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December 04, 2019

Case study: Building a successful LPM initiative with online tools (Part 2 of 2)

By Tim Batdorf and Jim Hassett

This post concludes our interview with Steve Flaks, the Director of Pricing & Project Management, and Sarah Alford, Manager of Pricing and Project Management at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

Q:  In Part 1 of this interview, you mentioned a pilot test program coaching six lawyers in LPM.  Did that initial success help lead to the decision to purchase a license to make our LPM tools available to every lawyer in your firm?

A:  Yes.  We had seen how the tools and templates could be used to speed the implementation of LPM, and we wanted to have them available for all 400 of our lawyers.  Our IT department created an LPM page on our intranet that is very slick and intuitive to use.  Lawyers can see all the different tools and easily identify the ones they need and download them, anytime anywhere.

I don't want to lie to myself and assume that lawyers are spontaneously going to go there all the time.  But it makes it very easy for us to provide each lawyer with the exact tool they need, whether it’s for defining scope, planning a budget, improving client communication, or increasing efficiency some other way.  This LPM home page, backed by over 150 templates, also gives us more presence and credibility within the firm. 

Q:  And recently you both decided to go one step further by enrolling in our Master Certified LPM Coach™ Program.

A:  That’s right.  We wanted to maximize the effects of our own coaching.   One of the challenges in coaching lawyers is quickly being able to identify and access the right documents at the right time.  We both have a high level of understanding of the enormous amount of information that's out there, but we need to get more intimately familiar with the details so that we can access it on demand.

We began by studying your LPM Coaching Guide which is only available to people who enroll in the certification program and to LegalBizDev employees.  In accordance with this program, we’ve been conducting role plays of typical LPM coaching sessions and are now applying our learning by coaching lawyers at our firm.  An LPM expert from LegalBizDev listens to our coaching sessions and then later provides feedback to help us fine-tune our LPM coaching approach.

Q:  I know that you are both in the middle of that certification program, but have you seen any successes yet?

A:  Yes, we have.  The attorney that I (Steve) have been coaching has bought into the concepts, and he has invited us to his Public Finance practice group meeting to discuss LPM. A lot of their work is fixed fee, and now we're starting to formulate how to use task codes to plan and track their budgets.  This will make it easier for everyone to be aware of the run rates and how we are tracking against the budget, so each lawyer on the team can see how they’re doing against the plan. In the future, we expect that much more budget information will be shared with the client so they, too, can track progress.

In addition, when we complete the program, it will be helpful to have the certification behind our names.  It helps the entire effort have more credibility, and it contributes to LPM being woven into the fabric of the firm.

Q:  What else are you doing to make attorneys more aware of your efforts?

A:  Probably the most effective communication was a roadshow we conducted last year in which we went to each of our offices in a kind of educational tour focused on “what is LPM?” and “what does it mean to you?”  We put together a PowerPoint deck that included screenshots of our web page, including some of our favorite checklists.  Then we logged into a live connection and navigated around. 

It was so well received that we are now considering a follow-up roadshow with fresh content.  But before we do, we need to improve the way we document and communicate our own LPM wins.  We’ve also been talking about maybe sending out a quarterly LPM wins report.  

Q:  Have you thought of any other ways to keep LPM and your role top of mind on a regular basis?

A:  I really like the idea of “LPM tips of the month,” because it's an excuse to send out a message and stay in touch and remind them of LPM.  Of course, we started with the 12 tips that are included with the LegalBizDev license, each of which illustrates how a particular template could be useful.  When necessary, we customize them to fit our audience and add new ones.

Q:  To date, do you think LPM has helped your firm develop new business?

A:  Absolutely.  The most obvious impact on new business is when LPM increases client satisfaction.  This in turn increases the probability of new business.  For both existing clients and new ones, we also work closely with the marketing business development teams on RFP responses.   We are seeing a lot more mention of LPM -- project management, budgeting, monitoring, all that kind of stuff -- as requirements in RFPs.  So, in many of our responses, we are talking more and more comprehensively about our LPM team, who we are, what we do, and how we can help.  It is no secret that many law firm RFP responses just give lip service to LPM.  But we are actually doing it, and we have the examples and the infrastructure to back it up.

Q:  Finally, do you have any advice for firms that are just beginning to implement LPM?

A:  Set realistic expectations and get the buy-in of senior management.  Start by finding just a handful of attorneys that you can use as your cheerleaders, attorneys that you think are in the right practice areas and have the right sort of influence within the firm. 

But don’t expect huge results in a very short period of time.  Be patient, and don’t try to do too much too soon.  And when you get good results, don’t be shy about shouting them from the rooftops.

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