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Seven books to help you with legal project management

I regularly get asked to recommend resources about legal project management (LPM).  Here is a run through of some books I think you will find most useful.

1. Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century, Mitch Kowalski

I love this book.  It’s an easy and engaging read.  At 155 pages long (main text) you can probably get through it in a week-end.  I did anyway.  It is fair to say the book was something of an internet sensation amongst legal bloggers when it first came out.  The book was published in the UK in October 2012, but had been available in the USA before then.  (I have interviewed Mitch about his book and you can read the interview here).

The book is about a fictional law firm, named BFC, and how that firm does things.  Although a work of fiction, many of the business practices described in the book are being done, at least to some extent, by some traditional law firms and new market entrants.

At the heart of BFC’s legal service delivery sits legal project management, located alongside excellent knowledge management, IT systems and staff training.  Readers will quickly understand where LPM fits into law firm operations and begin to understand what it takes to make LPM work effectively for lawyers and clients alike.

The book is not about LPM per se.  It covers a lot more ground than that: no less than how law firms of the (near) future may look and feel in operation.

2. Legal Project Management, Pricing and Alternative Fee Arrangements – What Firms Are Doing, Jim Hassett (2013)

This book is written by Jim Hassett, a well-known legal project management consultant based in the USA.  I have previously reviewed this book, so I won’t dwell too much on it again here.  Suffice to say the book does what it says on its cover.  It provides an illuminating snapshot of LPM being applied, with pricing particularly in mind, by some US based law firms.

It seems to me that LPM is still taken more seriously in the USA than in the UK, or indeed anywhere else.  There certainly appears to be more of an ‘LPM industry’ in the USA than  anywhere else.  Hence finding out what US law firms are doing re LPM and AFA’s is a very worthwhile, regardless of your jurisdiction.

3. Implementing Value Pricing – A Radical Model For Professional Firms, Ron Baker (2011)

This is another book which is not about LPM per se.  In fact it is not solely about law firms and legal services either, although both feature prominently.  This book is about value pricing.  It is written with passion and has lots of detail, including a step-by-step guide about how to implement value pricing.  I think every lawyer and business development professional in law firms would profit (literally!) by reading this book.

Ron points out that the need to apply effective project management is not necessarily tied to pricing.  Project management is ‘simply a table stake of operating an effective organisation’.  That said, applying good project management practices become absolutely vital when considering value pricing.  Project management allows price setters to exert greater control over the service they are delivering.  If you want to understand in more detail how value pricing (perhaps the most radical form of AFA) and project management can be applied effectively, then read this book.

4. Tomorrow’s  Lawyers – An Introduction to Your Future, Richard Susskind (2012)

I have been lucky enough to work with Richard and count him as a friend (we first met about 25 years ago).  My bookshelf has all of Richard’s earlier books and of course I have heard him deliver talks on many occasions.  All of which should take me firmly out of the book’s intended target readership: young lawyers and perhaps more experienced practitioners who are not familiar with Richard’s previous work.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this is not the case.  I soon realised that Richard’s latest book is not solely a collection and distillation of his earlier work.  There is much food for thought here, including a call to arms to all younger lawyers who are urged to ‘forge new paths for the law’.

Richard is a very perceptive observer of trends within the legal services industry and he has long been advising lawyers to embrace change.  As part of this, he has been an advocate of legal project management and the need for improved project management training for lawyers.  Given his previous track record, I have little doubt that in future more lawyers will seek to acquire many of the non-legal skills he identifies in this book (which include, but are not limited to, project management).

5. Legal Project Management: Control Costs, Meet Schedules, Manage Risks and Maintain Sanity, Steven B. Levy (2009).

Steven is another US based legal project management trainer and consultant.  His book, the first to note and promote the concept of legal project management, is an introductory text about how to implement LPM.  Much of the book is based on an exploration of the standard waterfall model of project management where projects are split into stages.  The stages are listed here as: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Delivery and Evaluation.  There is also a chapter introducing Lean Six Sigma.  I also particularly liked the chapter about LPM training and coaching, which contains the observation that ‘what good trainers do is not teaching; rather, they facilitate learning’.

It is testament to the pace of change in the legal services industry that a book published in 2009 now feels a little dated in terms of content and approach.  The book seems to be aimed at lawyers but most often those now charged with the task of implementing LPM tend to be non-lawyer professionals (such as knowledge management and business development staff).  I should also point out that the book is not without some idiosyncrasies, such as a rather unusual layout and Shakespearian epigrams on practically every page.

Nevertheless, despite its idiosyncrasies and relative old age, this book still provides a very useful introduction to the principles of legal project management for all those with an interest in the subject.

Book Six on the way

Pam Woldow, another well-known US legal project management consultant, has also had a book about legal project management published recently.  Co-authored with Doug Richardson, the book is called ‘Legal Project Management in One Hour for Lawyers’.

I have not read this book yet but I plan to just as soon as I can.  From the short excerpt I have read online I note the authors express admiration for an Agile approach.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I too am a fan of Agile legal project management, so I am particularly looking forward to reading this book.

Book Seven: Anticipating Client Need – How to Improve Legal Service Delivery

I have written a free E-book about legal project management called ‘Anticipating Client Need – How to Improve Legal Service Delivery’.  This is designed to be a very quick read, with some practical quick tips about how to start implementing legal project management.  If you have not done so yet, why not download a copy?  You will also receive a series of emails explaining how legal project management can support improved pricing practices, help drive process improvements and lead to productivity gains.

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