40 posts categorized "News"

June 09, 2015

New products for LPM Acceleration and Pricing Visibility

Today, in connection with my speech at LMA’s P3 conference in Chicago, we are announcing the first new products jointly developed in our alliance with Project Leadership Associates.

The LPM Acceleration Program will help firms increase the speed and cost-effectiveness of LPM implementation, whether they have already started significant initiatives, or are just beginning to formalize their LPM efforts.

The Pricing Visibility Program will help firms adopt pricing and budgeting best practices, and select and implement technologies that support their pricing strategy.

For more details, see our product announcement.

January 28, 2015

A new alliance to improve pricing and legal project management

Press Release: January 28, 2015
Media Contacts: Scott Rosenberg, srosenberg@projectleadership.net, (312) 258-5318
  Jim Hassett, jhassett@legalbizdev.com, (617) 217-2578

Project Leadership Associates and LegalBizDev Announce a Strategic Alliance to Structure and Improve Visibility into Law Firm Pricing and Legal Project Management

CHICAGO, IL and BOSTON, MA.  Project Leadership Associates, specialists in legal business operations and technology solutions for more than 500 law firms and legal departments, and LegalBizDev, a leader in the emerging field of legal project management (LPM), today announced a new strategic alliance.

The two companies will collaborate with law firms to identify changes needed to succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Through improvements in pricing, project management, and enhanced use of technology, law firms will be better able to provide their clients with increased value while protecting sustainable profit margins. 

The challenges that law firms face in this area have been documented in LegalBizDev Founder Jim Hassett’s recent book, Client Value and Law Firm Profitability, based on research interviews with 50 chairs, managing partners, and other leaders of AmLaw 200 firms.

To address these challenges, the two companies are now introducing Pricing Visibility℠ and Project Visibility℠ programs designed to standardize best practices and identify the processes, people, and technology that best fit each law firm’s needs and culture. The primary deliverables will be the development of playbooks and systems to be used in preparing bids and/or outlining the steps lawyers must take to manage matters throughout their lifecycle.

“We believe that over the next few years, effective pricing and project management will be the difference between success and failure for many law firms,” said Project Leadership Associates Executive Vice President Dan Safran. “We conducted extensive due diligence to identify tools that lawyers will actually use in developing pricing proposals and managing matters, instead of creating plans and processes that will sit on a shelf. We selected LegalBizDev as our partner in this venture due to their proven track record in helping lawyers to change their behavior and take action in these critically important areas.”

“People began talking seriously about legal project management just a few years ago, and to date our company has focused on getting firms started by producing internal champions and quick wins,” said LegalBizDev Founder and President Jim Hassett, Ph.D. “As the field began to mature, we were approached by a number of leading technology companies about forming partnerships. We declined them all, because we did not want to endorse a particular software solution at a time when both needs and products are changing rapidly. We were introduced to Project Leadership Associates through our joint relationship as strategic partners of Altman Weil. Once we learned about their history and approach and saw how they consulted to find just the right solution for each client rather than developing a single product which they attempted to sell to every firm, we knew that we had found the right partner for the next stage in LPM’s evolution.”

About Project Leadership Associates:  Project Leadership Associates (PLA) is the largest business and technology consulting provider focused on the legal market, in the United States. The company has consulted with over 500 law firm and corporate law departments in assessment and strategic planning, product selection, systems implementation, and operational improvement. With experience in all areas of legal practice and business operations, PLA’s seasoned consultants represent the “A-Team” of legal process and technology thought leadership and expertise. We are easy to work with, affordable to retain, practical in approach, and personally attentive. For more information please contact Project Leadership Associates at (877) 752-0451 or visit our web page.

About LegalBizDev:  LegalBizDev helps law firms increase client satisfaction and profitability by improving project management and business development. The company offers coaching, webinars, workshops, retreats, train the trainer programs, publications, and more to help each lawyer identify the action items that are most likely to produce immediate and practical results for their practice, their personality, and their schedule. Our behavior change processes help lawyers to make the best use of their limited time by quickly building on best practices from other law firms and other professions. For more information, visit our web page or call us today at (800) 49-TRAIN. 

