Legal Project Management & BIPOC/Women Attrition

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Legal Project Management & BIPOC/Women Attrition

Key Takeaways

  • A case study of a firm that scrutinized the type of work given to persons of different backgrounds or ethnicities was presented. They identified patterns that were hindering diversity. A situation where certain types of work or simpler work are always assigned to people of a particular gender can prevent them from making progress in their careers. Firms can find a solution when the problems are identified.
  • It is important to ensure that diverse teams are given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to matters, instead of being included to make up the numbers. This insight can be gained by examining seniority and time logged on a matter and providing room for improvement.
  • While women are now slightly favored than men in entry-level legal professional hires, that gender parity has still not been portrayed at the board level. It is essential to combine insights obtained from data with changes that underpin the data findings.
  • It is essential to identify the diverse cognitive characteristics required by the legal team and how successful project outcomes can be delivered through them. A good way to determine the existing thinking diversity of a team is by conducting personality testing while highlighting what is lacking.
  • A firm that works with a clear set of LPM best practices, offers a transparent and stable performance platform for lateral hires during their first critical months of adaptation and collaboration with colleagues, and they rapidly contribute to the success of the firm.

Introduction

While there are no reports or case studies by law firms and legal organizations that provided statistics to show how Legal Project Management (LPM) can reduce female and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) attrition in the workplace, we found three reports and articles by law firms and legal organizations that discuss how Legal Project Management (LPM) can promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. However, we found statistics showing how difficult it is to implement Legal Project Management (LPM).
The best practices for implementing Legal Project Management (LPM) in legal professions include clearly stating the objectives and scope of each project, engaging in active monitoring and management using technology, creating a project initiation document, defining a change management process, and reviewing projects after completion. Insights from the reports provided below suggest that implementing these best practices can promote diversity and inclusion and reduce female and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) attrition in the workplace.

Clocktimizer Webinar: "How Aligning Legal Project Management and Pricing Can Drive Inclusion"

  • Clocktimizer organized a webinar in February 2021 featuring Stephen Allen, Vice President of Get Sh*t Done at Elevate, Royale P. Price, Director of Pricing & Matter Management at Greenberg Traurig, and Pieter van der Hoeven, Co-founder & CEO at Clocktimizer as speakers. It is part of a webinar series about "pricing, legal project management, and process (or change) management".
  • The speakers noted that work should be spread out so that no single individual or team is overwhelmed. Technology tools such as Clocktimizer’s social graph that visually plot how people are working together on matters can be deployed to ensure that work is fairly spread out.
  • A case study of a firm that scrutinized the type of work given to persons of different backgrounds or ethnicities was presented. They identified patterns that were hindering diversity. A situation where certain types of work or simpler work are always assigned to people of a particular gender can prevent them from making progress in their careers. Firms can find a solution when the problems are identified.
  • It is important to ensure that diverse teams are given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to matters, instead of being included to make up the numbers. This insight can be gained by examining seniority and time logged on a matter and providing room for improvement.
  • While women are now slightly favored than men in entry-level legal professional hires, that gender parity has still not been portrayed at the board level. It is essential to combine insights obtained from data with changes that underpin the data findings.
  • In concluding, the speakers emphasized that it is not necessary for change to be perfect. According to Pieter, "If you improve by 1% per day, the cumulative effect over a year is still dramatic". Simply using data to implement continuous improvement on resource management, LPM efforts and diversity will quickly add up. It is important to start taking action instead of waiting for the arrival of the perfect decision or solution.
  • The full video recording of the Webinar can be accessed here.

Conventus Leadership Article: "Encouraging Diversity Of Thought And How Legal Project Managers Can Help"

  • In an article posted by Dee Tamlin, Head of Legal Project Management at Pinsent Masons Vario, it was noted that a legal project manager can be engaged to determine the cognitive diversity and skillsets required by an in-house legal team to enable the right people to be brought in to plug these gaps.
  • It is essential to identify the diverse cognitive characteristics required by the legal team and how successful project outcomes can be delivered through them. A good way to determine the existing thinking diversity of a team is by conducting personality testing while highlighting what is lacking.
  • These results will enable legal project managers to tailor the recruitment process appropriately to attract people with the required diverse cognitive skills.
  • Legal project managers can develop a culture that promotes different opinions on ideas to provide alternatives for a better resolution. For example, more junior lawyers can be encouraged to speak up and offer their opinion. They might possess a divergent frame of reference, come from a different background, age group, or culture.
  • A legal project manager can help to facilitate this diversity, emerging from a more objective standpoint, and can organize idea sessions that provide different team members with an opportunity to speak. This also promotes a more productive and creative work environment, leading to greater cost savings and faster problem-solving.
  • Legal project managers can work with diversity and inclusion consultants to facilitate cultural change in a legal team as well.
  • Cognitive diversity is a meaningful way to improve the processes and efficiency of an in-house legal team. A legal project manager can be an objective and helpful person who can be part of the cognitively diverse legal team themselves but also help to deliver the best outcomes on business and legal challenges.

ABA Report: "Legal Project Management in One Hour for Lawyers"

  • In the introductory part of this report which was authored by Pamela H. Woldow and Douglas B. Richardson, it was stated that another notable virtue of LPM is its ability to speed up and smoothen the assimilation of lateral hires.
  • While firm-jumping is now commonplace, partners and associates who are hired laterally by a firm usually struggle to adapt and adjust their style of working to familiarize themselves with the culture of their new firm.
  • Historically, law firms are typically not great with incorporating lateral hires, which leads to a significant number of them later moving on because they failed to take root.
  • However, a firm that works with a clear set of LPM best practices offers a transparent and stable performance platform for lateral hires during their first critical months of adaptation and collaboration with colleagues, and they rapidly contribute to the success of the firm.
  • The complete report which includes "Implementing LPM in Your Firm" in Chapter 7 can be obtained by visiting the ABA Webstore.

