July 2015

Pam Woldow and Doug Richardson penned a terrific post, Top 5 Bad Excuses for Resisting Legal Project ManagementI wanted to compliment them and share some thoughts on the 5 excuses.

1. My clients don’t want or need LPM. 

I had to laugh when I read this.  Most lawyers who talk about what their clients don’t want have never asked the client directly.  They simply infer this viewpoint from the fact the client hasn’t insisted on use of LPM.  I mean, really.  Try to imagine this conversation.

Lawyer:   Would you like us to do your work efficiently, in an order that made sense, and was within agreed-upon budgets?

Client:   Absolutely not. I won’t stand for it. If you operate efficiently and bill me less, I will fire you.

To quote one of the great philosophers of our time, Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does.”

2.  If we are efficient, we won’t make as much money. (And the corollary: if we are efficient, we won’t be able to meet our annual hours requirement.)

This, of course, fits in perfectly with the “my clients don’t want this” excuse.  At least people who mouth this excuse are being honest about why they are stealing from their clients.  But this is a stark illustration of the failed business model that most law firms cling to.  Try to imagine this excuse being used in any other profession or business.

3.  I’ve practiced the way I do for decades, and I’m not going to change now.

The blather illustrates why the eight worst words in the English language are “because that’s the way I’ve done it before.”  Being so closed-minded is not an attribute, it is an indictment.  I only hope these lawyers have the courage to say this in front of their clients, who would be fired if they uttered this excuse.

4.  All my matters are unique, and LPM imposes a bunch of lockstep protocols that will standardize all legal work and devalue my legal judgment.

I’ve referred to this excuse as the “we’re special” excuse.  Want a list of highly customized work reliant on project management for successful execution.  Instead of proclaiming how special you are, perhaps you should just wear this.

Stupid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  LPM is all about monitoring and metrics, and my mamma didn’t raise me to be a math major.  Also, LPM will impose a whole new learning curve and add a ton of additional work to my already overburdened schedule.

This person is the first cousin of the person in no. 4.  It is, apparently, a shared trait that they don’t give damn about their clients need.

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The tragedy is not that there are people who use these excuses, providing so much fodder for Pam and Doug to write their posts. The tragedy is this thinking, expressed or not, reflects the views of a substantial majority of lawyers.

I just read something that made me say “wow, that is soooo wrong.”  Out loud.  Here is what I read (from Today’s General Counsel, Jun/Jul 2015, p. 42:

Compounding the problem is the fact that most complex cases are unique. An estimate based on past experiences may not be applicable. Furthermore, litigation is unpredictable and the party trying to budget does not have complete control. [I thought this excuse was banned in the 1990s, but the author apparently did not get the memo.]….

The most meaningful budget is one that attempts to identify every project that might be involved in a case, each member of the team that may be involved in each project, and the estimated hours for each team member.  These hours can then be multiplied by the team member’s billing rate and then added together to develop the budget.

If litigation is so unpredictable, how can it be predictable enough to identify every project that might be involved in the case? Litigation might be predictable at the periphery, but that does not make it too unpredictable to plan and budget accurately.  That’s the benefit of experience.  But peel the layers back a bit more.  How accurate is it to list a project that “might be involved”? How accurately can you estimate the number of hours involved for each supposed project? Do you even know the amount of the hourly rates over the lifespan of the matter (because a firm that would budget like this would certainly believe it is entitled to raise rates annually)?

Of course, the author’s answer to these problems is to “adjust” the budget.  Changing the budget then allows you to declare victory when your final spend is in the same ballpark as your adjusted budget.  But this kind of “budgeting” does not work well with in-house budgets.  In-house budgets rarely benefit from the elasticity the author assumes is available in his suggested process.

Pricing and budgeting today is much more nuanced and sophisticated, and clients have seen far past the unpredictability excuse that served for too long as a litigator’s mantra.