December 17, 2014

Bloomberg interview regarding my new book (Part 1 of 2)

This interview originally appeared in Bloomberg BNA’s Corporate Counsel Weekly.  A pdf of the complete interview can be downloaded from our web page.

Bloomberg BNA: Tell us about your new book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability – what was your goal and who did you talk to?

Jim Hassett: In the last few years, millions of words have been written by law school professors and consultants about how the demands of the clients of major law firms are changing and what law firms should do about it.

The only thing that’s been missing from the conversation is statements by the people who actually run large law firms. These senior decision makers deal with these issues every day, and their very livelihood depends on coming up with the right answers. I wanted to hear their honest opinions about these highly sensitive issues but knew they could not speak openly if they were quoted by name, so I devised a research approach built around anonymity. I conducted every interview myself, and promised that while firm names would be listed in the report, the name of every individual I interviewed would remain confidential and no quote would be linked to a particular person or firm.

Leaders from 50 of the AmLaw 200 agreed to speak with me for this book. Forty-two percent were managing partners or chairs, and the remainder were senior partners and staff, including CEOs, COOs, and CFOs. They were indeed unusually frank in their responses, including the AmLaw 200 chairman who said that “Lawyers are about as dumb as you could possibly be about understanding how our product is made. The lawyers who understand how to make it and who can manage that process efficiently are going to be the winners.”

They also spoke freely about both problems and solutions, like the managing partner who noted that “I have a $10 million practice. But that could be a disaster for a firm, because it could cost them $11 million to get $10 million. But nobody ever talks about it that way.”

Bloomberg BNA: What was your most surprising finding?

Jim Hassett: While almost everyone agreed that client demands for greater value and lower fees have been putting pressure on law firm profits, firms were remarkably inconsistent about how they measure profits. When I asked, “If you compare profitability for two lawyers in your firm, is there a software program or formula used to calculate profitability or is the comparison more intuitive?” a surprising 26% said there was no such formula or program and that the answer was intuitive. For the other 74%, definitions and formulas varied widely, including total revenue, profits per equity partner, leverage, several different types of realization, and a variety of approaches to cost accounting.

To dig more deeply into this important issue, we conducted follow-up interviews with industry leaders from firms that sell software to analyze law firm profitability. Jeff Suhr, a VP at Intellistat/Data Fusion, reported that his company currently has 91 clients actively using their tools. How do they calculate profitability? Ninety-one different ways. The fundamentals are basically the same, but there are important differences in the assumptions and details. These differences can have significant implications for the way profitability is interpreted and can affect the way in which the figures are used to motivate lawyers to change their behavior so that they can better meet client needs in a way that can be sustained.

Bloomberg BNA: What are law firms doing to protect the bottom line?

Jim Hassett: They are trying lots of things, with mixed success. According to our data, the two most effective ways of protecting profitability are quite new to the legal profession: legal project management (LPM), and new staff positions in such areas as pricing, value, and LPM.

Other tactics have led to more mixed results, including relying on new technology, knowledge management (KM), and contract attorneys and outsourcing. The book includes many quotes from proponents saying that technology, KM, and outsourcing were the most valuable steps they took, and from others who said that they were a waste of time and money. These differences of opinion can be traced both to the different needs of different firms and to the details of how they tried to implement change in each of these areas.

Bloomberg BNA: Lots of people seem to agree that legal project management is important, but what exactly does it include?

Jim Hassett: That is an excellent question. The field is so new that experts disagree about what should be included and excluded from the concept. This has slowed progress, as seen in the remarks of one senior executive who noted: “We were just at a board meeting last week where we were talking about whether we should do formalized project management training. My answer to that is obviously yes, we absolutely should. But first we need to agree on what legal project management is.”

