Components of Effective Legal Project Management #LexMundi

LexMundi_logo_CMYKSpeaker: Lucy Dillon, Director of Knowledge Management at Berwin Leighton Paisner.

[These are my notes from the 2013 Lex Mundi Knowledge Management Roundtable. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • “Project management in law firms is like the global environment: everyone knows it’s an important issue, but very few people are willing to change their behaviour in order to address it.”
  • The 5 stages of a project
    • agreeing with the client on what needs to be done
    • planning the work
    • doing the work
    • closing the project
    • reviewing the project
  • Required Skills
    • communicate, communicate and communicate
    • empower someone to take charge
    • delegation and supervision (these are skills, not just something people do)
  • What effective project management in law firms needs
    • resource — documents, checklists, practice guides
    • small group training that has been customized to specific practice areas and approaches
    • champions and guides with the practice groups and client teams
  • The Client-Driven Approach
    • the process improvement only takes hold on matters (and in practice groups) where the partner in charge acknowledges the for efficiency. When this happens, the process mapping effort helps the team understand how to push the work down to less expensive staff. This improves the price for the client, the time management of the partner and the experience of more junior lawyers.
    • when you create the project map that shows the actions required and the actors involved, it quickly becomes very clear if the work is being done at the right level within the firm. It also shows where there are imbalances in workload.
    • in the course of process mapping, highlight everything that represents an improvement or innovation.
    • measure outcomes so that you can establish clearly what’s working and what’s not
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People-based KM: the Role of the Professional Support Lawyer #LexMundi

LexMundi_logo_CMYK Speaker: Lucy Dillon, Director of Knowledge Management at Berwin Leighton Paisner.

[These are my notes from the 2013 Lex Mundi Knowledge Management Roundtable. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Her Firm’s PSL Team: BLP has 24 professional support lawyers. One-third are men, the other two-thirds are women. Some work on a part-time schedule. Half of the group were internal transfers who were fee-earners in the firm; the rest were recruited in.
  • The traditional PSL role: This role started with the need to develop standard-form documents. The purpose of this effort was really about ensuring quality and consistency, not so much about efficiency. Then the developed practice notes, creating know-how databases of useful precedents, legal technical training, in-house counsel training, and current awareness.
  • Traditional Staffing Approach: The PSL role was conceived as a means to keep talented female lawyers involved in the practice. Over time, it has become an appealing alternative to fee-earners (male and female) who want new challenges.
  • The Skill Set Required:
    • Legal technical excellence
    • Good understanding of how to deliver service to internal and, increasingly, external clients
    • Interest and literacy in IT
    • Great communication skills — they need to be able to communicate with the KM team, internal clients AND external clients.
    • Team-player
    • Self-motivation — This role is what you make it. There won’t always be a client setting the agenda for you.
    • Impact and influence — if you’re going to be asking people to do things they don’t really like to do,
    • Robustness — they need to be resilient because they will experience rejection and delay from the fee-earners. KM professionals need to believe in what they are doing so that they can persistent in the face of setbacks.
    • Wider firm vision — they need to be able to stand back and look at a practice group and look at its work as a whole. (Peripheral organizational vision.)
  • Evolution of the role in the new legal landscape
    • Firms are redefining the value of KM and redefining the value of knowledge
    • Moving from using KM for the practice of law to using KM in the business of law
    • New areas of activity since 2008
      • Strengthening client relationships — providing training and current awareness, adapting internal standard-form documents so that they are tailored for specific clients. This is a value-added service. Clients don’t usually pay separately for these services.
      • Innovation product design
      • Reducing risk
      • Process improvement and project management
    • New skills required to support these new functions
      • Facilitation skills
      • Process mapping
      • Understanding how the firm makes money
      • Social media
      • Thought leadership to support a premium practice
      • Efficiency expertise to support a commodity practice
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Impact of KM on Old and New Business Models #LexMundi

LexMundi_logo_CMYKSpeakers: Michael Roster (former managing partner of Lex Mundi member firm Morrison & Foerster’s Los Angeles office, former general counsel of Stanford University, Stanford Medical Center, and Golden West Financial Corporation) and Bill Turner (CKO at Womble Carlyle).

[These are my notes from the 2013 Lex Mundi Knowledge Management Roundtable. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Law firms present enormous challenges to clients:
    • In a recent 10-year period, costs to US companies went up  20%, but legal costs went up 75%. Most of this increase is due to rate increases and the increasing seniority of the lawyers who provide services. 
    • Most law firm lawyers do not have in-house experience. This means that not enough of them truly understand the pressures their clients and their internal legal departments face.
  • Law firm lawyers are not converting their clients into advocates: Only 31.4% of clients would recommend their primary law firm. (This is down from 35.9% in 2012; 42.3% in 2011.)
  • Applying KM to firm’s and client’s targets: KM helps reduce client legal costs by 25%. It provides high predictability and helps improve outcomes for the matters undertaken. In fact, KM needs to be used for these purposes. (Many firms don’t understand WHY they should use KM. Those firms need to focus on reducing legal costs increasing predictability and improving outcomes.)
  • KM Challenges the Prevailing Law Firm Business Model:  When profitability is driven by inputs (billable hours), then any efficiencies introduced by KM will undercut profitability. [Is it any wonder that KM has had a hard time making its case to lawyers who are wedded to that old model?]
  • Proposed Changes to the law firm budget process: Instead of starting from the perspective that we need to provide a certain level of compensation to top partners (and then keep everyone else happy), start by asking: “What’s a competitive price for a given type of legal work?”
  • The the old, reactive/responsive approach to pricing:
    • How much do we need to make to deliver the expected level of profitability?
    • How much can we raise rates and billable hour targets to deliver required revenue?
    • Can we eliminate any groups (e.g., Trust and Estates is often the first to go) or employees?
    • How do we sell it to the partners, and then clients?
  • The better new client-driven pricing approach:
    • What’s the competitive price for this type of legal work?
    • How much profit is desired?
    • How can we create a highly competitive legal product for this amount?
    • How can we still exceed client expectations?
    • How can we get rewarded for the results?
  • Ford Motor Company provides a great example for law firms: They used to adjust pricing by tinkering around the edges of auto manufacturing process (e.g., replace leather with vinyl, remove some of the chrome, etc.). Then Ford got smart. They asked (1) what is a middle class willing to pay for a car? (2) How much profit do we need to make on each car? (3) What’s the resulting price per car? (4) What’s the best possible car we can make for that price? This is how the Ford Taurus was born.
  • Even General Counsel need to adopt a new approach to legal costs.  How to think in the new proactive/predictive way?
    • Where are our company’s major legal exposures?
    • How can we reduce or even eliminate those exposures?
    • How can we maximize expertise, efficiency, elasticity?
    • How to incentivize reduced cost, high predictability, improved outcomes?
  • Why Harness Knowledge Management? Bill Turner quotes Dave Snowden who asserts that the main purpose of KM is to (1) create conditions for innovation and (2) enable better decisions.
  • Use KM to enhance cross-border legal services:
    • Improve coordination among offices and practice groups
    • Reduce duplicative activities
    • Remove barriers to using fixed prices, managing portfolios, working across juridictional lines
    • Improve quality control
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