Monday, March 26, 2012

Modal LPM

When you talk to hard-core project managers, one of the tell-tale signs of their 'school' of LPM is what language they use to describe their process and one of the hardest things for some PM's to acquiesce to is the short-comings of their school.  From my experience, there's no perfect PM  methodology, each has great characteristics, but each has flaws.  The ideal LPM program is derived not from one methodology (PMBOK, Scrum, Agile, Waterfall, Prince, etc), but by cherry picking the best from each. 

Once you've done that, you'll need to consider how to apply to your new LPM methods, taking into account that different types of matters will  require different levels of LPM rigor.   Adding another layer of complexity is that once you've defined what level of rigor is attached to each matter type, you'll likely have to factor in 'modal LPM', for lack of a better phrase.  This is to say that even within a given matter, you're going to need to further refine your LPM efforts based on matter velocity - you'll need to have different modes for different phases of a matter.  For example, perhaps you're working on a litigation matter that is going to last a couple years.  You may reach phases where the case is somewhat dormant and meeting monthly might be perfectly acceptable.  But, at certain points, you may need to transition into what Scrum practitioners refer to as a "Daily stand-up."  Key point is to be flexible in your approach, but base your flexibility on a foundation that allows for that. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

LPM, Lawyers and Project Managers

A 4 year college degree, plus 2-3 years of work experience and class work (4,500 hours to be exact), on-going education needed to maintain your standing, and passing a brutal 4 hour - 200 question entrance exam (that has created a cottage industry for exam prep). 

What does this sound like? No, it's not a newly proposed format for earning your JD.  It's the requirements to achieve the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, but as you can see earning this certification is not trivial.

But listening to some of the banter about LPM lately, what does seem to be somewhat trivialized is a lawyer's ability to Vulcan mind-meld this amount of experience and education in a few training sessions and come out a good project manager suitable of carrying forward a firm's LPM program goals. Does one need to earn a PMP to be a competent PM?  Certainly not, but on the flip side is it realistic to expect someone to go through a few hours of training and be good at something that others do as a career? Can they learn the basics and become conversant on the topic with clients, certainly. Can some absorb it all and instantly integrate the teachings into their daily practice - it's possible, but not likely and certainly not likely on a firmwide level. We already have lawyers doing enough jobs, some of which you could argue they aren't ideally suited for, so why do we add on this to the list?

We are already seeing firms get smart about this and leave certain jobs to the pros, take pricing for example.  There are at least 12 large firms with dedicated pricing professionals, people with finance backgrounds, very few of whom are lawyers.  My firm, Vinson & Elkins, Bracewell, Fish & Richardson,  Baker McKenzie, Bryan Cave, Goodwin Proctor, Dechert, King & Spalding, Ogletree, Mayer Brown and Winston all have groups like this - with more on the way.  We saw the first 'non-lawyer' CEO hired this year at Pepper Hamilton (by the way, can we come up with something better than 'non-lawyer'?).  The point is, I believe there's a trend where law firms are starting to realize that there are better ways to fill these roles - PM should be viewed similarly.

Some lawyers argue that they already do project management and have no need to be trained. Tell that to the litany of folks that have been involved in large projects (IT projects, office moves, insert 'big project here') where the people PM themselves and the ones with a dedicated PM - there's no comparison. People that have experienced what a well trained, experienced PM can bring to the table know the difference, the problem is that many lawyers have never gone through the experience - they don't know what they don't know. 

Sometimes when I'm posed with challenging business issues, I like to look outside legal and see what our counterparts in other related verticals are doing, as I tend to think they take more 'business minded' approaches to things.  Interesting that when I did a search in LinkedIn for the title 'project manager' Accenture, Deloitte, KPMG and E&Y cumulatively have over 1,000 people currently in this role. They can't all be doing internal PM on IT projects and office moves....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Observations from Computerworld's Premier 100 Conference

It was quite a wake up call to attend a conference outside of legal and I was certainly woken up on several occasions at the Premier 100 conference put on by Computerworld Magazine. When you're in the same room with companies that have an IT budget that exceeds (gulp) 1 billion dollars, I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore. It was awkward to walk around and not know many people, but I did manage to find Melvin Evins (an ILTA member), the only other person from a law firm that won an award.