In my book Legal Project Management, Pricing and Alternative Fee Arrangements, I reviewed the short history of this movement and proposed the broad definition we use in our coaching, our training, and this research: “Legal project management adapts proven management techniques to the legal profession to help lawyers achieve their business goals, including increasing client value and protecting profitability.”

This broad definition includes everything from budgeting and communication to process improvement, knowledge management, and personal time management. We believe splitting hairs over what is and is not LPM is just another excuse to avoid action. Law firms need to move as quickly as possible to the real problem: What must we do today to meet client needs while remaining profitable and competitive?

Bloomberg BNA: Where is the pressure for LPM coming from?

Jim Hassett: From clients. One of the best sources of information about client demands is the Chief Legal Officer Survey which Altman Weil has been publishing for the last 15 years. (Full disclosure: LegalBizDev is a strategic alliance partner of Altman Weil.) One key question in the 2014 survey, which was released in November 2014, was, “Of the following service improvements and innovations, please select the three that you would most like to see from your outside counsel.” This year’s answers from 186 CLOs were greater cost reduction (58%), more efficient project management (57%), and improved budget forecasting (57%). Since LPM leads to cost reductions and to improved budget forecasting, you could say that the top three client requests were LPM, LPM, and more LPM. 

In business, everything starts with meeting client needs. But lawyers who understand LPM and apply it to their practice are still a tiny minority. As one senior executive put it: “One of the problems that we have, and frankly that most firms have, is just teaching lawyers how to manage a project, getting them out of the habit of just automatically starting out with some rote process. Just because the client says, ‘I think I might have a lawsuit’ doesn’t mean you go off and conduct 40 depositions. Lawyers need to sit down and talk about what the client is trying to accomplish. It might turn out that we are able to accomplish the client’s end goal without taking any depositions.”

When I asked about which aspects of LPM were most critical to firms’ short-term success, it is interesting that the top two areas participants singled out were defining scope and managing client communication. These issues cannot effectively be addressed by the expensive software that so many firms see as a starting point. They require partners to change their behavior and become more efficient.

Adapted with permission from Corporate Counsel Weekly Newsletter Vol. 29, No. 48, December 10, 22014. Copyright 2014, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) www.bna.com.   

September 09, 2014

Ark webinars to discuss my new book: Client Value and Law Firm Profitability

In association with the publication of my new book on Client Value and Law Firm Profitability, the Ark Group has scheduled a series of three webinars in which I will discuss key findings from our research with leading experts in the field.  All of the events will be recorded, so if you have a conflict on any of the dates below, you can listen to the webinars later any time, any place.

 

Wed Oct 8, 1-2 PM Eastern

Defining value and its impact on profitability

Law firms cannot meet client demands for greater value until they understand exactly what clients are looking for. This session will begin by reviewing data on how often clients simply want to lower costs, and how often they are looking for better understanding of business objectives, greater efficiency, improved communication, and other factors. It will then proceed to discuss how to define and manage profitability while meeting these client needs.

Jim Hassett, President, LegalBizDev

Michael Roster, Steering Committee Co-Chair, Association of Corporate Counsel’s Value Challenge

David Schaefer, Deputy Chairman; Chair, Corporate, Loeb & Loeb

 

Wed Nov 12, 1-2 PM Eastern

Legal project management: The state of the art

When law firms were asked what they were doing to meet the profitability challenge, many started by listing legal project management (LPM). But the term means different things to different firms, and some have had much greater success than others in changing lawyers’ behavior. This webinar will review data on what has worked best in LPM, and what hasn’t worked at all.

Jim Hassett, President, LegalBizDev

Albert Dotson, Government Relations & Land Development Practice Group Leader. Bilzin Sumberg

Richard Rosenblatt, Operations Partner, Labor & Employment Practice Group, Morgan Lewis

 

Wed Dec 10, 1-2 PM Eastern

Strategy and tactics for the new normal

In addition to LPM, firms have been experimenting with many related tactics including knowledge management, software, new staff positions in pricing and value, contract attorneys, outsourcing, alternative fee arrangements, and much more. The final webinar in the series will explore which strategies and tactics have been most effective, and what firms must do in the future to adapt to a changing marketplace.

