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WHITE PAPER Legal Project Management: A Framework for Improving Client Satisfaction and the Economics of Legal Services

Aileen Leventon, JD, MBA


President and Founder QLex Consulting Inc. Cell: (917) 860-7043

www.qlexconsulting.com

aileen@qlexconsulting.com


August 2012

2012, QLex Consulting Inc.

Legal Project Management: A Framework for Improving Client Satisfaction and the Economics of Legal Services By Aileen Leventon

page 1

Legal Project Management: A Framework for Improving Client Satisfaction and Economics of Legal Services

By Aileen Leventon1 Law firms and legal departments are moving quickly to compensate for a gap in lawyer trainingskills in managing how legal work is done. Legal education focuses primarily on substantive legal skills. Topics such as marketing, client relationship management and law firm economics have crept into the continuing legal education curriculum as those skills became more important to the commercial success of law firms.

The essential new skill is managing legal work; getting it done is no longer good enough. With clients refusal to pay for work deemed inefficient or excessive, it is critical for lawyers to concur on the scope of work and to execute well. Leave-no-stone unturned is not synonymous with quality. Legal project management (LPM) is a framework for analyzing and communicating about legal work as it is initiated, planned, carried out, monitored, completed and evaluated to improve lawyers overall effectiveness.
First Principles

To lay the groundwork, consider the following first principles with respect to law practice:

1. Legal work is undertaken to achieve a clients business goal; it is not a professional pursuit in a vacuum. 2. The clients goaland the importance of itanchors decision-making in handling the matter and the legal strategy.

3. Although lawyers serve a critical advisory role, other stakeholders requirements and objectives are usually foremost.

4. How the work is done is almost as important to clients as results; substantive skill is assumed when a client retains a lawyer or firm.

the application of business principles and practices to law practice and client satisfaction. She founded QLex in 2006 after serving as a partner at Blaqwell Inc., a law firm strategy consulting firm, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and nearly 20 years of law practice. She was a transaction lawyer with litigation management experience in New York City at both an AMLaw 50 firm and a leading financial services organization. She is a graduate of Columbia Business School, Cornell Law School and Stony Brook University. Among her other activities as a member of the Bar, she is participating the ABA Task Force on Legal Project Management in Transactions.
2012 QLex Consulting Inc. www.qlexconsulting.com Cell: (917) 860-7043 aileen@qlexconsulting.com August 2012

1 Aileen Leventon, JD, MBA, is President and Founder of QLex Consulting Inc., an organization that focuses on

Legal Project Management: A Framework for Improving Client Satisfaction and the Economics of Legal Services By Aileen Leventon

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These principles point directly to the need for communication among those involved. But communicate to whom about what and to what end? The response to this question is core to LPM. In a profession focused on the quality of the analysis, soft skills like ongoing communication about work process are marginalized. In fact, they are essential. LPM provides a framework and tools for identifying what needs to be communicated and then acting on it.
Threshold Questions for Communication

5. Cost matters: the resources applied to legal work must be in proportion to the benefits and risks inherent in the effort; it must conform to the clients measure of value.

Every matter involves a team of people with different roles and responsibilities. Its composition may be as complex as a multi-office team with partners, associates, paralegals and assistants from different practice groups, or as simple as a lawyer and a client. Each participant should understand the context for the matter at a level of detail commensurate with his or her role. In a well-managed matter, team members should be able to answer the following questions: 1. WHY are we handling this matter for this client? WHY is it important to the client? What is the business goal of the legal work? 2. WHAT work will accomplish the goal and what work will specifically not be done?

4. WHO is involved in the work and what are their roles and responsibilities? Who is responsible for the actual work, who supports that person, and who must be consulted or informed about status and decisions? 5. HOW do we manage the work based on constraints and requirements such as budget, strategic importance, client mandates or risk management protocols?

3. WHEN must work be done and in what sequence? What are the hard deadlines, and what timing is uncertain or dependent on unknowns?

2012 QLex Consulting Inc.

LPM calls for a communications plan to address, revisit, test, and report on the answers to the threshold questions. Change is inherent in the nature of legal work. As a matter
www.qlexconsulting.com Cell: (917) 860-7043 aileen@qlexconsulting.com

With a communications plan, client sensitivities and risks to successful execution may be addressed more effectively. Consider the current norm: the client says go, and roles, responsibilities, goals, strategies, assumptions, deadlines and budgets are clarifiedor noton the run. Panic followed by triage is the response when the client expresses concern about the quality of management or challenges fees or billing practices.