There were a ton of good sessions and while not all of them were always relevant to law firm IT or KM, I did take away some interesting concepts:

Ken Korless, Executive Director, Business Applications, from Accenture:
They espouse a fail cheap/fail often mentality. This is not to say they want failure on major projects, 'cheap' meaning that it be low in both cost and risk.

One of his right hand folks is actually tasked with having 10 failed ideas/projects a year. Again, these aren't failures on major projects, but smaller ideas. Their goal is that if they push the envelope and fail, through those efforts, they will hit a home run.

The acceptance of 'cheap' failure, they claim, helps drive innovation and creativity with the IT group at Accenture.

An example of a cheap idea that took off was a simple application they created based on an idea from within Google. Google has this tool that let's you see how many people were hired after you and then gives you a percentage, the higher the percentage the more people were hired after you. Because of the hiring pace at Google, people were interested in where they stood. Accenture IT thought this might be interesting as well, they built it within a very short window (less than a week) and didn't do much to advertise it internally. Within the first month, it was one of the most frequently accessed applications around the globe.

Bruce Michelson from HP: (view presentation)
IT standards should not be unilateral, but based on role. Investment in innovation (however they define innovation at HP) delivers a 30% ROI, while investment in infrastructure delivers an 8-10% ROI

Author and former CIO of EDS, Frito-Lay and Delta Airlines, Charley Feld (view presentation)

  • IT has advanced, but the common language between IT and management hasn't

  • Innovation can't happen in a 3 year cycle, you need to deliver it now

  • The CIO role should stand for Chief Integration Officer, with a focus on end-user intimacy and global leverage

  • Many IT organizations play not to lose, rather than playing to win.

Glenn Noga, CIO from Polycom:
A slight sales pitch as Polycom was one of the sponsors, but still a few interesting tidbits
They are delivering new technology that will cut the bandwidth needed for good video conferencing by 50%, down to 512k. Polycom feels that they've finally got to the point with this breakthrough that desktop video conferencing is ready and won't be as huge a network burden as it has been in the past.

Looking ahead, he mentioned delivering a better experience through the 'communication ecosystem', which includes suppliers, partners and customers. He talked about establishing direct gateways with key suppliers to facilitate desktop based video conferencing. Interesting to think about how we could do the same thing with key clients to further foster relationships.

Jim Fortner, Vice President Information Technology Development & Operations from Proctor & Gamble: (view presentation)

  • Over 4,000 people and a 1 billion dollar budget in their IT organization, which they DON'T call IT, they call it IDS (Information, Decisions, Solutions).

  • I like their focus on decisions. We serve up all types of data, but what decisions or actions can we better facilitate?

  • They spend a lot of effort taking reports that senior management get in excel or in a list view and creating 'cockpits' which are very visual dashboards. These cockpits help drive decisions based on the data presented in a much better, faster way then the excel spreadsheets management used to get before

General observations

  • Since the conference was centered on innovation, lot's of ideas on how to drive innovation from within the organization. There may be existing people that are innovative, but have yet to be tapped into for that purpose. One group started using the Kolbe index to help gauge and indentify personalities that might best suited to help drive innovation. Kind of interesting to think about using that not only for your existing folks, but also during the interview process of potential candidates.
  • Lot's of talk about the new generation coming into the workforce and what changes need to be made to accommodate how they work and leverage their strengths. Many companies talked about building out better internal social networking tools for use within the company. Think of an internal version of Facebook. Accunture and Deloitte both have very popular and widely used systems like this. Seems corporate america is a bit more concerned about accomodating younger talent than law firms generally tend to.
  • Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Slogging is the new black

    Well, like most good New Years resolutions, one that I've been slowly getting around to is trying to get a few more posts on here. While I've stated that I'm retired from blogging, you all saw through that as my excuse for not being more diligent in posting. It'll probably be more like slogging (slow blogging) . Not sure I'll ever get on Twitter, I doubt most of you care what I had for lunch today, what the weather is like here in LA (if you're unsure, it's a good guess that it's 75 and sunny), or what I did over the weekend. Don't get me wrong, it's a great tool, but I'll have a hard enough time getting a post up here with any kind of regularity.

