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2 posts from October 2017

October 18, 2017

A checklist to assess your legal project management needs

By Tim Batdorf

The LPM Self-Assessment Checklist below was designed to help lawyers decide whether they should find time to focus on LPM, and if so, in what areas.

As quickly as possible, check off your general level of concern with each topic.  Use the results to determine which areas to focus on first.  If you rate several items as high, prioritize them by looking for “low hanging fruit:"  areas which could have the greatest immediate impact on your practice while requiring the least time and effort to implement.

The checklist could also be useful to law firm leaders who want to determine which lawyers are interested in LPM assistance, and could benefit the most from our one to one LPM coaching or other programs.

LPM Self-Assessment Checklist

 

Your Level of Concern

Part 1: Set objectives and define scope

None

Low

Med

High

Your clients and/or your team do not fully understand exactly what is and is not included in a particular engagement

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Engagement letters fail to specify assumptions in hourly cost estimates or AFAs

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Your clients are unclear about exactly what they want and need

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Clients sometimes question the work that was done and what they are willing to pay for

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Client decision makers disagree on the goals of a matter

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Part 2: Identify and schedule activities

None

Low

Med

High

You and/or your team overlook tasks

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Your process for routine matters could be more efficient or simplified

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You do not use checklists regularly, effectively, or at all

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Last minute time crunches or missed deadlines sometimes occur

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Part 3: Assign tasks and manage the team

None

Low

Med

High

You are overwhelmed with too much work

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Team meetings are inefficient or ineffective

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Client demands for lower cost often lead to reduced profitability, which might be avoided with more effective delegation

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Delegated tasks come back late or the work comes back differently than you expected

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You lose too much time to e-mails, phone calls, or other interruptions

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Part 4: Plan and manage the budget

None

Low

Med

High

You often begin matters without having a clear idea of the likely total cost

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Legal fees frequently exceed your budget estimates at the start of a matter

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Your realization rate is too low and/or you have too many write-offs

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You have a difficult time meeting AFA requirements and capped fees while remaining profitable

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Part 5: Assess risks to budget and schedule

None

Low

Med

High

You and/or your team are unaware of the risks to the schedule or budget at the start of a matter

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You and/or your team could improve the way you minimize risks to the schedule or budget at the start of a matter

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Part 6: Manage quality

None

Low

Med

High

Perfectionism drives up fees with minimal quality improvement and/or little to no significant benefit as perceived by the client

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You and/or your team do not have quality control measures in  place to maintain the same level of quality while becoming more efficient

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Part 7: Manage client communications and expectations

None

Low

Med

High

You fail to keep your clients regularly informed about progress

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You do not know what type of updates (e.g., phone or email, weekly or monthly) each client prefers

Your team lacks a clear understanding of responsibilities and a clear plan for communicating within the team

Your team lacks a clear understanding of who should communicate directly with clients, and who should not

You and/or your team sometimes engage in miscommunication with each other and/or with the client

You do not routinely hold “lessons learned” reviews with your team and with clients

You could improve the way you handle difficult clients and situations

Part 8: Negotiate changes of scope

None

Low

Med

High

You do not effectively negotiate changes in scope with clients

You do not spot “red flags” immediately and make needed adjustments

You do not communicate changes in scope to clients

You do not have systems in place to track work that is beyond scope

You do not have a formal process for dealing with changes in scope

Your team does not know when there is a change in scope

Your team does not immediately inform you about changes in scope

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Download a pdf of this LPM Self-Assessment Checklist

 

This post was adapted from the fifth edition of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, a frequently updated online library of LPM tools and templates.

October 04, 2017

24 Benefits of Matter Planning

By Gary Richards

 

Our Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide includes a number of sections on different approaches to matter planning that will be useful in almost every legal matter.  For large and predictable matters, your matter plan may be quite detailed.  In most litigation and other unpredictable matters, detailed planning should be limited to the first few weeks or months.  (For background on an alternative approach to traditional project management which better fits unpredictable matters, see our article “Why the Agile Approach Is So Important to Law Firms” in the October 2017 issue of Of Counsel.)

But if you are one of the many lawyers who feels too busy for this, before you give up on the idea, consider these 24 benefits of matter planning:

  1. Helps set clear and reasonable client expectations
  2. Improves client understanding of the time and tasks required
  3. Helps prevent cost and delivery problems
  4. Improves estimates of time required
  5. Allows more accurate fee estimates
  6. Forces you to think through the entire matter
  7. Allows you to establish a logical sequence for the steps
  8. Identifies steps that can be in progress concurrently
  9. Allows insights as to which steps can be consolidated to gain efficiency
  10. Establishes a clear beginning and ending point
  11. Pinpoints missing steps
  12. Can discourage procrastination by identifying easily accomplished first steps
  13. Identifies the people, material, and other resources that are needed and when
  14. Identifies the commitment needed from you and from others
  15. Identifies tasks and general areas of responsibility that can be delegated
  16. Identifies the potential obstacles or problems that may need to be solved (risk planning)
  17. Shows where expert input/client help could add value
  18. Identifies the elapsed time required, i.e., total number of days from the beginning to the end of a matter as influenced by the need to wait or process certain interim steps
  19. Becomes a checklist to track progress and budget
  20. Provides insights into possible conflicts with your work on other matters
  21. Identifies staff assignments that could be changed in order to gain efficiency
  22. Stimulates seeking simpler ways
  23. Identifies areas where unknowns exist and contingency plans can be developed
  24. Increases client understanding as to what is required to meet their desired goals

 

This post was adapted from the fifth edition of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, a frequently updated online library of LPM tools and templates.

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