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6 posts from February 2011

February 23, 2011

How to train lawyers in project management

Training professionals often talk about the importance of distinguishing between two types of goals: education and behavior change.  Of course, almost every training program aims at both.  But clients get the greatest return on their training investment when they think carefully about the tradeoffs between the two, and which is more important to their firm.

An educational program enables you to get information out to a large group at a low cost per person.  Most training programs fall into this category, with an instructor standing in front of the room conveying information, and perhaps a few breakout groups for participants to discuss key concepts.

Educating is relatively easy, but changing behavior is very hard.  Training programs that focus on behavior change include just-in-time training, an approach that enables people to save time by finding exactly the information they need, just when they need it, and then apply it to their work with immediate and practical effect.  Camden R. Webb, a partner at Williams Mullen who recently participated in one of our just-in-time legal project management programs, described the action-oriented philosophy this way:

 Don't hold a series of committee meetings for a year and then do a top-down analysis.  Just do something.  This will spread project management, because when lawyers succeed, others in the firm will imitate their success.

It is also possible to create programs that combine education and behavior change.  One example is our Certified Legal Project Manager™ program, which can take up to six months to complete.  Lawyers earn certification by working with an expert coach and completing two distance learning modules: a self-paced introduction to legal project management and a case study in which they apply the principles to their own practice.  The first module concentrates on achieving the educational goal and the second module on achieving the behavior change.

When professional trainers measure the success of programs, they often refer to Donald Kirkpatrick’s four levels, as described in his influential book Evaluating Training Programs:     

Level 1, Reaction, measures how participants feel at the end of a course.  Surveys ask such questions as, “On a scale from 1 to 5, how much did you learn from this course?”  Level 1 is easy to measure, and many training programs measure response only on this level.
Level 2, Learning, measures how well students have mastered the course objectives by directly testing their knowledge.  This provides evidence of a cognitive change, but does not necessarily link to a change in behavior.
Level 3, Transfer to the job, measures how the knowledge, skills, and values from a training program are actually used on the job.  
Level 4, Organizational impact, measures performance improvement, quality improvements, and cost savings to an organization, some time after the training.

At this time, most legal project management programs measure results at Level 1, or not at all.  Our just-in-time training programs and our Certified Legal Project Manager™ program include measurement at Levels 3 and 4. 

When law firms ask which approach is the best way to get started, we almost always recommend just-in-time training, because it produces immediate tangible benefits.  These quick wins can help other lawyers see the value of the project management approach.

Don’t get me wrong; at this moment in time, any competent training program in legal project management could be of great benefit to your firm.  But the more carefully you think about how the importance of education vs. behavior change matters to you, the greater will be the return on your training investment.

A March 3 project management speech for in-house counsel

On March 3, Jim Hassett will speak at a one-day conference in Manhattan on “Litigation Project Management for In-House Counsel.”  This event was organized by West LegalEdcenter and Inside Counsel magazine and will be held at the Westin Times Square.  Jim will be co-presenting with Bill Nolan of Barnes & Thornburg, and will also be conducting a breakout discussion with Ben Barnett of Dechert.

February 16, 2011

A sample legal checklist

When I wrote about the power of checklists a few months ago, I wanted to give an example illustrating how useful legal checklists can be.  But at that time, all the examples I had were proprietary checklists that could not be shared outside our client firms.

For the second edition of my Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, I’ve gotten permission to reproduce one of the copyrighted checklists sold by the Practical Law Company in their subscription service for Corporate and Securities attorneys.  (In case you are wondering, I don’t make any money from these. I just like them.)

I chose their “Private mergers and acquisitions due diligence checklist” for my book. The second edition includes the full 13 page version, but for today’s sample I am reproducing just the sub-section on due diligence for litigation:

It is important to understand the type of litigation the target is involved in and the nature of any pending claims. Often it is difficult to get a full picture of the target’s litigation from the documents alone. It is a good idea to schedule a conference call with the management of the target for a comprehensive review. The following is a list of common issues and questions to answer in your due diligence review of the target’s litigation.

  • How many claims are currently pending?

  • Do you have sufficient information on all pending claims?

  • Do you need to have a litigator review any of the materials?

  • Are the pending claims covered by insurance? If so, what is the deductible?

  • What is the estimate of damages?

  • What is the current status of each claim?

  • What is the likelihood of success on the merits?

  • Were there any large claims paid out in the past?

  • Are any of the pending claims class actions?  Has the target been involved in any class actions in the past?

  • What kind of claims or litigation is the target business typically a party to?

  • What is the average amount of damages?

  • Are most claims settled or litigated?

  • What is the typical size of a settlement?

  • Are there any settlement agreements or court decrees with ongoing obligations? If so, what are they and when do they terminate?