    Unlike the past, the posts you'll see from me won't go into great depths about what we're doing at the firm. Otherwise if I told you, I'd have to... well you get the idea. All kidding aside, I think we are on the cusp of a fundamental shift between what KM has been traditionally focused on and where we are headed. I'll save that rant for a separate post.

    Mostly, it will be much more boring thoughts and observations about the legal industry and general thoughts about how KM ties into all of it. To the extent that I hitchhike my way to a conference, I'll try and report back on what's discussed, as I realize many of us have uber-tight travel budgets these days.

    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Okay, so it's been a while..

    It's a good thing I don't try and make a living as a blogger, my time between posts has been quite long - which is a good indicator of how busy we've been here. While every firm is grappling with the change in the economy, that certainly hasn't slowed us down with the projects we're undertaking at the firm. The two biggies this year for us are our rollout of FileSite and our intranet project.

    You may have seen some press lately around our purchase of Recommind , ContactNetworks, and selecting XMLAW to help us with our intranet redesign effort. There's been a lot of discussion about our implementation of Microsoft CRM with the help of Client Profiles, which is being led by Victoria Gregory from our Marketing Department. She spoke at ILTA recently about the project. Having scars from my own CRM implementations, I'm confident that Victoria's approach to this rollout will lead us down a path of success.

    Speaking of ILTA, our own Lisa Gianakos represented Reed Smith as we took home 1st place in the annual MCC design competition co-hosted by Baker Robbins and Interwoven. Our approach was quite different than some firms and we got excellent ideas from this year's GearUp conference, especially looking at what Faegre & Benson had done.

    Powerful search changes the game dramatically. For those firms about to embark on an MCC project, your design should account for how people will organize/retrieve work product now that Interwoven has included the Vivisimo product with their core line-up. One partner at my last firm made the statement, "If I have good search, wouldn't I just need a folder for e-mail and one for documents?" While that may sound far fetched, it certainly got me thinking about the actual need for the granular level of folders we've seen in the past. In fact Justin North, of Janders Dean International, worked with Gilbert+Tobin to design their MCC implementation with something this simple in mind. While not a new trend, per se, I do think we're seeing more firms look at a clean, simple design.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Slow your roll on outsourcing?

    In an interesting twist, a Bethesda, MD firm has filed a suit in Federal court claiming that law firms who outsourcing their legal support services overseas could be jeopardizing their client confidentiality. This story was picked up by several news sources, including

    The main point of contention is that once the data leaves the US, the privacy privileges we enjoy go out the water and even claims the US Government might go out of its way to run surveillance on the data:

    "It seeks this declaration knowing that foreign nationals who reside overseas lack Fourth Amendment protections," says the firm's complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. "It seeks this declaration having been informed ... that the United States government engages in pervasive surveillance of electronically transmitted data."

    To add more fuel to the fire, the lawsuit names President George W. Bush as a co-defendant along with Acumen Legal Services of India and its U.S. subsidiary, Acumen Solutions of Houston, Texas.

    I'm not an attorney, so I certainly don't have a legal opinion on this, but it certainly is something I hadn't considered before and is worth following.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Live from GearUp 2008

    So far this is been pretty informative. Guy Kawasaki kicked off the morning in the Keynote, if you've not heard Guy speak before, he's fantastic. Later in the morning there was a panel comprised of CIO/IT Directors from a range of firms, including Ashurt from the UK. No surprises, everyone was still very much challenged with how to manage e-mail. In a room with well over 100 people, only 3 hands went up when the moderator asked who had 75% or higher of adoption for e-mail filing. After lunch there were several breakout streams, I sat in the on the Business Strategy track where Neil Araujo and Rafiq Mohmmadi outlined the product roadmap for the next 12-18 months, including their discussions around version 9, code named 'Meritage'. Much like the fine wine that blends the best from many grapes, Interwoven's version 9 purports to be a totally new platform, leveraging a SAAS model, which they hope will allow them to extend their product line to smaller firms that have traditionally found the implementation a barrier to entry. The last session was conducted by Jerome Pesenti, Chief Scientist at Vivisimo, the makers of Interwoven's new enterprise class search product. In true scientific form, Jerome quickly went through a myriad of slides, it would have been nice to see a live demo, but I think the audience certainly is interested in seeing more.

