Bloomberg Law Reports recently published this article which I wrote with Jonathan Groner entitled “How legal project management is changing the way services are marketed.” To download a pdf of the complete article, click here.
Ten years ago, legal marketing was all about relationships and who you went to law school with. These days legal marketing is increasingly about value: what have you done for me lately, and exactly how are you going to work more efficiently on my next matter?
According to a recent survey by Altman Weil, “more efficient project management” is now one of the top demands of in-house chief legal officers. Another survey by Acritas of over 800 general counsel at large companies reported that 60% of clients said that high quality project management is “essential” when they select law firms.
In one sense, any lawyer who has ever planned a budget or managed a team has served as a legal project manager. But clients are now choosing law firms based on their ability to apply a more systematic and disciplined approach to management that delivers more value, more quickly.
Seyfarth Shaw, a global firm with about 800 lawyers in 11 offices, is one of the best known names in legal project management (LPM) as a result of its work with Six Sigma and SeyfarthLean. Their efforts began around 2006, long before most firms were thinking about increasing efficiency. Seyfarth has trained every lawyer and staff member on their process, and has also hired 18 project managers who work on client teams with the attorneys. This has paid off with a significant amount of new work.
Wendy Tucker, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Seyfarth Shaw, says she has seen “a dramatic change, and a very recent change, in the questions that we are asked by clients.” Previously, Tucker says, clients would ask the firm about costs and efficiency, but “now the dialogue is focused more on direct value to the client."
“Three years ago, in the RFPs that we received, we rarely saw any questions about project management,” Tucker reports. “Then, the question was whether we had project managers at all. Now the question is ‘How will you apply LPM in practice to our work?’"
“We have always focused on how project managers can actually change the way in which we work,” she says. “For large opportunities, the project manager is part of our team from the front end. We show the client how we can apply project management and technology to the client’s problem or goal and create the most compelling value proposition.”
For example, Tucker says Seyfarth Shaw pitched a potential litigation client who made it clear that while quality of legal work and outcomes of legal matters were significant, process management was even more important. “We provided a solution that employed Gantt charts [which graphically set forth a time line for a project] and Microsoft Project plans as key to our approach,” Tucker recalls.
While Seyfarth was one of the first to apply LPM, many other firms have now built on its hard earned lessons and developed a number of new approaches to change lawyers’ behavior quickly and cost-effectively.
For example, Loeb & Loeb, a 300-lawyer firm, has launched several major LPM initiatives over the last year, including licensing and using Thomson Reuters’ ENGAGE, a legal project management and budgeting software suite. The firm also provided one-to-one coaching to key practice leaders to demonstrate how LPM could help them quickly address day-to-day challenges, including developing templates for common types of matters and improving client communication.
According to Practice Support and Business Development Manager Andréa Danziger, these days the firm often receives very specific client inquiries about how it uses LPM. One recent potential client asked how many dedicated project managers the firm has, how many would be devoted to the specific client’s work, and how the firm uses LPM to drive efficiency improvements and to track budgets.
The firm not only discusses how LPM is applied in RFP responses, but has also begun re-focusing marketing communications to highlight its commitment to LPM. In some cases, Danziger says, Loeb & Loeb has become very specific in explaining the task codes and templates they use as part of the LPM process.
“All of these investments raise our clients’ confidence in our ability to price and manage projects, and with that confidence comes the increased likelihood that clients will continue to work with us,” Danziger points out.
|This article won the BigLaw Pick of the Week award from the editors of BigLaw, a free weekly email newsletter. They review hundreds of articles every week and give this award to just one. According to their description of the award, authors “who win our BigLaw Pick of the Week award don't even know they're in the running and cannot influence our editorial team.”|