Jim Hassett, President, LegalBizDev

Tom Clay, Principal, Altman Weil

John Paris, Partner, Chair of the Firm Innovation Team, Williams Mullen

 

To register, or for more information, see the announcement on the Ark Group web page, or contact Ark’s Peter Franken at pfranken@ark-group.com or (312) 212-1301.

 

April 22, 2014

Announcing a new workshop on how to define scope

Today, we are announcing a new half-day legal project management workshop entitled “How to Define Scope and Negotiate Changes.”

This workshop will substantially expand on a key portion of the content covered in our more basic course “How to increase client satisfaction and profitability with Legal Project Management,” which LegalBizDev has successfully offered since 2010.    It has been added to our curriculum in response to client needs highlighted in our research for the book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability, as explained in the post above.

The skills taught in this workshop are especially critical for fixed fee work. They also apply to any hourly arrangement that has a capped fee or a well-defined budget. 

For more information, including a two page summary of proprietary details of how the course is structured, email us at info@legalbizdev.com or call 617-217-2578.



April 17, 2014

Experts from five firms discuss how to implement legal project management

On May 22 in Chicago, five law firms that have made significant progress in LPM will frankly discuss what has worked and what hasn’t at the fourth session of the Ark Group’s most frequently repeated event - Legal Project Management Showcase & Workshop: Changing Behavior within the Firm.  I look forward to chairing this session so I learn what these experts have to say: 

Sari M. Alamuddin, Partner, Morgan Lewis
Vincent Cordo, Global Director of Client Value, Reed Smith
Stuart J T Dodds, Director of Global Pricing and Legal Project Management, Baker & McKenzie
David Schaefer, Deputy Chair, Loeb & Loeb
Donald R. Ware, Partner, Foley Hoag

After previous sessions of this program, audience members said:

"This workshop did an excellent job of offering practical suggestions for dealing with the issues law firms encounter when they implement legal project management.  The frank discussions between partners and executives at firms that have successfully changed lawyers’ behavior would be helpful to anyone who is trying to get their arms around this challenging transition." - Delilah Flaum, the Partner in Charge of Knowledge Management and Legal Project Management at Winston & Strawn LLP

"The greatest benefit of the workshop was hearing from others about what they are doing and how they are responding to the same market challenges that we are facing.  Brainstorming solutions together was useful because it helped me to walk away with some ideas that could be adapted for our firm." - Christine Johnson, Director of Client Matter Management at Quarles & Brady LLP

Implementing LPM successfully is more critical than ever.  For years, clients have been asking firms to apply LPM to produce more predictable costs, and lower costs.  (For example, see my recent post about two client surveys.)

But many firms that have invested heavily in LPM awareness training have been disappointed by the results.  Here’s what the managing partner of one AmLaw 200 firm I interviewed for my new book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability had to say:

I think project management probably will have the longest-term positive impact [on value and profitability], but it’s been the biggest challenge, because it’s something that hasn’t been easily absorbed by a lot of the lawyers. When busy lawyers start scrambling around, the inefficiency creeps right up. At our firm, project management has not met expectations.

Many firms have learned the hard way that while it is easy to teach lawyers about LPM, it is very hard to change their behavior.  On May 22 in Chicago, five experts in implementing LPM will discuss how they have succeeded.  At the end of the day, they will lead interactive small group discussions on:  “How to Identify the Most Effective Action Items for Your Firm.”

For more details, download the brochure, see the Ark Group’s web page or contact Ark’s Peter Franken at pfranken@ark-group.com or (312) 212-1301.  For a special 15% discount, just write “LegalBizDev Discount” on your order form and subtract 15%, or ask for the discount when you order by phone. 