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    Introducing the new Director of Knowledge Management at Reed Smith

    Thanks to all of you who either referred someone you knew, or applied for the position directly. We had a TON of interest in the position and there were many fine applicants.

    I'm pleased to announce that Lisa Kellar has accepted our offer and will join Reed Smith in May. We are extremely lucky to be able to bring in someone of Lisa's caliber and experience.

    Thursday, February 28, 2008

    Director of Knowledge Management opportunity

    For those interested, I am looking to bring in a right hand person to do "km stuff" :) Major initiatives this year include a MOSS rollout, Recommind installation, Interwoven/MCC deployment and a few other things I could tell you, but then I'd have to.. well you know how that goes. [UPDATE] A couple of points to address now, based on some of the questions I've gotten:
    • Although I'm based in LA, the preference is to have someone based in either Chicago, NY, DC, PHL, or PIT.
    • If you don't live in one of the cities where we have an office and are interested in the position, working from home or telecomuting aren't options. You'd need to be prepared to relocate.
    • If you're interested in the job, please e-mail your resume using the info below, don't email me directly as our HR folks have asked that everything go through them for tracking/reporting, etc. If you want me to know that you've applied, just cc me on the email.
    • The rollout of IWOV has already begun and both Recommind and MOSS are approved and FUNDED projects.
    • The is a Director level position and the compensation will be as such.

    Here's a link to the job description, if you're interested e-mail your resume to



    Thursday, February 21, 2008

    The Generational Divide..

    An interesting string started today on the ILTA listserves regarding the generational rift within IT Departments as reported in a recent article. This falls in line with what we're seeing in all corporations, especially in law firms.

    This also has an important impact on how technology is designed and how we go about training lawyers on technology. A great post by Doug Cornelius which discusses/defines the types of searches a lawyer conducts when looking for documents got me (abstractly) thinking more about this issue.

    As we get more focused on the needs of lawyers in our design of systems, the knee jerk reaction is often to build to the needs of the Partners and rightfully so. They are the ones that ultimately employ us and bring money in the door. On the flip side, there's the possibility that you are building systems based on the wrong user group, if for nothing else, because many partners won't bother using the technology - regardless of how great and user friendly it is. You often hear the term "building to the lowest common denominator", which is a nice way of saying that we'll build something so even our least tech-savvy lawyer can use it. But, is that the right approach? Will your least tech-savvy lawyer even bother trying out what ever system you have built and if so, what percentage of your lawyer population actually falls in that category? Furthermore, how much longer will that crop of lawyers be at the firm? Conversely, tailoring your systems to the needs of young, tech-savvy, Associates might also be a CLM (Career Limiting Move).

    Going back to Doug's post and thinking about some of the comments by my good friend Beau Mersereau, perhaps you do both and build systems around "where they live". When you build document retrieval systems, you focus on the needs of the Associates, as they are the ones most likely to use a system like that. Partner's aren't usually taking a first cut at a MSJ (motion for summary judgment), or being asked to dig up a buyer-friendly asset purchase agreement, it's the Associates. On the flip side, when looking at implementing a portal, or Outlook integration, Partners have a greater need to aggregate information from various locations than Associates do.

    Then you start looking at how we traditionally train lawyers. I'm still mystified at all the rollouts that rely on classroom training for lawyers. I guess we're all still stuck in the late 90's, when we could get lawyers to show up for classroom training for the WP to Word/DOS to Windows training. Ah, the days of watching people play Solitaire for hours on end while they "learned" to use a mouse.. That went out around the same time Pearl Jam stopped being popular, but we (much like Eddie Vedder) are holding hope that there are glory days still ahead of us.

    Partners don't have the time (or desire) to spend an hour learning the latest and greatest tool being rolled out and the misnomer that food will bring them in is also a joke. These guys make plenty of money, they can afford to pay for their own Quiznos sandwich. Associates are equally pressed for time and many of them feel that they can usually pick up whatever new software you put in front of them within minutes. Unlike their senior counterparts, they were practically born with a keyboard in their hand and dismiss the notion that they need training on most anything.

