Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide

Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, 2d ed
by Jim Hassett
contributing authors Steve Barrett and Mike Egnatchik
published by LegalBizDev, 2011
price: US $49.95

A practical reference guide on legal project management that includes both commentary and useful sample tools and templates.

Legal Project Management - Quick Reference Guide

The second edition of Jim Hassett’s Legal Project Management – Quick Reference Guide that my firm purchased arrived last week to compliment our growing collection of materials on this topic.

Hassett’s first sentence in the book – “Please do not read this book” – is consistent with his pragmatic approach (he assumes instead that lawyers are busy and should consult only the sections of interest to them). The coiled binding and 11 tabbed sections are also pragmatic, as are the numerous tools and templates, making this a true “Quick Reference Guide” as promised in the subtitle.

The second edition brings substantial new content (186 pages compared to 104 pages in the first edition). As mentioned in Chapter 1, the new and expanded content includes:

  • sample checklists
  • value questions to ask top clients
  • engagement letters
  • work breakdown structures
  • how to improve the management of legal teams
  • personal time management
  • process improvement
  • knowledge management
  • trends in alternative fees
  • overcoming resistance to change

The names of the 11 tabbed sections provide a sense of the content in the book: Introduction, Define Scope, Activities, Team, Budget, Risks, Quality, Communication, Change Scope, Action Items, and Appendices.

Chapter 4, for example, is entitled “Identify and Schedule Activities” (represented by the “Activities” tab) and includes a wide variety of tools and templates, including a checklist of best practices, matter planning templates and sample examples, sample work breakdown structures and a good discussion on the differences between project management, process improvement, Six Sigma, and Lean Six Sigma.

Likewise, Chapter 9, for example, is entitled “Manage Client Communication and Expectations” (represented by the “Communication” tab) and covers the following important aspects of client communication, including sample checklists, the RACI matrix, a sample communication plan and value questions to ask top clients (including such questions as “How could we increase the value of services we provide?” or “How satisfied are you with our services, on a scale from 1 to 10?).” Also included in this chapter is a discussion of the ACC Value Index and the importance of “after action” reviews.

The Appendices tab in fact covers close to 95 pages of content and includes:

  • Appendix A: Sample checklists, such as an “Asset Aquisition Task Checklist” (I found these less useful since most large firms will already have such checklists)
  • Appendix B: Legal Project Management Trends (an excellent discussion)
  • Appendix C: Alternative fees (which includes a summary of the publisher’s survey of in-depth interviews with chairmen, senior partners and C-level executives at 37 of the largest law firms in the US)
  • Appendix D: Overcoming Lawyer’s Resistance to Change (useful for those firms whose lawyers are still “not getting it”)
  • Appendix E: Sample blank templates (this is largely repetitive of the templates introduced earlier in the Guide)

It is actually hard to be too critical of this new publication (such as noting that the tabs don’t match the Chapters perfectly). There is also a slight aspect to the book of it indirectly marketing the author’s consulting services (and in fact it appears the Guide is available at a discounted price for attendees of his seminars); however, the Guide still provides value and is useful to anyone who has not attended the seminars (I have not).

There are relatively few substantive books on project management geared specifically to lawyers, with Steven Levy’s Legal Project Management – Control Costs, Meet Schedules, Manage Risks and Maintain Sanity being an early contribution to the literature (Levy’s book was positively reviewed here on SLAW). Although Levy’s book and Hassett’s guide cover a lot of the same material, they are different, with Levy’s book perhaps being more comprehensive or providing a more “cohesive” treatment (and I like that Levy in fact includes a Chapter aimed specifically at in-house counsel and what they should be doing about legal project management). Hassett’s book, on the other hand, as suggested above, is more of a “reference tool” containing a lot more sample tools and templates.

For lawyers wanting to learn more about project management, it is a “no brainer” to likely acquire both books and I would be hard-pressed to recommend one over the other. Regardless, I think the new edition of Hassett’s book represents a useful addition to the literature and I highly recommend it.

Next up: I am awaiting arrival of my firm’s purchase of Barbara J Boake and Rick A Kathuria, Project Management for Lawyers (London: Ark Group, 2011). If appropriate, I will do a brief review of this publication as well.

· Buy Recommendation:
· Who should buy? Lawyers in private practice and in-house, CLE Directors, KM Directors
· Better Buys: None
· Websites: Publisher’s book page
· New Media Rating: (see author’s blog here)

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