Rule # 8: Motivate the players
"Don't tell people how to do things,
tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results." George
Rule #1 in this series was to identify what drives your
team: the inherent intellectual challenge of legal matters, the relationships
and collaboration, competitiveness, or the simple need to pile up billable
Of course, the answer is likely to
be all of the above and more, in different proportions for different
people. On large matters, your job as a leader is to develop a sense of
what motivates each key individual and then to incorporate these motivators
into your feedback and interactions with team members.
Make sure key team members
understand the deliverables in the statement of work, and then give them ownership of the
process. Let them tell you how to meet your goals, on time and within
Motivating some team members may be
as simple as recognizing and praising their accomplishments.
If you expect the best from your
team, you are more likely to get it.
Rule #9: Develop plans
"Failing to plan is planning to
fail." - proverb
Lawyers are good at convincing
clients to invest time and money in planning. Clients are told to plan
their taxes, plan their estates, and plan the best way to structure their
But when a new matter begins, many
lawyers would rather jump right in than step back and plan their
approach. Jumping right in can be a great way to be inefficient, and the
traditional billable hour model rewards inefficiency.
However, as one consultant put it "being too busy to plan is a lot like
running alongside your bicycle because you are too busy to get on." Now that
clients are pressuring legal counsel to become more efficient, there is a new
emphasis on developing a plan before beginning a matter.
Planning starts with a solid statement of work, so it is clear that the client and the
lawyer agree on what is to be done.
Then the lawyer in charge can map
out the necessary tasks and assign them to different team members. Our Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide includes
a form called the Matter Planning Template. I have to admit that I have
been a bit surprised by its popularity. The truth is it's just a simple form
for breaking a matter into subtasks, and then assigning people, timelines, and
budgets to each. But many lawyers we work with have reported that using
this form to structure simple planning steps can make a big difference.
Better yet, don't just create a plan
by yourself. Get your team so involved in the project and decision
making, that they say, "This is our plan."
Rule #10: Control, evaluate,
"As we look ahead into the next
century, leaders will be those who empower others." - Bill Gates
When I first started managing
projects, the biggest mistake I made was trusting people too much. I had
hired extremely talented people, I reasoned, to they would figure things out.
I learned the hard way that
effective managers control the work process, evaluate the results, and use the
results to improve performance. This can be valuable even if a project is
so small that you are working alone. But when you work on projects with
large teams, "control, evaluate and improve" is absolutely vital.
If you want to rely on software for
this, our opinion is that the best software solution is the one you already own
and know how to use. Whether your team uses Office Outlook, Lotus Notes,
Groupwise, or something else, it's worth learning about the features that can
help you manage your team, including e-mail groups, meeting invitations and
scheduling, and creating and tracking team "To Do" lists.
Tracking the budget is especially
important these days, and we often hear about how law firms accounting systems
are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to support periodic
work-in-progress updates. How often do you need these updates? The
answer varies from one matter to another. Many firms seem to be headed
toward real-time reporting, and requiring lawyers to update their time records
Finally, at the end of each
important matter, it is vital to conduct some sort of "lessons learned"
review. Poll your team members on what they thought worked well and what
they thought needed improvement.
However, ultimately, there is only
one results assessment that counts, and that comes from the client. So
you need to make sure that you have an accurate reading from the client, as
close to the end of the matter as possible. Our Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide includes
a number of tools and templates to help conduct these reviews more efficiently.
In the "good old days" when clients
rarely complained about the efficiency of legal teams, and hourly rates went up
every year, in all honesty it was not necessary to think about better ways to
manage legal teams. Now it is.
more on the Legal Business Development Blog.