    This requires a shift in the way you deliver training to lawyers. This isn't to say that you stop all forms of classroom training, it's still a valuable tool - especially for staff. But, you can't rely on it as your only means of training the lawyers. Take the 1hr session and boil it down to what you can deliver in 10-15 minutes, usually the most relevant 5-10 features/functions that are critical for the lawyers to know. Walk the floors and make personal visits to every attorney armed with "Do you have 10 minutes for me to show you a new tool that might make your day a little easier?" Now, you're doing on their terms, in the comfort of their office and doing it in a timeframe that they'll accept. While this approach requires more people, time and effort, it's a sure fire way to optimize the acceptance and adoption of new tools.

    Anyone know people that would be interested in our new Firmwide Director of Records position?

    While this is in poor form, it's my blog and I can do what I please.. I guess :)

    In any event, this is a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor and be able to implement a new records system (Interwoven) along with new policies and procedures. We're also looking to go paperless, it's a very exciting opportunity for the right person. The person can be based in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh or DC. For more information look at the link below:

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    Meet the new CKO at Reed Smith...

    First and foremost I hope that everyone had a safe and fun Holiday season. For those of you that hadn't heard yet, I accepted the Chief Knowledge Officer position at Reed Smith effective January 7th. I've been in Pittsburgh this week to meet everyone here, it's been fantastic so far - everything I expected and more. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Sheppard Mullin and have fond memories, but I am really excited to begin working on all the various projects here at Reed Smith.

    I'll still be 'based' in Los Angeles, which is where I'll be getting mail and having dust collect in my office, I'll likely spend more time in the Friendly Skies on United for the next few months, so I'm not sure how much I'll be writing here. For those that will be attending LegalTech NY this year, I look forward to seeing you.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 article from Mark Gerow on implementing large-scale extranets with SharePoint

    Fenwick & West have long been on the SharePoint bandwagon and Fenwick's Mark Gerow has litterally written the book on SharePoint on extranets for a law firm. In this article, he covers the technical issues and the human element of building and rolling out an extranet with SharePoint:

    "In this article I'll discuss how Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (SharePoint) has been used at Fenwick & West to meet the challenge of making extranets available for each and every matter opened. I'll also cover the key issues that must be addressed in order to scale to thousands of extranets and terabytes of data. At the conclusion of this article you'll have a better idea of what can be accomplished with SharePoint at your firm, as well as a road map to get you started. "

    This is a great article for anyone interested in SharePoint, especially those thinking of using it as an extranet.

    Sheppard Mullin case study gets a 'top 17' nod from Microsoft

    What do BMW, MTV, Enterprise Rent A Car, Mary Kay Cosmectics and Sheppard Mullin all have in common? We're all listed on the official blog for Microsoft's SharePoint Product Group as having top case studies for MOSS. While it's nice that our case study is part of this group, it's actually really interesting to take a quick peek at the other case studies. We can learn a lot from folks outside of legal.

    Those of you looking to automate new hire intake will find MTVs case study of particular interest. They focused heavily on addressing many of the shortcomings for new hire intake and have found significant time and cost savings.

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    New site on the KM scene

    Every now and then, something comes along that is compelling to spend time with. Today I received an e-mail from Matthew Parsons with a link to his new site(co-authored by Neil Richards), Knowledge Thoughts. I'm hard pressed to classify it as a blog or a wiki, I suppose it really a bliki - combining elements of both. Here's Matthew's description of the site:

    "Today Neil Richards and I are delighted to launch, an open source resource for the KM and legal KM communities. This is a personal, collaborative learning effort, and is not associated with any organisation." more..

    In my initial scan of the site, it's already rich with a variety of content for those seasoned vets in the KM space, or those just starting out and wanting to learn more. There's a wiki section with some terms classified such as CKO and PSL, along with selling points for those looking to add these roles to their firms. There's a section with a ton of rich media content, aimed at helping explain KM. Much of this comes from outside legal, which is a great thing. A section bound to be on everyone's "to be seen" list is their leading people and thinkers page. If you're looking for ideas to kick-start your knowledge management initiatives, there's even a thought starters section.

    I'm going to need to sit down and dedicate some serious time to this site, there's too much to just quickly glance through.