By Guest Blogger, Steven B. Levy, CEO Lexician, author & ALPMA National Summit presenter
Law firms who recognize the potential benefits of better managed projects often ask: "Do we need project managers?"
Better management of legal matters or files requires project management skills, but it rarely requires – or sees benefit from – a dedicated project manager, a person whose full-time job is to manage projects. Firms that see the improvements in effectiveness and efficiency from better managed projects generally gain them by training their midlevel and senior lawyers in specific Legal Project Management skills rather than bringing in additional non-lawyer (or non-practicing-lawyer) personnel.
Nor is the goal to turn well-functioning lawyers into (not very good) project managers or, worse, some nightmare creature, half frustrated lawyer and half ineffective project manager, who’ll spread unhappiness in his wake.
Most lawyers already have the core skills - but need to use them in new ways
The good news is twofold. First, most lawyers already have the core skills that provide a foundation for project management, although they may need to think about, extend, and utilize those skills in some new ways. Second, the gap between what they know today and what they need to know to manage projects is not large. Legal Project Management is at heart not a hard-edge set of rules or techniques but rather a renewed focus on five sources of sustainable competitive advantage:
- Client service
- Time management
- People management and supervision skills
- Profitability/project management and process improvement
- Client-based business thinking
It’s clear from this list that adding Legal Project Management skills strengthens client retention, reduces write-offs, and builds profitability.
Note that while this description sounds straightforward, even simple, there is no magic button, no three-step formula that will transform a practice, or turn a disorganized lawyer whose teams flee his projects into a paragon of effectiveness. It takes a modicum of time, some training, practice, and most of all a willingness to move out of the we’ve-always-done-it-that-way cul-de-sac.
Effective training will begin to pay off immediately
That said, an effective training program can help lawyers rapidly learn critical skills and techniques they can begin implementing immediately to manage their projects, their time, their team, and their fiscal responsibilities. It won’t make them brilliant at managing their legal projects overnight, but it will make a difference. It will begin a process of gradual, noticeable improvements – not just in the effectiveness (do the right things) and efficiency (do those things right) with which lawyer handle their legal matters but in the overall happiness and job satisfaction of those lawyers and of the team members who work with them.
It starts with your own personnel, building their skill base to help them better attend to their clients, the firm, and their own success.
About our Guest Blogger
Steven Levy is an widely-recognised expert on Legal Project Management and the author
of the groundbreaking Legal Project Management.
Steven is presenting a session "Legal Project Management - Building on Existing Skills" at the forthcoming ALPMA National Summit, providing simple, commonsense principles and core techniques of LPM to help you advance your practice.
Steven was head of Microsoft’s Legal Technology/Operations Department where he drove innovation and efficiency into one of the world’s largest law departments. He now
provides LPM training, coaching and consulting to law firms. Steven is currently CEO of Lexician, offering consulting, training, and coaching to legal organisations in project management, leadership, and efficiency.