August 2012

Legal Project Management: A Framework for Improving Client Satisfaction and the Economics of Legal Services By Aileen Leventon

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progresseswhether it is a transaction, litigation or any other matternew facts, circumstances and legal issues emerge. The prevalence of uncertainty and unknowns have led lawyers to deem planning impracticalor to abandon plans in the face of change. LPM keeps bringing the team back to a shared planning framework to confirm working assumptions about the matter. The discipline and structure of the communication plan reduces surprises and unnecessary work while protecting the matters economics and fee structures. It fosters a shared understanding among all key participants.
Constraints of Legal Projects

Throughout the matter, constant communication is necessary to balance the interrelationship among the constraints inherent in all projects: scope, cost and time. In legal work the constraints are: 1. The scope of matter, based on the clients and other stakeholders goals 2. The people or other resources (such as technology and budgets) required to do the work; and 3. Deadlines to complete the work, whether imposed by a client or a third party such as a court.

If any of these constraints is initially fixed and then changes, then LPM requires deliberate adaptation of the other elements to that change. For example, if the scope is well defined and the time for completion of the work is determined by the clients business requirements (such as the fiscal year), then the lawyer has to deploy an appropriate level of resources to achieve the clients goal within the timeframe. When scope changes, the team needs to understand the impact on the time constraint and whether the resources are appropriate for the matters economics. And when the scope and time both change, what is the impact on cost? An ongoing communication plan with a client reduces surprises. Think how often a law firm renders a bill reflecting higher-than-expected resources deployed to achieve the agreed-upon scope of work within the clients time frame. Informal communication should never be replaced with bureaucratic formality, but specific tools at each phase of a matter keeps team members and clients aligned.

2012 QLex Consulting Inc.

www.qlexconsulting.com Cell: (917) 860-7043 aileen@qlexconsulting.com

August 2012

Legal Project Management: A Framework for Improving Client Satisfaction and the Economics of Legal Services By Aileen Leventon

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Communication Tools

LPM recognizes six broad phases of a matter: Initiation/Engagement; Launch; Monitoring; Revision/Refinement; Close; and After-Action Review. Consider the relevance of the following eight tools as a basis for communication during the different phases of a matter. Tools useful at the Launch phase and during the subsequent Revise/Refinement Phases:

1. Kick Off Meeting: To set the tone for the management of the work, go over the team leaders/partners discussions with the client about the goals and objectives for the matter, the legal work that needs to be done and the ground rules for how the core legal team will function and relate to the client. 2. Scoping Tool: To identify stakeholders, objectives, constraints, assumptions and work necessary to complete the project.

Tools useful during the Monitor and Refinement Phases during which the Scope, Work Plan and Time Line may have to be adjusted: 5. Status Reports: These are templates and plans to ensure that team members and the client are informed, aligned, and aware of changed circumstances and/or that efforts are on track to achieve the clients goals within cost, time and resource constraints. 6. Client Communication Checklist: Who will communicate about what to whom?

4. Time Line: To set out the schedule, sequence, milestones and dependencies and to serve as a crosscheck again the Work Plan and working assumptions reflected in the Scoping Tool.

3. Work Plan: To outline the broad categories of legal work to be done and identify the people who are responsible and otherwise involved. It should be updated as the action items for team members change significantly, particularly at the beginning of a new phase of work (e.g., after making a motion for summary judgment in a litigation; at the start and completion of due diligence in a transaction).

When will communication occur? (Weekly; quarterly; daily)

How will communication take place? (E-mail, meetings, conference calls).


www.qlexconsulting.com Cell: (917) 860-7043 aileen@qlexconsulting.com August 2012

2012 QLex Consulting Inc.

Legal Project Management: A Framework for Improving Client Satisfaction and the Economics of Legal Services By Aileen Leventon

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Tools useful during the Close and After-Action Review phase to assess how the matter evolved and constraints were managed, and to document lessons learned: 7. Closing Report: To compare the outcome to the original scope of work and to acknowledge how and why plans changed.

An After-Action Review or Debrief is most effective if the participants know they will be doing it at the outset of the matter. Nevertheless, even if no other tools are used, great benefits may be derived from a well-structured Debrief that reflects on lessons learned and how they will be shared and syndicated. LPM tools should be simple and practical and adapted for each matter and team. They should be calibrated to address the interrelationship among the constraints of scope, cost and time for the particular matter.
Conclusion

8. After-Action Review / Agenda: To identify the successful elements of the matter management and those that could be improved.

How many lawyers lament that others expect them to read minds or that they dont understand the context of what they are doing or how their work will be used? How many clients are surprised by how long the work takes, the demands on them, and the circumstances that drive the cost of the work? Legal project management is the communication and analytical framework that allows lawyers to apply their legal know-how with greater focus on context and client service to improve the satisfaction with and economics of legal services.

2012 QLex Consulting Inc.

www.qlexconsulting.com Cell: (917) 860-7043 aileen@qlexconsulting.com

August 2012