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2 posts from May 2019

May 15, 2019

Toby Brown on LPM and Perkins Coie’s Client Advantage™  (Part 1 of 2)

By Jim Hassett and Tim Batdorf

 

Toby Brown is the Chief Practice Management Officer at Perkins Coie, a firm with more than 1,000 lawyers in offices across the United States and in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei.  Toby has long been recognized as one of the leaders of the LPM movement, and is the founder of the leading annual conference on LPM, pricing and process improvement (the P3 Conference).

 

LegalBizDev:  When Law.com published an article last year about your approach to practice management, the headline was “The Law Firm Disrupted.”  Could you explain what they meant?

 

Brown:  The Law.com article focused on our Client Advantage™ program, describing it as a possible “template for future relationships between Big Law and corporate clients.”  It quoted several of our clients, including Lisa Konie, the Senior Director of Legal Operations at Adobe Systems Inc., who described the way we “truly worked together as if [we] were an extension of their legal team.”  Our web page includes an overview of the Client Advantage™ program which describes how it helps “clients drive efficiency, address a broad range of business challenges, and stay a step ahead of trends in legal services.” 

 

LegalBizDev:  For obvious reasons, my favorite example of the way Perkins Coie “stays a step ahead of trends” is the way you plan to offer key clients the license you recently purchased from us for the online fifth edition of our Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.  How do you expect this to work?

 

Brown:  Of course the primary benefit of the license will be internal.  We believe it will save our LPM staff time, and increase their impact, by providing us with an electronic library of over 150 LPM templates.  The LPM team can provide lawyers with exactly the information they need to increase efficiency, exactly when they need it.  For example, if a particular lawyer was having trouble writing a letter of engagement, LPM staff could email that lawyer a copy of the tool entitled “15 questions to ask clients to help define scope.” Or if another lawyer needed to delegate more effectively, he or she could be sent a template entitled “The delegation checklist.”  New tools and templates are added to the electronic library twice a year so that lawyers can easily keep up with developments in this rapidly changing field.

In terms of our Client Advantage™ program, one way we will “stay a step ahead of trends,” is by offering these templates to key clients, at no charge.  Law departments that want to improve their own use of LPM can benefit greatly from these tools.

This type of support and knowledge sharing has long been a key component of the Client Advantage™ program.  For example, when one large client was interested in improving their document management systems recently, we provided access to Perkins Coie employees who had been involved in installing our own document management systems.  They passed along all the valuable lessons they had learned in this process.  And again, there was no charge for this service.

 

LegalBizDev:  This sounds like the holy grail of law firm marketing, a truly unique selling proposition.

 

Brown:  I agree.  Business development professionals frequently talk about the need for “marketing differentiators” to set their firms apart.  But the classic problem in legal marketing is that there are too many good lawyers in the world.  And in too many cases, the only “unique selling proposition” the marketing department can come up with can be reduced to “our lawyers are better than your lawyers.”  In contrast, the Client Advantage™ program provides concrete deliverables that few if any of our competitors are offering.

 

LegalBizDev:  When I first read about your program, one of the things that struck me was that the team members listed on your web page range across a number of different departments that we don’t normally see working together with clients. 

Brown:  That’s right.  Some of our members are obvious, from such departments as LPM,  pricing, business development and marketing.  But the team also includes members from other departments that are less obvious, including knowledge management, IT, training and development, billing and finance, diversity, pro bono, and recruiting.  Because of the importance of this program, our COO Steve Hedberg is also a key member of this group. 

 

LegalBizDev:  That’s quite a diverse group.  Could you give me an example of how it might work with one of the “less obvious” departments?

 

Brown:  One of the first things people often notice about our list is the inclusion of recruitment.  At most firms, laterals are recruited opportunistically, whenever rainmakers from other firms become available.  However, their success varies, in part because they may or may not focus in the areas that our current and future clients care most about.

Our Client Advantage™ group has helped tighten the process of talent acquisition so that it has focused on recruiting lawyers’ whose expertise will be most helpful to our clients, and whose books of business fit best with the firm’s strategic plan.  This has paid off in a big way.  In the last few years, we have substantially increased the revenue from lateral acquisitions.

 

LegalBizDev:  Could you tell me a little about how your LPM group is organized and what it focuses on?

 

Brown:  Our team is led by LPM Director Janelle Belling.  We currently have four people exclusively devoted to LPM, are in the process of hiring two more, and often get help from pricing, finance and other groups.  Most of the work they perform is at the client level, managing large portfolios of work.  As time permits, the LPM team also provides assistance in two other areas:  at the matter level, and coaching to groups or individuals.    

 

Detailed examples of tasks at the client level, matter level, and coaching will appear in Part 2 of this post.

May 01, 2019

LPM steps in the lifecycle of a legal project (Part 3 of 3)

By Fred Kinch, Gary Richards, Jim Hassett, and Tim Batdorf

In this the final part of our three-part blog series, we summarize the most important LPM issues to consider when planning a new matter. Unless your firm has established formal LPM guidelines, feel free to decide which sections to focus on for each matter and which can be ignored.

  • Monitor at appropriate intervals:
    • Work performed versus matter plan and budget:
      • How much has been budgeted to complete each milestone in the project?
      • How much was actually spent to date?
      • If at any point actual spending exceeds the planned budget, what can be done to get back on track?
      • Can savings on one activity be applied to compensate for overspending on another, within the overall budget totals?
      • Does the client have any concerns about the quality of the work?
      • How should you monitor the quality of work performed by other team members?
      • How should you track changes to the work required and their implications for schedule and budget?
    • Status, through routine team meetings
    • Risk plan and mitigation activity
    • Communication plans both with the team and the client
  • Separately track the cost of any work that is beyond the scope of the original agreement:
    • Junior team members should get senior approval before performing out of scope work
    • Should the client be informed BEFORE the work is done?
    • Follow clear criteria for when you go to the client to discuss negotiating the change of scope and when to simply go ahead and do the work at no cost to the client (consider it a marketing expense)
    • Keep track of the costs of “beyond scope” work, perhaps with a separate task code
  • Immediately upon recognizing the need for unplanned work which will be negotiated:
    • Do a task level matter plan for the new work
    • Get client approval for the scope change before performing the additional work:
      • What criteria should you use to decide when a change in requirements should lead to a client negotiation for additional funding?
      • Negotiate changes in scope as required
  • Close the matter:
    • Execute the end of matter checklist
    • Compare actual cost and schedule versus planned cost and schedule
    • Conduct a lessons learned team meeting
    • Conduct a lessons learned client meeting

Reproduced with permission from the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, Fifth Edition (© LegalBizDev, 2019).