When I was 11 years old, I decided to become an efficiency expert when I grew up. I lost that thought for many years but regained it later. Instead I became a successful capital markets lawyer at a large firm. Though I didn't realize it at the time, I'd lost all connection to performing efficiently, at least from the client's perspective. Decades later I reconnected with my interest in efficiency and became a consultant to large firms on improving efficiency and productivity. For one large client I was presented with the challenge of how to create widespread lawyer adoption of legal project management principles. Many other firms were struggling to get lawyer uptake. I drew on my experience as a lawyer and my more recent study of efficiency to create a simplified version of LPM that was well-received by the lawyers. This blog post describes that simplified process.
How a practice management technique called knowledge strategy can help law firm leaders achieve strategic goals – ideas from a former AmLaw 20 senior partner.
In this Part 2 of the two-part series, the chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm is presented with a step-by-step approach to introduce LPM without scaring the practitioners. That approach is based on the notion that only two LPM elements should be introduced at first. These should require only minimal changes to the way practitioners currently work and should be perceived as bringing them immediate value. This Part 2 describes these elements, how to roll them out and why practitioners will respond favorably.
This is Part 1 of a two-part series. In this part, the chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm considers the disappointing results of other firms attempting to apply legal project management techniques. He receives an overview in pragmatic terms of the key elements of LPM and learns why the other firms’ approaches have not worked.
“How can I get my partners to follow through on their commitments?” muses Keith Mayfield, Chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm. His current concerns are several internal practice improvement projects that need to be headed by partners but are floundering because the partners spend all their time on client work and none on the projects. These include: a legal project management initiative, a pilot program to collect better data about matters to facilitate finding similar matters for precedents, pitch materials and internal expertise, an effort to revitalize management of an important practice group that has been essentially unmanaged, and a project to revamp internal continuing legal education for senior associates and partners. Keith has never believed as strongly as he does now in the accuracy of the maxim “Managing lawyers is like herding cats.”
The after-action review meeting also presents a unique opportunity to collect other valuable information that otherwise may be unavailable. These include: capturing key substantive issues addressed, recording the main factors affecting the fee, and verifying matter parameters and description. After-action review meetings also serve a training and morale-building purpose for associates. This meeting may be the only time during the matter where some associates get a sense of the scope of the entire matter and how the part on which they worked contributed to the whole. Also, merely participating in an after-action review meeting and being treated as an equal team member will contribute to more positive morale among associates.
“Why are people talking about after-action reviews?” wonders Keith Mayfield, chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm. The topic has been coming from many directions recently. One of his lateral partners has just left his office after suggesting the firm begin after-action reviews for all matters, as they did at the partner's previous firm. Last week Keith lunched with the general counsel of a prospective litigation client, who asked whether the firm regularly conducts after-action reviews. Last month Keith attended a managing partner leadership meeting, where he now remembers the subject came up briefly during a breakout session. Keith's now curious to learn more. Keith calls the consultant who ran the breakout session, who has law firm experience, to ask why after-action reviews are being talked about.