 

April 09, 2014

Research update: New staff positions in pricing, value, and LPM, Part 1 of 2

This two-part post previews results from my book Client Value and Law Firm Profitability, which will be published this summer.  All quotes are from managing partners, chairs, and other senior decision makers at AmLaw 200 firms.  Each participated in 30-minute in-depth interviews and spoke freely based on the understanding that they could review their quotes before publication, but they would not be quoted by name.

 

As law firms compete aggressively with their peers by offering more value to clients, many are establishing new staff positions to oversee pricing, legal project management, and other aspects of the “new normal.”  A few weeks ago, we reviewed the book Law Firm Pricing: Strategies, Roles, and Responsibilities about the rise in pricing directors.  In our research, we asked more generally about new staff positions in several related areas and found:

 

Do you have new internal staff positions in pricing, value, legal project management, and/or related areas?
Hired new people Used existing people No one devoted to these functions
49% 28% 23%

 

Hiring new staff members to meet new needs

Many firms reported it was a very successful move for them to hire people with the right business backgrounds and to empower them to use their skills to help the firm make crucial decisions on pricing and on efficiency. Consider this testimony from the managing partners of two AmLaw 100 firms:

I think what’s had the greatest positive effect is our business managers. They can much more impartially sit down and analyze profitability. They build up a database of what it costs us to do things, and they’re just invaluable. They work with enough lawyers, they’re able to focus on the numbers and their minds work differently. I think we’ve been very effective at actually developing tools to help people price things. It’s a pretty basic tool, but the lawyers say it is very sophisticated and very helpful. I see it as Finance 101, but I’m glad the lawyers like it. So I think what’s had the greatest effect is the non-lawyers who really are focusing on the business side of the equation and what it costs to do things; pushing back, and helping lawyers have a little bit of backbone. They can now show them a model and say, No, that’s too low, you’re going to lose your shirt.

I think that the role we’re asking our client value director to play, which is part consigliore, part expert, part preacher, is going to have a very positive impact, not just on the project management, but on the pricing side, including a better understanding among the partners about what agreeing to certain conditions means. I think we’ve made a lot of progress on this because we’ve had to, but we still have a long way to go.

Senior managers from three other AmLaw 200 firms added this:

On the pricing side, it’s been one of our great successes. We have three people working on pricing. Two of them are analysts who initially were hired just to be analysts, but we’ve now developed them to the point where they communicate directly with clients. They’ve become fairly sophisticated in understanding not just the pure data side, but also recognizing the differences among clients and how they view our relationship. And that triggers what price arrangements they are or are not willing to offer. As the firm’s CEO, I spend five or ten percent of my time on pricing issues, either working directly with clients or dealing with our lawyers in trying to think about how we should price something. It’s worked out well for us.

We now have a pricing director, and he and I really split the work. He’s incredibly effective with my partners and very good. It’s an interesting job that we both have, trying to facilitate partners’ entrepreneurial instincts and helping them to get business, while guiding them in the transition into this new world of pricing. But we’re also the police for bad deals. He’s fantastic. He has a staff, and we do this function of reviewing every non-standard pricing matter, checking the assumptions, checking the projected profitability. And that’s a critical part of having a strong value-based billing program, especially as clients are expecting, really demanding, alternative fee structures.

We’ve added three positions in the last two years related to pricing and value. The person who heads our group has experience doing program and project management in the software industry, but also has a finance background. So we’re starting to get into the project management side. I think it has been successful, because three years ago we had a lot of difficulty in winning fixed fee and other alternative fee cases, and now we’re getting more of them. We never really did that before.

Part 2 will appear next week and will include quotes from senior management at firms that are assigning new responsibilities in this area to existing staff rather than hiring new people.

 

February 18, 2014

Announcing a new Kindle version of our Legal Business Development Guide

Amazon is now selling a new Kindle version of my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.  This book lies at the heart of the highly successful Adams and Reese program I’ve described in the last few posts, and is used in all of our business development coaching and training programs.  See our web page for sample chapters, reviews, and ordering information for the printed book, including volume discounts up to 50% on orders of multiple copies.

