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PM Credentials & LPM - ILTA White Paper and 2010 Survey on Legal Project Management, Part IV

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It's time for another post on the value of project-management credentials, a topic on which many of my readers have strong opinions. This post continues my discussion of the International Legal Technology Association's (ILTA) recently released white paper on legal-project management.[1] In the first post in this series I discussed Pamela Woldow's article on how legal technologists can use LPM to enhance their position in their law firms.[2] The second post looked at an article by Jennifer Potter, which discusses her firm's rollout of Microsoft Windows 7/Office 2010.[3] In the third post, I discussed three articles: Laura Livecchi's discussion on how to leverage legal-project management philosophies to deliver a business-process management initiative; Larry Port's article showing how legal operations can benefit from applying "start, stop, continue" meetings; and Nathan Smith's article on how to improve your project management by improving your writing.[4] 

This post looks at an article by Donna Payne, of Paynegroup Inc., that discusses options for project management education and certification and whether they are worth your time and effort.[5] I also look at the results of a question from ILTA's Project Management Survey, which asks law firms and legal departments how important professional project-management certification are to their organizations.[6]

The bulk of Ms. Payne's article describes the various options for obtaining project-management training, degrees, and certifications. It does not attempt to provide a comprehensive list of providers, but rather describes what options are out there with a small number of example providers listed to get you started. If you are just starting to consider project-management training or certification, this is a good article to get you started. If you have already spent a lot of time researching project-management education and certification, you are unlikely to learn anything new from this article. 

Of much more interest to me is her thoughts on the value of project-management training, drawing upon her experience of receiving a Master Certificate in Project Management from Villanova University. She does not state whether she has obtained or applied for certification from PMI or another certifying organization and does not discuss the merits of such a certification. 

Regarding her experiences with Villanova, she states that she has "mixed emotions," but that the "pros far outweigh the cons." Most of the opinions she shares are focused on what she liked and didn't like about the cost and format of the education. She mentions that she found the 10,000 USD price tag steep, but does not state whether she felt she received a good return on her investment. 

As for studying on-line, she appreciated the flexibility of an on-line program. It allowed her to work ahead and around business demands, and she was able to stay on top of her studies during business travel. She did not, however, like the slow pace of the program caused by Villanova's attempt to work around individual workloads. She also discusses the importance of self motivation to succeeding in an on-line learning environment.

I am disappointed that the article did not go more into why she felt the "pros far outweighed the cons." Was the program worth its cost? Would a less expensive option, such as obtaining a CAPM or (if you meet the experience qualifications) a PMP, provide less value than an on-line masters certificate? Does having a Masters Certificate in Project Management open more doors for her? Has it helped her win more business? 

These are questions I would have loved to have read Ms. Payne's answers to. One of the most difficult considerations to get a handle on when making decisions on whether to invest in more education or a certification is whether it will qualify you for, or increase your chances of obtaining, better positions. Also, will it make you a better project manager and is it the most cost-effective way of increasing your project-management knowledge and skills?

So I was happy to see that the ILTA Project Management Survey asked its law firm and corporate legal departments respondents what they thought about project-management certification. 142 member entities participated, ranging from small firms with fewer than 50 attorneys to "mega" firms with more than 700 attorneys. Regarding project-management certifications, the firms were asked:

Which statement best describes the importance of professional PM certification in your organization?

A. Required for hire as a project manager

B. Encouraged but not officially required for hire or promotion

C. Not required for hire, but considered for promotion

D. No opinion

Not surprisingly, the larger the organization, the more likely it was to require or encourage project-management certifications. This is probably partly a function of formal HR departments liking more black-and-white decision points, but also because larger organizations are more likely to have formal project-management offices and processes in place, requiring more professional project-management talent. 

The vast majority of small firms and most medium firms had no opinion on project-management certifications. Large and very large firms were more closely divided between having no opinion about and encouraging certification, but few required it. One interesting trend is that fewer large firms reported requiring certification in 2010 than 2008--this was during the period when legal-project management was starting to gain traction. Will increased awareness of legal-project management lead to more firms requiring project-management credentials, or will it have the opposite affect? Will legal-project management awareness and education lead firms to conclude that traditional project management is not always the best fit in a legal environment. Are firms finding that the skills measured by certification exams and the experience of most professional project managers do not transfer well to law-firm environments?

The mega firms, however, tend to encourage project-management certification and are more likely to require it, which has not changed much from 2008. This is probably due to the nature of large firms. Firms of this size have many of the technology and infrastructure requirements and challenges of large corporations, where traditional project-management skills and experience are helpful. Also, the survey showed that mega firms were the only group of respondents who overwhelmingly use a documented project-management methodology and were far more likely to have implemented a project/portfolio management system to manage their projects, both of which are environmental factors favoring traditionally trained project managers. Smaller firms tend to rely on document-management systems to manage their projects, which neither require nor readily support traditional project management methodologies.

My take away from this is that if you want to work for BigLaw as a project manager, obtaining professional certification may help your chances for an offer or a promotion. The smaller the firm, the less certification will mean. If you are working at a smaller firm, you may be better offer learning to play multiple roles, obtaining training in the technology that the firms uses, and spending money on good books and professional-organization dues to self-learn and surround yourself with experienced project managers. That is not to say that the effort of studying for a professional certification will not help make you a better project manager, but don't expect much recognition of your accomplishment from employers and supervisors at smaller firms.

[1] International Legal Technology Association, Project Management: Ensuring Smooth Navigation (2010), available at (last visited Oct. 30, 2010) [hereinafter ILTA].

[2] Paul C. Easton, ILTA White Paper and 2010 Survey on Legal Project Management, Legal Project Management, Tuesday, October 26, 2010,, discussing Pamela Woldow, Rethinking the Role of Technology in Legal Project Management, in ILTA, supra note 1, at 4.

[3] Paul C. Easton, ILTA White Paper and 2010 Survey on Legal Project Management, Part II, Legal Project Management, Tuesday, October 27, 2010,, discussing Jennifer Potter, A Rollout That Netted Good Results, in ILTA, supra note 1, at 10.

[4] Paul C. Easton, ILTA White Paper and 2010 Survey on Legal Project Management, Part II, Legal Project Management, Tuesday, October 27, 2010,, discussing Laura Livecchi, Leveraging Project Management Philosophies to Deliver a Successful BPM Initiative, in ILTA, supra note 1, at 16; Larry Port, Implement "Start, Stop and Continue" Meetings to Improve Your Operationsin ILTA, supra note 1, at 34; and Nathan Smith, Improve Your Writing to Improve Your Project Outcomesin ILTA, supra note 1, at 38.

[5] Donna Payne, Back to School: Are Project Management Certification Programs Worthwhile?in ILTA, supra note 1, at 24.

[6] International Legal Technology Association, Project Management Survey: Analysis and Results 16 (2010). 


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This page contains a single entry by Paul C. Easton published on October 30, 2010 2:13 AM.

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LPM Tidbits for Week Ending 10/30/2010 is the next entry in this blog.

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