you want to consider more questions, read on.
Two more questions you could ask
If you have time to probe deeper, you can also add one or both of these optional questions:
The first question is optional and focuses on the issue which is most likely to lead to new business: how to increase perceived value. This is a slight rephrasing of a key question suggested in the ACC Value Challenge Briefing Package (p. 7). Note the phrase “working together,” which stresses the need to align interests and collaborate more closely.
The second question is also optional. There are many ways to phrase effective questions about client satisfaction, but the best way is to ask for a numerical rating, because it forces clarity and frankness.
We ask our own clients this question at the end of every program we deliver, and to be honest, many shy away from giving a number. The client is always right, so if they don’t want to be pinned down with a number, we go with the flow. The important thing is to begin a genuine conversation about satisfaction, and to encourage clients to talk about the things you really need to hear, rather than more comfortable vague praise.
If clients do give you a number, there’s a good chance it will be lower than you expected. The reason is that most people overrate themselves. Psychologists call this the Lake Wobegon effect, named after Garrison Keillor’s fictional community in which “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
The best place to see this effect in the legal community is in a series of surveys published in Inside Counsel magazine comparing ratings of satisfaction from clients and the law firms who serve them. In one such survey, 43% of lawyers thought they were earning an A for their work, but only 17% of their clients agreed. So if you think you deserve an A, you’re probably wrong.
Another way to get at this fundamental issue is to ask, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?”
In his business bestseller, The Ultimate Question, Fred Reichheld argues that companies should focus more attention on loyalty by measuring the response to this one simple question. Reichheld and his colleagues at Bain have published several books and many studies showing that companies with high customer loyalty rates grow revenues twice as fast as their competitors. They have also shown that companies can increase profits by 25% to 100% simply by increasing customer retention by 5%.
Clients who rate the likelihood at 9 or 10 out of 10 are called “promoters” and are responsible for generating sustainable growth. You might think 7 or 8 on this 10-point scale would also be pretty good, but Reichheld has found that these people are motivated more by inertia than by enthusiasm. He calls this middle group “passives” and notes that they will often jump to another company at the first sign of a better deal.
The most serious business risk comes from “detractors,” people who rate the likelihood of referrals at 0 to 6 on that 10-point scale. From a strict financial view, many of these detractors may be profitable in the short term, but Reichheld notes that, “Customers who feel ignored or mistreated find ways to get even. They drive up service costs by reporting numerous problems. They demoralize frontline employees with their complaints and demands” (p. 6).
Eighty percent of negative comments come from this detractor group, and in this age of email and internet ratings, a single complaint can reach hundreds of potential clients in the time it takes to hit the send button. In short, detractors “suck the life out of a firm” (p. 30).
This post was adapted from LegalBizDev’s new LPM Tools and Templates.