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 ManagerTM 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.