12 posts categorized "Tips for Lawyers"

December 01, 2010

Questions and answers about Certified Legal Project Managers™ (Part 2 of 3)

A few weeks ago, I posted the first answers to a series of questions Paul Easton, author of the Legal Project Management blog, had asked when we announced our new certification program.  I postponed the next installment until today, when the first group begins the certification process. 


Paul’s question: You designed this program in response to a request from “an 800-lawyer firm [who] asked [you] to design a formal certification program for two senior partners.” Is your program targeted exclusively at large firms?  Would a small firm or solo practitioner benefit from your program?

The principles apply to firms of any size.  The first two people to sign up were the two senior partners from Squire Sanders who requested the program.  (As a result of its recent merger with Hammonds, it now has over 1,200 lawyers.)  But the third person to sign up was a lawyer from a nine-lawyer firm in Australia that learned of the program over the web.  And the fourth and fifth people were from Stewart McKelvey, a Canadian firm with over 200 lawyers. So we already have evidence that the program meets a need in firms of all sizes. 

Paul’s question: One of the eligibility requirements is that you must be a practicing lawyer with 10 years experience. Why not legal-support professionals (e.g., paralegal, litigation support, and legal IT staff)?  Aren’t they more likely to fill the legal-project manager role than lawyers?

In November, the LegalBizDev Certification Advisory Board reviewed the preliminary outline which you saw, and modified a few of the details, including eliminating the ten-year requirement. Our program’s prerequisite is now defined as “practicing lawyers who have at least three years of experience managing large legal matters.”  We are currently working with a small group of paralegals to determine the best way to adapt our program to meet their needs, and will announce the results early next year.

Paul’s question: Who sits on LegalBizDev’s Certification Advisory Board? 

The board has fourteen members from firms with a total of over 10,000 lawyers, including:

Borden Ladner Gervais – Andrew Terrett
Fasken Martineau – Howard Kaufman
Ford & Harrison – Kay Wolf
McDermott Will & Emery – Byron Kalogerou
Stewart McKelvey – James Dickson
Miles & Stockbridge – David Eberhardt
Morgan Lewis – Richard Rosenblatt
O’Melveny & Myers – Stacie McLean
Squire Sanders – Stacy D. Ballin
Williams Mullen – John Paris

The remaining board members have chosen to remain anonymous.

Paul’s question: How do you determine if the experiential requirement is met? For example, I passed my first bar exam in late 2001, but for the past six years I’ve worked in legal staffing and project management, primarily for large electronic-discovery projects. At the end of 2011, would I qualify for this certification?

Decisions will be made case by case.  Based on what you wrote here, I am guessing that the “practicing lawyer” part of the requirement does not fit you.  However, as I noted, we are currently exploring the idea of parallel programs that fit the needs of other audiences.

Paul’s question: Do you plan to eventually design an entry level certification for lawyers who want to learn project management and differentiate themselves from their competition, but who do not have the requisite legal experience for your professional certification?

We are not planning an entry level certification at this time, but as Nobel prize winning physicist Neils Bohr famously said, “It is hard to predict, especially the future.”

Paul’s question: Why do lawyers need more initials after their names? After all, obtaining a JD and passing a bar exam qualifies a lawyer to practice law. Also, shouldn’t experienced lawyers know how to manage their cases?

Lawyers certainly don't need more initials.  But many do need the knowledge and skills this program will provide.  While experienced lawyers typically do know how to manage matters the old way, the “new normal” demands new management skills.  Until recently, generations of lawyers were never asked to be more efficient, so it is not surprising that they could use some help. 

Paul’s question: What is your certification’s formal title and initials? 

The program title is Certified Legal Project Manager™.  We do not expect people to use the initials.

Paul’s question: Two years ago, almost no one was talking about legal-project management. Has awareness of and demand for legal-project management grown so much in a couple of years to create the demand needed to support a certificate program? 

Absolutely yes.

Paul’s question: Is legal-project management just another management fad? 

We believe that clients are making this paradigm shift permanent.  Once law firms learn to deliver the same high quality more efficiently, why would clients ever want to go back?

November 10, 2010

Questions and answers about Certified Legal Project Managers™ (Part 1)

The day after we published our press release announcing the first certification program for legal project managers, I got an email from Paul Easton, author of the influential blog Legal Project Management, with a long list of interesting and insightful questions about our program.  Indeed, the list was so long and so insightful that it is going to take me several posts to answer all the questions Paul sent.

Some must wait until December, when the program is officially launched.  But this week I want to immediately answer a few of the most critical questions.

