Smart Projex for Law Firms
Who I am and why you should listen to me
I didn’t start out trying to build a legal project management tool. I started out as a businessperson, who has worn a lot of hats – from an executive to a volunteer, and at times, a frustrated project manager. I’ve also been married to a litigator for many blissful years. I know how lawyers think. I know what makes projects succeed. I know what your clients want.
How my years of frustration as a project manager could transform your law firm
- I spent those years trying to understand what was really important and why I was so frustrated.
- I learned a secret about project management that few others seem to have discovered.
- I’m ready to share that secret with you.
How certain projects, such as legal matters, are different and why that’s important
There are some HUGE differences between projects in a machine economy and projects in a knowledge economy. Said differently, writing briefs, appellate filings, bond documents, marketing copy, hiring procedure manuals, or software code are very different activities from laying bricks, installing concrete, hanging sheetrock, or manufacturing widgets. DUH! YET, many companies and law firms are using the exact same tool to schedule their projects and legal matters that contractors use. It’s called a Gantt chart – and it just won’t work well to schedule your projects. To watch a quick video that explains why, click here.
How Smart Projex is different
WE FOCUS ON FOUR AREAS THAT MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Whether it means anchoring your projects to a compelling “why?” or defining what your client really wants, a smart start improves your finish.
Using Agile practices, Smart Projex helps build more effective teams that rapidly deliver value and reduce costs without sacrificing profits.
We focus on results, rather than resources, because you work in a rapidly changing world where people can’t always commit to schedules.
Our distinctive approach to estimating time, talent, materials, & progress provides more reliable analytics to improve your decision making.
Are these 7 statements true at your law firm?
- Your lawyers want to practice law, not wrestle with schedules and resource management. In fact, most of your lawyers don’t even know what resource management is.
- Your lawyers cannot commit to any schedule of availability (which is needed if you are going to manage resources in a Gantt chart).
- Your clients want to know the cost. And they want you to manage the costs. They may not call it project management, but that’s what it is. Some want alternative pricing arrangements. Some want to do everything in their power to reduce costs. You can’t afford to sacrifice firm profitability just because your clients want to manage costs.
- Your clients have differing communication needs. Some want frequent status reports. Others want to meet with you. Some would be willing to engage on a dashboard (if you had one). Others, want periodic phone calls. And when any legal matter “goes south,” communication needs can change.
- Your project scope can change frequently. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a piece of litigation that suddenly takes a turn because of a court ruling, or an IT project to implement a task/billing code enhancement. You work in a rapidly changing world and you need the flexibility to adapt to change.
- You are thinking hard about how to retain your sharpest younger people (millennials) and they don’t seem to have the same loyalty as your senior people. They are much more technologically savvy and you are wondering if you can capitalize on that and provide them earlier leadership opportunities at the same time.
- You have limited dollars to invest in project management training or software and you need to make it count. You’re wondering if you need to hire some certified project managers to assist your lawyers. You’re not crazy about that idea because few project managers understand the practice of law.
Introducing Smart Projex for Law Firms
FIVE REASONS OUR CLOUD-BASED SOFTWARE METHODOLOGY WORKS
- It reduces write-offs by using strong and ongoing scope management.
Regardless of whether the work is a legal matter or a firm administrative project, both of which can be tracked in Smart Projex, managing the scope of work requires constant vigilance.Part of the reason for this is the nature of intelligence. Smart people get together and bright ideas surface. That’s a great problem to have, but it makes managing scope challenging and important.Smart Projex uses forms that clarify scope early and a change management process that is used to document and analyze all subsequent changes.
- It balances the need for both project and knowledge management.
Historically, senior partners have famously retained massive amounts of legal knowledge in their heads, some being more willing to share that knowledge than others.Requiring these senior partners to document that knowledge in automated tools is a cultural challenge.Using Smart Projex on legal matters, a senior attorney manages the knowledge piece, while a junior lawyer or paralegal manages project details, such as risks, costs, issues, and lessons learned.The software provides great leadership opportunities for younger lawyers or paralegals, through an intuitive interface, process guides, and help screens. Little specific project training is needed.
- It uses time blocking to achieve a flexible schedule.
Gantt chart scheduling software (such as Microsoft Project) fails when time, materials, costs, and progress cannot be reliably estimated.Smart Projex uses a time-blocking approach (a fancy word for what your lawyers are probably already doing, intuitively) to scheduling, providing the flexibility to change course frequently and including client attendance at effectively structured team meetings.
- It focuses on results management and delivering value to the client.
The traditional project management approach to managing resources does not work well when people work on multiple projects, have little control over their schedule, or can’t or won’t commit to being available at certain times.Smart Projex moves the focus from resource management to results management. On legal matters, the focus is on creating client value during every time block.
- It reduces fee surprises and enhances cost management.
Clients want to know what matters are going to cost. They hate surprise billings.We improve fee predictability and project success by using a project breakdown approach that focuses on clearly defining what is needed for each major activity. We identify and analyze activity risks, determine what quality level the client is willing to pay for, and estimate the complexity of work needed before developing a budget.With activity level task codes and money level general ledger codes, Smart Projex can build data on costs, revenues, profitability, effectiveness, results delivered, and process flows.Project templates can be saved for future use. With the focus on documentation, knowledge gaps are reduced, making future planning more cost efficient.
Legal Project Management Resources:
SmartBlog: How to Achieve an Agile Execution on Your Legal Projects
SmartBlog: Start Smart if You Want to Improve Legal Matter Management
SmartBlog: Is Improving Legal Matter Management Really That Hard?
SmartBlog: Why We Need to Rethink Resource Management
SmartBlog: Six Conversations to Have When You are Estimating Complex Projects
SmartBlog: Five Tips For Determining Project Costs
SmartBlog: A Four-Step Approach to Legal Quality Management
SmartBlog: Why Law Firm Data Analytics Matter; Nov. 12, 2015
SmartBlog: Legal Project Management: Why We Need to Expand the Definition; Nov. 5, 2015
SmartBlog: Five Six Sigma Lessons for a Knowledge Economy; Oct. 15, 2015
Should Lawyers be Project Managers? by Susan Raridon Lambreth; Thomson Reuters – Legal Executive Institute; July 15, 2015
The Human Barrier to LPM Technology: Will Lawyers Get to the Future? by Pam Woldow & Doug Richardson;
Video: Why Gantt Charts Don’t Work Well on Business (or for that matter, legal) Projects; Mar., 2015
The Art and Science of Legal Project Management; by Allen W. Nelson and David A. Rueff; The National Law Journal; February 9, 2015
Legal Project Management: Prepare for Changes in the Practice of Law; Presented by the American Bar Association and Center for Professional Development; 2014
Is this the death of hourly rates at law firms? by Catherine Ho; Washington Post; April 13, 2014
The Billable Hour Is Dead. Long Live . . .; by Robert E. Hirshon; ABA Publication; GP Solo; Jan./Feb. 2013
SmartBlog: Top Ten Suggestions for Implementing Legal Project Management; Sep 16, 2012
The Eureka Moment: How six Big Law firms stopped dithering and learned to love legal project management; Aug., 2012
Legal Project Management in the Trenches: What Lawyers Are Doing Today to Increase Efficiency; Contributors: Jim Hassett, LegalBizDev, and Jonathan Groner; Bloomberg Law; October 6, 2011
Efficiency Movement: Jim Hassett discusses how law firms are developing their approaches to legal project management; Managing Partner; July/Aug. 2011