Successfully Implementing Legal Project Management

by Pamela Woldow
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I had the privilege of working with Michelle Mahoney to introduce LPM at King & Wood Mallesons.  She recently asked for contributions to the ILTA blog on best practices for implementing LPM, and I have reproduced my answer below.

LPM is all about people communicating and collaborating effectively with other people — people in firms, people who are clients, people who are supporting vendors of legal services.  And to realize the greatest benefit from LPM, lawyers must understand — and accept — WHY LPM matters to them, their practices, and their clients.  As method acting guru Lee Strasberg put it, “you have to know your motivation.”

Getting With the Program

Blind acceptance of new legal service delivery methods and disciplines is not enough. In firms that have successfully embraced LPM, lawyers display that they really do understand WHY LPM is so important.  On a practical level, they appreciate that being careful stewards of clients’ money is every bit as important as providing excellent legal services.  They get it:  today, providing predictable pricing, keeping clients constantly in the communication loop, and making sure their law firm teams are aligned with client needs and priorities, is the way to delight clients and keep them coming back for more.

The Paradigm Really is Shifting

Because LPM delivers immediate benefits even at the “101″ level, its burgeoning number of adherents believe it is the benchmark for excellence; they believe it because they see it.  In short, WHY motivates and inspires lawyers at the most important level — ground level. They also appreciate that this is not the way it’s always been.  Until recently, you did not find lawyers talking much about efficiency, predictability and effective communication. Why are they talking about it now?  Because clients are making it clear that these qualities are the benchmarks of value.

Seeing LPM as a Value

Successful firms might say that their lawyers “have LPM in their DNA,” meaning that they walk the talk.  Those lawyers practice differently, not just when a client twists their arm, but all the time.  Any lawyer or consultant who says you should only use LPM when someone forces you to, totally misses the boat.  Ideally, a commitment to LPM becomes an attitude, a value that informs all aspects of providing legal service.  With practice, LPM becomes an integral part of who you are, not something you turn on and off like a faucet.

WHY Comes Before WHAT

The WHAT of LPM focuses on steps such as how we scope, plan, and budget.  Firms that focus only on the WHAT of LPM see low adoption rates because the lawyers perceive it as a burden and resist “adding another layer” of work.  But in firms that inspire attention to WHY, lawyers genuinely want to be the most valuable resource to their clients, and they actively seek out ways to do so.

When you start with WHY, you build enthusiasm, acceptance and a willingness to adapt ways to make legal services better fit clients’ goals. Now there’s a paradigm shift.

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Pamela Woldow
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