Project Conception, Implementation and Recovery
I sometimes get asked if I can help law firms with some hands-on legal project management services.
The firms asking tend to be Small and Medium sized (SME) law firms. Recognizing that practice development activity should be run as ‘projects’ is great, but often there is a shortage of skilled and experienced staff to run projects properly.
I help legal service organisations understand where their client service and productivity issues lie.
This is most frequently done via in-house workshops which I facilitate.
The workshops themselves are interesting and of course it takes project management skills to make sure they too are run properly.
Too many legal service organisations have spent time and effort conducting process improvement workshops of various kinds and have nothing positive to show for it.
The most frequent reason for this is that the implementation side of things is not run as a project in its own right. Moreover even where it is realised this needs to be the case, the person appointed to act as project manager often continues to try to do their ‘day job’, with the inevitable consequence that the change project work gets sidelined.
Implementing change is hard in any event and SME law firms often find that appointing an external project manager helps keep everyone focused about what needs to be done to change.
Most often the projects I get asked to help with are connected with legal I.T upgrades and implementation.
Acting as an interim or part-time project management consultant I usually do something like the following:
- Assess and report (baseline) where the firm is at present with its I.T.
- Once the baseline is established I then assess how far the firm can move forward in the short-term without too much business upheaval. Obviously, law firms are busy with day-to-day client work and the essential short-term priority is to ensure business runs as usual.
- If it is then decided the firm needs to consider software available on the market I act as analyst / researcher, identifying what the firm needs and what options are available to satisfy those needs.
- Then I assist with supplier selection, acting as an intermediary between senior law firm staff and suppliers (it still amazes me at how poorly suppliers communicate with lawyers)
- Finally, I plan system roll-out and implementation which involves working constructively with all key stakeholders: lawyers, support staff and suppliers.
As a former practising solicitor and I.T software developer and project manager, my particular strengths lie in assessing law firm needs then identifying and implementing the most appropriate legal I.T systems to meet those needs.
In practice this means working with:
Practice Management Systems
Legal Workflow Systems
Legal Data Analytics
Legal Project Management Systems
Legal Expert Systems and Legal A.I (I started off my legal I.T career as a legal expert system developer).
I have experience of working on both sides of the table. I have worked for legal software suppliers and in law firm I.T departments. I know how legal I.T procurement should be done and I help all stakeholders focus on the issues that really matter.
I sometimes get asked to review failing projects and see how they can be recovered and put back on-track.
This also tends to happen most often in connection with I.T. projects.
When attempting to recover failing projects I begin by holding discussions with key stakeholders to understand what has gone awry. Usually no-one is to blame as such, its just that the work required to implement a project successfully has been under-estimated or perhaps there has been a shortfall in the skills and experience required to complete successfully.
Often the reason for any project breakdown lies with communications. With regards I.T projects my first instinct is to act as a communications bridge between supplier and purchaser to see if the project can indeed be recovered before needing to go to market again (as outlined in the section above).
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