Keepin’ it Real: Implementing a Firm-Wide LPM Initiative, Part 2

Last week, Carl Herstein, Chief Value Partner at Honigman LLP discussed his experience in developing and implementing a firm-wide legal project management (LPM) program at his firm. The conversation continues with a candid discussion of the pricing of legal services, how it relates to project management and what clients really think of firm initiatives in this regard.

Q. How would you describe the relationship between pricing, collections, AFAs and LPM at your firm? Read more

Keepin’ it Real: Implementing a Firm-Wide LPM Program, Part 1

Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, a 300-lawyer business law firm in the U.S. mid-west launched a firm-wide legal project management (LPM) initiative in 2011. They deliberately chose not to publicize the program – until recently.

Carl W. Herstein is Honigman’s Detroit-based Chief Value Partner. In this two-part blog series, Carl discusses the decision to “keep it real”. His experience exemplifies the commitment, forethought and resources required as law firms consider similar programs. Read more

Highlights from the 2016 LMA P3 Conference

The Legal Marketing Association recently hosted its annual conference on project management, process improvement and pricing (P3) in Chicago. Billed as a forum where innovative practice management approaches are shared, the event continues to showcase progressive ideas and practical experiences from firms transforming how they do business.

It’s wise to take any presentation of best practices with a proverbial grain of salt; no firm wants to reveal its daily struggles. But you also have to give credit to those who proactively invest in new ideas and risk failure. That’s something we don’t see enough of in law.

Here are some of the ideas heard at this year’s P3 conference.

The Chicken or the Egg?

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5 Ways to Make a Fast Decision

Time and money almost always need to be balanced with quality in professional work. When you’re faced with increasing project pressures, the ability to make good decisions quickly becomes especially important.

Decisiveness requires the type of confidence that comes from taking action, rather than accumulating theoretical knowledge. You might not make the best choice. You might even offend. But you’ll move things forward.

  1. Seek disconfirmation of assumptions. Ask “Is this wrong?” instead of “Am I right?”. And get the opinion of someone with relevant experience.
  2. If you’re working in a team, understand your role and the decisions you are expected to make.
  3. Speak up in team meetings. Verbalizing the rationale behind your decision is a quick way to test its plausibility. Staying quiet can lead to delays or cumbersome approval communications.
  4. Challenge yourself to beat constraints by making decisions that will help meet milestones early or within the budget.
  5. Believe in yourself. If you make a mistake, you have a choice to learn from it or dwell on it. Learning leads to agility. Dwelling leads to fragility. Your confidence will grow as you apply your experience to future decisions.

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Delegating to Part-Time Employees: Special Considerations

Professional firms increasingly rely on part-time and temporary personnel to complete administrative tasks. While this is a cost-effective way to manage business, it can inadvertently create complications in working relationships.

Unique challenges of delegating to part-time administrative staff

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Delegation Communication: 4 Questions to Ask Before Assigning Work

If you’ve worked in an organization long enough, you’ve probably been assigned work in a way that left you confused (if not annoyed). When it’s time to delegate your own work it’s tempting to assume that the style you’ve become used to is effective.

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Good Intentions

By March, those of us with personal practice development goals know what we need to accomplish by year-end (usually). We also know how easily the best of intentions can be set aside during daily work.

There are as many excuses to stop working towards long-term goals as there are distractions. Busy-work makes us feel productive. As Leigh Buchanan points out in a recent article in Inc. magazine, it’s also a trap.

Proven techniques help the dispirited stay on track. Why not try a few?

Prioritize

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Set Up Your Virtual Team for Success: Expert Advice

In a recent survey of 1,700 knowledge workers, 79% of respondents indicated that they always or frequently work in dispersed teams across offices and locations. The trend is echoed in professional firms of all sizes, as business operations are reconfigured for greater efficiency and individuals seek flexible work arrangements.

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Simple Questions for Complex Situations

How many professionals consistently use a checklist of questions to ask clients at the beginning of a client matter? Many customize checklists published by regulators for a particular practice area, client service style or matter management process. The focus is often on quality assurance, risk mitigation and scope of work. Is there a way to include the human element too? Read more

LPM Initiatives at Large Law Firms – The Road Ahead

This post was co-authored by my colleague, Jim Hassett, Ph.D.. It was originally published on the Canadian legal blog, Slaw.ca on October 1, 2014

Many large law firms in Canada and the U.S. have begun to implement legal project management initiatives, albeit with varying degrees of success. Legal Biz Dev Certified Legal Project Management Coach™

Jim Hassett’s latest book – Client Value and Law Firm Profitability – provides new insights into why some firms have had much more success than others. Over the last eighteen months, Jim conducted confidential interviews with law firm leaders from 50 AmLaw 200 firms. Forty-two percent were chairs or managing partners, and the balance were senior partners and executives.

Study participants were promised that they would not be quoted by name, which led to some unusually frank responses.

When we asked participants about what they were doing to become more competitive, many started with legal project management (LPM), including the managing partner who said, “Lawyers have to be focused on LPM or they’re just not going to be successful in bringing in the work.”

When asked which aspects of LPM were most critical to firms’ short-term success the top two areas participants singled out were defining scope and managing client communication. Both require significant behavior change among partners and neither can be addressed by the software that so many firms see as a starting point. Which creates a predicament for many organizations.

The book also includes detailed perspectives on how firms are adapting to a changing marketplace. New staff positions in pricing, value and LPM were described as particularly effective, but other tactics led to mixed results, including:

  • Contract attorneys and outsourcing
  • Software
  • Knowledge management

Some of the differences in opinion about these tactics were based on firm needs and expectations. Others were based on differences in how the programs were implemented. We took the feedback at face value.

This is not to say that LPM is easy to implement. Those that have invested heavily in educational programs for the entire firm, as opposed to behavior change programs focused on a smaller group of internal champions, have often been disappointed, like the AmLaw 200 chairman who confidentially reported:

Every shareholder and top level associate in our firm has had a full day of project management training. I’d like to tell you that they use it, but they don’t. – Chair

Respondents did provide a common answer to the question of what actually does work: Getting partners on board by showing them “what’s in it for me”. Forget the theory and go right to practical applications.

Train partners, work shoulder to shoulder with them, gathering the right data and helping them update the way they manage matters. Encourage them to make small, calculated changes to ingrained work habits and habits of thought. While the matter is ongoing or when it concludes, look for hard evidence that signals improvements in client value, profitability and efficiency. Then build on successes that could benefit other teams and matters. The behaviour changes will eventually beget cultural changes that will spread through the firm.

We often see the positive results of this approach in the LPM coaching that we facilitate. Lawyers who begin the process with entrenched notions of “what works” usually end the process by being surprised at new insights and new skills that boost their confidence and their performance.

If you would like to learn more, Jim’s book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability will be published October 8, 2014. Excerpts and an order form can be found on Jim’s website and the book is also available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

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