Many of these items seem straightforward.  But, like the checklist a Boeing 727 pilot reviews before taking off, a legal checklist can be a powerful reminder not to skip any steps.

 

This post is based on the second edition of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.  A formal announcement regarding the second edition will appear in this blog soon.

February 09, 2011

An article by two lawyers in our project management certification program

A few days ago, the National Law Review published an article by Squire Sanders attorneys Stacy Ballin and Mitch Thompson entitled Why We Decided to Become Certified Legal Project Managers.  Stacy and Mitch were not the first two lawyers to begin our Certified Legal Project Manager™ program, but they were the ones who gave me the idea to create the program.  When I met them after giving a speech at Squire Sanders’ partner meeting last fall, we chatted about the lack of intensive programs for lawyers on the cutting edge of this new field.  We continued to swap emails on this and the rest, as they say, is history.

Stacy and Mitch’s article begins like this:

On January 7, 2011, in a simple conference call, the two of us struck out upon a new venture that we believe will help us serve our clients better, and might just mark the start of a new and significant trend for law firm partners.

In a kick-off telephone conversation with consultant Jim Hassett of LegalBizDev, we plunged into an innovative program of study in the rapidly growing field of legal project management.

That conversation was the beginning of a six-month distance learning course put together by LegalBizDev that we can complete at our own pace and that leads to the title of Certified Legal Project Manager. We are among the pioneers in this, the first formal program to certify lawyers as legal project managers.

Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP is one of the first major legal practices to take project management to a new level. As the co-chairs of Squire Sanders’ Project Management Committee, we are taking the lead in obtaining the certification ourselves and in helping to plan how to spread best practices within the firm.

What does project management have to do with lawyers? Well, pretty much everything.  The world has changed, and clients need more than ever from their law firms. They want their lawyers to partner with them to achieve their business goals and deliver value, not to merely send them a monthly bill showing how many hours have been spent.

Like every other kind of business worldwide, law firms are becoming more cost-effective and efficient in providing their services. It’s no secret that many users of legal services – including the corporations, governments, and nonprofits, big and small, that big law firms serve – have perceived some disconnect between their costs for legal services and the value of those services. This trend has been building since the DuPont Legal Model was launched in the 1990s, and it was accelerated by the recent economic downturn.  Even as the economy improves, however, we expect clients to continue to require greater value than ever from their law firms.

To read the complete article, click here to go to the National Law Review site.

February 02, 2011

Time management

The simplest way to increase productivity is to manage your time better.  While many time management techniques sound like common sense, that does not mean they are easy to implement. 

Start by identifying troublesome areas: 

  • How often are you interrupted?
  • How do you manage disruptions?
  • Can you section off blocks of solid work time?
  • Do you make “to do” lists and prioritize them?
  • Do you have a flexible work schedule?
  • Do you complete your work during regular work hours?
  • Do you micromanage?
  • Do you take on all tasks yourself?
  • Can you say “no?”

Plan how to avoid situations that can waste your time, including:

  • Poorly completed work that must be re-done
  • Phone calls, email, mail, casual office talk
  • Lack of delegation or improper delegation
  • Information that is not easy to find or use
  • Too many review cycles or layers of approval
  • Multiple meetings that aren’t useful
  • Postponing your work
  • Unclear goals or objectives
  • Excessive paperwork
  • Too little time and too much work
  • Lack of authority to make decisions or too many levels of decision making
  • Only dealing with crises
  • Perfectionism
  • Poor organization

Identify the time management techniques that will work best for you, including:

  • Manage your stress
  • Prioritize your tasks
  • Organize
  • Follow your schedule
  • Avoid useless memos, travel, conversations, emails
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Do the hard parts first
  • Start as soon as possible
  • Carve out blocks of time for important things
  • Delegate wisely
  • Give attention only to items that need it
  • Don’t let others give up and pass off tasks on to you. Help them to figure out how to accomplish their own tasks, if necessary.

Effective time management begins with taking a single step.  Identify one or two action items from the list above, and start today.

 

This post is reproduced from the second edition of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.  A formal announcement regarding the second edition will appear in this blog soon.

Steve Barrett’s project management presentation at ABA

Steve_barrett If you will be at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Atlanta on February 11, don’t miss LegalBizDev Principal Steve Barrett’s discussion of legal project management in the Presidential Showcase CLE Program, Back to the Future: Value Billing for the Legal Profession.

The program was organized by Tea Hoffmann, Chief Business Development Officer at Baker Donelson, and Tea has assembled an all-star cast, including: Tom Sager of DuPont, Amy Schulman of Pfizer, Joe West of Walmart, Susan DiMickele of Squire Sanders, David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and Murray Garnick of Altria.