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Legal Project Management: Thoughts, tips, and discoveries related to the management of legal projects.

Don't Wait Around to See if your S.P.O.C. Died

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This recent Dilbert cartoon is a fun reminder that it is important to create triggers and develop habits to force you to keep in touch with your client/vendor contacts.

For both lawyers and project managers, and especially for legal project managers, communication is the single most important skill for success. Communication, however, is more than articulation. The truly great legal project managers I've worked with can not only explain highly technical information to non-experts and create a professional and positive atmosphere in meetings, they also excel at capturing and following up on information. 

There are so many great, affordable applications that can help you with this. I've recently discussed share point and share point alternatives, and I haphazardly maintain a list of project and practice management applications on this site. For ad hoc information capture, I'm a fan of Evernote (can't imagine living without it, actually). With all this technology there is no excuse for not contemporaneously capturing information communicated to you and being able to quickly reference and follow up on it. But in my experience, I've not seen a great improvement in communication from the days when a moleskin notebook was the coolest information-capture technology available. 

This is because good note-keeping and follow-up is a habit. New technology may allow better backup, access from multiple locations, and swift retrieval, but it doesn't really make it any easier for people with poor communication habits to capture information. If you are not in the habit of taking notes, its doesn't matter if you have an iPhone with Evernote on it. Unused, it is no better then the back of an envelope.

Same with follow-up. A cloud-based calendar synced with all your computers and mobile devices is no better than a Day Planner or Hipster PDA if you are not in the habit of checking it. E-mail and text message alerts don't count as "checking," they are at best an extra reminder for when you are focused on something else and, at their worst, an alarm for a new fire you'll have to put out because you haven't been looking ahead.

In my experience, the best communicators have the best communication habits not the best communication tools. They capture important information communicated to them, put it in a system where it can be easily retrieved when it is needed, and they regularly work their calendars and contact lists to not only follow-up on promises, but to excavate new opportunities for proactive communication. Legal project managers could learn a lot from successful sales people about this.  If a salesperson is a reactive communicator, the calls will eventually stop coming in and sales opportunities will dry up. 

The great legal project managers don't wait to be contacted, they take the initiative and poke their contacts now and then to make sure they're still alive.

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This page contains a single entry by Paul C. Easton published on January 13, 2010 9:23 PM.

SharePoint "Killers" was the previous entry in this blog.

Ark Conference on Alternative Fee Arrangements Puts Legal Project Management on the Agenda is the next entry in this blog.

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