Paul’s question: What does this certification represent? How will program participants, their employers, and their clients benefit from this certificate?

The Certified Legal Project Manager™ program is designed to help lawyers apply proven best practices from other law firms and other professions to: 

• Reduce or eliminate surprises
• Reduce write-offs
• Protect profitability
• Improve process control
• Improve communication with clients
• Deliver greater value to clients
• Focus on clients’ true needs
• Increase new business

The program aims to set standards for legal project management and to give clients confidence in their lawyers’ fundamental knowledge of this new field, and in their ability to apply the concepts to the practice of law.

To earn certification, each lawyer must pass tests on core concepts and terminology, and also demonstrate the ability to apply the ideas to real-world legal matters.  The certification process also includes practice using a reference library supplied with the program to look up just the information they need, exactly when they need it.

This month, the LegalBizDev Certification Advisory Board is reviewing the details of our approach to assure that it meets these goals.  The Board currently includes six lawyers and four project managers from ten firms with a total of over 6,000 lawyers. 

Board member Howard Kaufman of Fasken Martineau explained why lawyers could find a program like this useful:

As a lawyer my primary reason for wanting this type of program is to learn how to use project management in the practice of law. What I will learn about project management is only of interest to me if I can do something with it in my practice. To be able to "broadcast" a third party’s evaluation of my project management skill in the practice of law is great for marketing/business development purposes, but that is a secondary reason for taking the program.

In the program summary that I sent to Board members, I wrote that “Legal project management certification is not necessary, or even desirable, for every lawyer.”  We offer several programs that require less time, including training workshops to increase knowledge, and coaching programs to practice on the job skills. (Note: If you look for details of our training and coaching programs on the web you won’t find them, because we don’t want to reveal the details of our proprietary approach to competitors.  However, if you work for a law firm or in-house law department we would be happy to send them to you if you email info@legalbizdev.com.)  

In our opinion, our training and coaching programs are more than enough to meet the needs of most lawyers.  Certification is designed for those who want to go a step further, and guarantee a solid foundation in both knowledge and skills.

However, the term certification also comes with a lot of baggage which does not apply to our program.  And that leads to a more technical question on the list.

Paul’s question: If lawyers want to be project managers, why not obtain a PMP or CAPM? Doesn’t JD+PMP=LPM?

While every project manager in the world knows what a PMP is, it is a rare lawyer who knows that PMP stands for Project Management Professional.  This is the best known of five certifications offered  by the Project Management Institute (PMI), which is described on its web page as “The world’s leading not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession, with more than half a million members and credential holders in 185 countries”

PMP is widely considered the gold standard certification for project managers.  According to Wikipedia, 393,413 people held this certificate as of last July.  By contrast, the CAPM – Certified Associate in Project Management – is an entry level program, with, according to one recent count fewer than 10,000 certificate holders. Both deal with the same basic approach and content (summarized in PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge, which is one of the books we include in our program’s reference library), so I will focus this discussion on the PMP.

Requirements for the PMP include 4,500 hours of project management experience, 35 contact hours of project management education, and passing a 200-item test which can take many additional hours to study for.  How many lawyers do you know who have time for that, especially if much of the content is clearly not relevant to their practice?

The sixth edition of the PMP Exam Prep guide by Rita Mulcahy includes a list of key concepts you should have mastered in your 4,500 hours of experience before you start studying for the exam, including Monte Carlo analysis, schedule compression, managing float, and how to manually create a network diagram (p. 3).  Perhaps even more off-putting from a lawyers’ point of view is Mulcahy’s observation that “The exam tests from the perspective of…a large project that involves 200 people from many countries, takes at least a year, has never been done before in the organization, and has a budget of US $100 million dollars or more” (p. 17).  Hardly the profile of a typical legal matter.

Somewhere in the world, there are lawyers who can benefit from a PMP.  But we believe that there is a much larger number who, like Mr. Kaufman, are looking for something that can help them manage legal projects quickly and efficiently, without spending time on concepts that are clearly not relevant. 

Paul’s question: Will the program provide participants with MCLE credits? 

We are currently exploring the possibility providing MCLE credits.  But given the fact that so much about legal project management is new, and that the process for getting MCLE credits approved in many jurisdictions is time consuming, it may take time to provide a definitive answer.

Paul’s question: Where can those interested go for more information and application materials? 

We will post information and applications on our web page after the program is officially underway in December.  If you’d like to consider joining the first group that begins the certification process on December 1, email info@legalbizdev.com for more information.