Best Practices for Implementing Legal Project Management (LPM) in Legal Professions

Clearly State the Objectives and Scope of Each Project

  • The first thing that needs to be done is to clarify the objectives and scope of every project with all stakeholders. The supervisor of the project and the objectives they want to achieve should be known. A goal that can be referenced throughout the project will enable the team and stakeholders to be aligned and prevent any misunderstandings about the project direction.
  • Planning promotes collaboration between law firms and clients and results in the stakeholders working with a shared vision on the handling of the project. Lack of planning can significantly push up the cost of the project and result in huge inefficiencies.

Engage in Active Monitoring and Management Using Technology

  • To successfully implement LPM, there should be a commitment to engage in monitoring progress and in active project management throughout the course of the project. The legal team of the law firm should focus on the implementation of a process that will help them to communicate early and often with the client to prevent surprises.
  • Technology should be deployed in creating alerts and budget-to-actual reports, data analytics should be included to ensure that each phase of the project is on track to be completed in time and help to preemptively identify any potential challenges.
  • Possessing the right tools to efficiently manage a project is a fundamental component of supervising an operation. A digital project management tool is important for modern enterprise monitoring of lots of coexisting contracts. Hive found that 77% of high-performing projects make use of project management software. These tools are invaluable because they centralize access to documents.

Create a Project Initiation Document

  • In practice, the Project Initiation Document (PID) is usually the first opportunity for the project manager to collect and review important information regarding the project. A properly structured PID helps the project manager to determine if all the stakeholders clearly understand the project scope and objectives. It also promotes a realistic evaluation of project risks, along with early determination and scheduling of crucial tasks and milestones.
  • A good PID acts as the foundation for planing all types of projects and enables the project manager to exert control over the project from an early stage.
  • At a minimum, the PID should identify the diverse members of the team who will be part of the project, the tasks required to complete the project, the estimated time to complete the tasks, different hourly and value-based pricing alternatives available to the client to best meet their needs; the items included within and outside of the engagement scope, key deliverables, assumptions, and a communication plan.

Define a Change Management Process

  • Even with a concrete plan, changes are inevitable in the course of the lifecycle of a project. The legal department can be enabled to stay flexible by outlining a change management process if the project changes direction. A change management lead should be appointed to authorize changes throughout the course of the project and ensure that the project is still on the right track. Some expected changes that can be encountered include an increase in budget or scope.
  • It is often challenging to implement legal project management principles in an in-house legal department or a law firm because, to some extent, lawyers and other associated professionals will definitely be required to change how they work. Therefore, it is best to acknowledge that a change project is being managed from the beginning.

Review Projects After Completion

  • After the completion of each project, the law firm or legal department should review the outcomes with the stakeholders. The review should include measuring the quality of the outcomes and whether the stakeholder’s expectations are met by the deliverables. For example, if there was a slack in communication, then the client can provide feedback for improvement.
  • Project feedback can be used to improve the management process for upcoming projects because it provides invaluable insights.
  • A typical complaint within the legal industry is that it is difficult to "understand the true cost of engagements and compare the value that law firms provide because there is a lot of garbage data". While it is true that the available data is not always good as it is supposed to be, but engaging in true project planning and monitoring helps in minimizing this challenge.

Research Strategy

After a comprehensive search through the public domain, we could not find any reports or case studies by law firms and legal organizations that provided statistics to show how Legal Project Management (LPM) can reduce female and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) attrition in the workplace. We explored the websites of several law firms and legal organizations, as well as law blogs. We also looked for interviews by legal experts on the subject matter. We were able to find three reports and articles by law firms and legal organizations that discuss how Legal Project Management (LPM) can promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
An article titled "Legal Project Management & Better Work-Life-Balance (Insights from Anna Marra)" by Bigle Legal was not included because while it discussed how legal project management promotes better work-life balance, it did not make reference to reduction of attrition or promotion of diversity and inclusion. We found another report titled "New in-house content on legal operations, stress and wellbeing, legal project management, GDPR and inclusion and diversity" by Thomson Reuters Practical Law. However, it can only be accessed by signing up for a free trial of Practical Law.
The absence of hard data on legal project management and reduction of attrition is likely due to the difficulty in its implementation. Statistics show that while more than half of the AmLaw 100 firms have professionals who function as legal project managers, only 33.2% of US firms and 24.1% of chief legal officers are implementing LPM. Even the leading LPM law firms in the US have only been able to implement it on around 40% of total firm matters, while a lot of other firms struggle to effect the implementation on 10% of matters or partners. Survey data found that only 29% of US firms implement structured project practices, and only 15% believe that they have attained a ‘high’ project management maturity level. Similarly, in Australia, a 2017 survey reported that only 19% of law firms make use of project management software. According to Jim Hassett, a well-known LPM thought leader, "In legal project management, figuring out what lawyers should change is easy. The hard part is getting them to do it".
For the best practices for implementing Legal Project Management (LPM) in legal professions, we leveraged the most reputable sources of information that were available in the public domain, including the websites and blogs of reputable law firms and legal organizations. Each best practice included was identified by at least two sources. Insights from the reports provided suggest that implementing these best practices can promote diversity and inclusion and reduce female and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) attrition in the workplace.



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