January 28, 2014

My upcoming Ark Group workshops on Alternative Fees and on Legal Project Management

On March 19, I will be in New York to chair the Ark Group’s Fifth Annual AFA Forum.  There are plenty of conferences about AFAs these days, but the title of this one suggests how it is different:  Sustaining AFAs Through Collaboration and Trust.  Law firms and their clients will talk candidly about how they have negotiated and managed AFAs in a way that has been beneficial and sustainable for both sides.  Participants include in-house counsel from GlaxoSmithKline, Pitney Bowes, Harley-Davidson, and other major corporations, as well as the lawyers they work with at Foley & Lardner, Reed Smith, Greenberg Traurig, McKenna Long & Aldridge, Faegre Baker Daniels, and McCarthy Tetrault.  You can download the agenda and registration form from our web page, or go to Ark’s page for additional information. 

Then, on May 22 in Chicago, I will be chairing an entirely different kind of event entitled the Legal Project Management Showcase & Workshop: Changing Behavior within the Firm.  I conducted this workshop three times in 2013, making it Ark’s most popular program last year.  I wish I could say it was so successful due to my contributions, but the value was in the frank discussions between panelists about what worked and what didn’t when they established LPM programs.  The Chicago panel will include some panelists who appeared on last year’s programs, and some who didn’t, namely:

Sari M. Alamuddin, Partner, Morgan Lewis
Vincent Cordo, Global Director of Client Value, Reed Smith
Stuart J T Dodds, Director of Global Pricing and Legal Project Management, Baker & McKenzie
David Schaefer, Deputy Chair, Loeb & Loeb
Donald R. Ware, Partner, Foley Hoag

I’ll let you know when the brochure for the Chicago workshop becomes available in a few weeks.  In the meantime, if you’d like a preview of how the event will be structured, take a look at the similar workshop I offered last November with a different panel. 

I hope to see you in New York, or Chicago, or both.

For more information on either event, contact Ark’s Peter Franken at pfranken@ark-group.com or (312) 212-1301.

 

September 17, 2013

Legal project management: Five law firms compare notes on how to maximize its benefits

In theory, it is easy for lawyers to find ways to increase efficiency.  In practice, however, getting lawyers to change the way they practice law has proven extremely difficult.

On November 13, 2013, I will moderate a panel discussion in New York City with leaders from five law firms that have successfully begun the long process of changing behavior:

These experts will talk frankly about what has worked at each firm and what has not.  The discussion will include training and coaching techniques, as well as tools and software, such as sample templates for handling loan transactions, reviewing documents, calculating fees and more.

This is the third time this year the workshop has been offered by The Ark Group, publishers of Managing Partner magazine.   After attending the first session last March, Delilah Flaum, the Partner in Charge of Knowledge Management and Legal Project Management at Winston & Strawn LLP, said:   

This workshop did an excellent job of offering practical suggestions for dealing with the issues law firms encounter when they implement legal project management.  The frank discussions between partners and executives at firms that have successfully changed lawyers’ behavior would be helpful to anyone who is trying to get their arms around this challenging transition.

After attending the second session in May, Christine Johnson, the Director of Client Matter Management at Quarles & Brady LLP noted: 

The greatest benefit of the workshop was hearing from others about what they are doing and how they are responding to the same market challenges that we are facing.  Brainstorming solutions together was useful because it helped me to walk away with some ideas that could be adapted for our firm.

Kevin Klein, the Program Director at Ark, says that:

This is the only workshop we have offered three times within nine months, because the approach has proven so useful to participants.  We had to turn down several people who wanted to register in May when the last session sold out early, and we were unable to get a larger room.

The program will be held on November 13, 2013, at the American Management Association’s Executive Conference Center at 1601 Broadway near Times Square in New York City.  For more details, see the online brochure and registration form or contact Peter Franken for details at pfranken@ark-group.com or (312) 212-1301.