A few weeks ago, I posted the first answers to a series of questions Paul Easton 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:
Fasken Martineau - Howard KaufmanFord & Harrison - Kay WolfMcDermott Will & Emery - Byron KalogerouStewart McKelvey - James DicksonMiles & Stockbridge - David EberhardtMorgan Lewis - Richard RosenblattO'Melveny & Myers - Stacie McLeanSquire Sanders - Stacy D. BallinWilliams 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 ManagerTM. 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?
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?
Read more about Legal Project Management on the Legal Business Development Blog.