Pam, Jim, Steve, and GrizzlyBear

Pam, Jim, Steve, and GrizzlyBear

Yesterday the three leading voices in Legal Project Management training had a mini-summit.

The Center for Competitive Management invited Jim Hassett, Pam Woldow, and me to speak for an hour on Legal Project Management for law firms: the 50,000-foot overview, some best practices, how to drive acceptance at firms, and so on.

I wasn't surprised we agreed on most items - not just professional we're-on-a-panel-together agreement, but real agreement:

  • Why do we need Legal Project Management today?
  • How do you build acceptance at firms?
  • What are some key best practices? (Sharing information came up a number of times.)
  • Is it a marketing story or the beginnings of a real sea change? (Yes. It's both.)
  • Can project management time be billable? (Yes from all three of us, with client stories to support the thesis.)
  • Are tools important? (No to heavyweight tools such as Microsoft Project, yes to lightweight instruments such as templates and checklists.)
  • The client is the focus of the project, and in many cases also the driver of change... except when it comes to billing, where few clients are following the lead of folks like Cisco's GC Mark Chandler.

It didn't surprise me because we're seeing the same problems, the same issues, the same driving forces for change. It didn't surprise me because we're all focused not on project management per se but on legal PM, project management for and by attorneys.

Is that to say there are no differences? Hire JimPamSteve to lead your training and adoption effort because we're all the same?

I don't think that's the case at all. I think we have very different approaches to teaching Legal Project Management, to how we help firms and departments move forward. We don't sit in each other's classes - maybe we should! - but I can hear the variations not so much in the core material per se but in how we communicate it, in the kinds of exercises and examples we use, in how we structure the learning experience itself.

One thing I did learn yesterday - not that I had any reason to doubt it - is that whichever one of us you engage, you're going to get a smart, high-energy, committed proponent of improving the way you manage your legal projects.

There is one easy way to go wrong, however.

If you think that Legal Project Management is a fad, you'll go wrong. If you suspect that you wouldn't benefit from outside, specialized expertise - not only in LPM but in how to teach it and lead an implementation effort - you'll likely be trailing your competition. If you believe that just anyone with some exposure to project management can help your practice increase its effectiveness, you'll fall short of your goals. If you think you can get something for nothing, if you think there's a magic wand or silver bullet, you'll be looking in the wrong place.

From what I know, and from what I learned from Pam and Jim yesterday, some of your competitors are getting it right. The firms that learn how to use Legal Project Management to increase their efficiency and effectiveness will have a leg up on their competition.

Remember the story of the two guys in the woods who spot a grizzly bear spying them across a small meadow. "Oh, no," says one of them, "neither of us can outrun a grizzly!" "That's okay," says the other. "I don't have to outrun the grizzly... as long as I can outrun you."

Inefficiency is a bear of a problem in these tough economic times. You don't have to outrun all of your competitors to beat the bear, just some of them.

Time to start running.

Read more on the Lexician Blog.