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Fios Webinar Promotes Project Management in E-discovery

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I think I may be the first Internet stalker of legal project management gurus and Matt Lane is my hapless victim.  It seems there isn't a Webinar he gives that I don't attend, a White Paper he authors that I don't read, or a restaurant in Portland he dines at that I don't...ahem.  

Matt Lane is a Director of Client Services at Fios Inc. and an expert in e-discovery project management. I've commented on his LPM whitepaper and on blog posts he's written (here, here, and here). I've also attended an excellent Webinar on project management presented by  Kate Billera, Client Services Manager at Fios, Inc. But today was the first time that I've had the pleasure of attending a live presentation by Mr. Lane. 

Mr. Lane titled his presentation The Value of Project Management in E-discovery, a recording of which should be available soon at the Fios E-discovery Knowledge Center. The presentation provides a brief introduction to project management, how it relates to electronic discovery and the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), and the value and benefits of project management for law firms.

He begins by noting what others in the blawgosphere have pointed out: legal project management has become a hot topic. He credits increased cost pressures as being the key force pushing lawyers into exploring project management.

Next, Lane discussed the history of project management from the Egyptian pyramids, through the birth of modern project management theory in the 1950s, to today's over 200,000 PMI-certified project managers in 170 countries. He does this on one slide, including room for cute graphics. Show off.

He then broke down the standard definition of "project management" contained in the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 4th Edition (PMBOK) and tied project management into the EDRM processes. He contrasted a project manager overseeing an entire e-discovery project with a specialist working within only one of the EDRM processes by explaining that a project manager approaches the EDRM with a higher gaze, scanning across the entire model. 

He points out that one of the challenges of new project managers, especially if their experience is specific to one area, is that they get too deep into the details of one of the steps and lose sight of the other steps. Lane compares the relationship of the project manager to the lawyers, technicians, and other specialists to that of conductor with the musicians in a symphony orchestra.  A conductor is not going to be very effective if he is also expected to play one of the instruments. Every time he has to play a part on an instrument, he won't be focusing on the entire orchestra.

This point leads directly into his responses to a number of common objections to legal project management. For example, to those who protest that legal professionals know how to do their jobs without being told what to do by project managers, Lane agrees. But drawing upon the conductor example, he shows how project management can help lawyers focus on their work and facilitate the value that these professionals have in their work.

After addressing a number of other common objections, Lane discusses the value and benefits of legal project management, which he sums up as: cost control, schedule predictability, and risk management; with improved communication tying them all together.

Once a firm has accepted that legal project management is valuable and decides to build project management capabilities, there are three things that Lane argues are needed to help ensure success:

  1. a leadership champion (someone in senior management must champion project management in the organization);
  2. practice support passion (building "grass roots" support for project management); and
  3. a one year plan stating the objects, organizational structure, tools, roles, training, and key metrics.
Lane emphasis that when implementing legal project management, you need to work from both ends: top down (leadership champion) and bottom up (practice support passion). He also admonishes anyone hoping to build project management capabilities at their firm to set realistic expectations. Legal project management should be seen as a long term investment, not a quick fix. 

He ended his presentation by discussing the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, noting that while it is a valued certification and may be expected by some corporate clients, being PMP certified does not guarantee good project management. PMP certification demonstrates knowledge, not skill. He also points out that some people are just not suited for project management. 

Great project managers, according to Lane, have a "PM brain," which manifests as: good communication, working well accross groups, anal retentiveness, obsessiveness, and emotionally intelligent tenacity (tenacious in a way that does break relationships). [Note: Back in May, I wrote about an article Matt Lane posted to the Discovery Resources blog, where he talks more about the "PM brain."]

On one of the last slides of his presentation, I was surprised and happy to see this blog listed among Matt Lane's recommended resources for legal project management.  Hmm...maybe he likes being cyber stalked?

After the presentation, Mr. Lane responded to a number of audience questions. I found the following to be the most interesting:

Q: Isn't Microsoft Project overkill for most legal project?

[Talk about synchronicity, this fits right in with the in-blawg discussions Steven Levy and I have been having about project management tools in the legal environment.]

A:  While he agrees that MS Project can be overkill and perceived as onerous if misused, he defends its use for legal projects, arguing that it can help better understand even small-project schedules. He also extolled the benefits of MS Visio for building Work Breakdown Structures and simple GANTT-chart representations, which he finds are great communication tools.

Q: Why get a PMP rather than Agile or other project management certifications?

A: Lane pointed out that there is a lot of good project management resources and methodologies our there, but that he was most familiar with the PMI PMBOK standard and the PMP certification and has personally experienced how it can be integrated into the legal environment. He also pointed out that the PMP is the most recognized project management certification.


Q: If one had a career in design and construction project management, AND has paralegal training, is the project management experience of any value?

A: Lane thought that it would be of tremendous value. He noted that PMBOK is not industry specific and project management experience in one field can still be very valuable in a completely different field.

[I agree. I would, as an example, point out that Morris, Manning & Martin, which I discussed in one of my first posts, filled the position Director of Legal Project Management with someone with deep project management experience in the corporate world (Linda Klausing, who worked as a project manager for Home Depot and Georgia Pacific before joining the firm).]

Q: How do you respond to the argument that you can't use project management with litigation because every matter is different?

A: Lane pointed out that every project in every industry is different. Variability in the EDRM doesn't change the project management execution. The project manager is still managing cost, schedule, quality, etc. That variability is the essence of why you have project management: to deal with variability.

[WELL PUT! Uniqueness is built into the very definition of "project management"  and that project management standards exist precisely to help plan, measure, and monitor non-repetitive work.]

Once again, an excellent Web cast by Fios. 

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This page contains a single entry by Paul C. Easton published on September 30, 2009 4:14 AM.

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