I first got to know about Anna Marra and her efforts to promote LPM in Spain through the PMI Legal Project Management group on LinkedIn, where she discussed the book on LPM that she is working on and her efforts to establish LPM courses at Spanish business schools. Ms Marra was gracious enough to agree to an interview for this blog.
Ms Marra is an Italian expat in Spain with a foot each in the world of law and the world of project management. She received her law degree from the University of Milan and a master's degree in International Affairs from the Institute for International Politic Studies (ISPI) in Milan . She has also completed the Executive Program in Strategic Project Planning at the IE business school in Madrid, Spain .
Ms Marra works as a project-management consultant, author, and trainer, based in Madrid and is responsible for legal-project management training and consulting at Project Management Asesores. Previously, she was the Executive director of the Italian Chapter of Transparency International, where she was responsible for planning and executing projects on education, corporate social responsibility, business ethics, ethics in sport, ethics and performance in public administration, and international anti-corruption law.
How did you become interested in legal-project management?
Legal-project management is something that makes sense to me. In 2002, I passed the national exam to become a lawyer in my country, Italy, but I also had a master's degree in international affairs and I was very interested in pursuing an international career in human rights. I worked for three years as the Executive Director of the Italian Chapter of Transparency International, an international NGO against corruption. I designed and executed many programs and projects to promote ethics in public administration, multinationals, and medium and small enterprises, based on the relationship between best business practices and ethics.
Five years ago, I left Italy for Spain and I started to work as a free-lance project manager for non-profit entities. Over the past five years I have been always thinking that I was split into two incomplete parts: I was not quite a lawyer and not quite an engineer (which seems to be the profile preferred by PMI). I started looking into whether there was any possibility that my project-management knowledge and my legal background might produce a synergy. I started to reflect on the possibility of exporting project-management principles and techniques to the legal environment. After I started to investigate, I discovered that in other parts of the world it was working. It was called legal-project management.
How would you describe the current law-firm practice model in Spain and how can legal-project management improve upon that model?
The Spanish legal market has been one of Europe's most expansive and increasingly competitive legal markets in recent years, with, generally speaking, four types of law firm: international firms, domestic firms, domestic tax-based law firms, and boutique firms. The traditional domestic firms have, until recently, managed to retain the greater share of important national clients on the basis of their historic ties with large Spanish corporates such as Banco Santander, BBVA, Telefónica, Iberdrola, Endesa and Repsol, although this situation is changing due to the increased competition from non-Spanish firms and the increasing globalization of Spanish companies.
As in the United States, starting from 2008 the Spanish legal sector has experienced slow growth. There has been a shift in work areas since 2008, with a reduction in mergers and acquisitions and in all subjects related to the construction sector. The economic crisis has especially affected small and medium firms. While large firms in Spain have not experienced the large-scale lay-offs seen in the United States, salaries have been frozen and the firms have preferred to contract out junior level attorney work, rather than bring on new associates.
The Spanish legal market is becoming increasingly competitive due to the easy access to and mobility of high quality professionals and increasing competition from foreign law firms. At the same time, the demand for legal services is decreasing. Clients are searching for professional services that give them "value" and they only want to pay for value that they actually receive. As it is clear that the legal market is often cost-inefficient, law firms are exploring how they can reduce costs without losing quality. Legal-project management can be part of the answer.
Lawyers in the United States are facing tough challenges to their practices as a result of the current recession, which has been the impetus for the trend to apply project-management and business-process-improvement to the practice of law. How has the legal community in Spain been affected by the global recession?
Current economic conditions have forced many law firms to re-evaluate their priorities and establish how best to assist their clients as they face growing business challenges. Strategy and positioning are becoming key words in every legal forum. But I have the feeling that law firms' are focusing more on legal marketing and new technologies, with special attention given to participation in social media, than they are on innovation and global solutions. The Spanish legal environment (especially the upper class) is conservative and resistant to change, as in most countries. They do not perceive themselves as entrepreneurs and in most cases they are not trained to lead and manage their firm. Nevertheless, they know that something is happening, even if they are quite still reluctant to admit it.
For this reason, now is a good time to start to speak about legal-project management, which in my opinion offers more than strategic support. It offers a technique that integrates the parts into the whole. We are so used to thinking that specialization is the key to success, that we have lost the generalist perspective, and we do not think about global solutions. What makes legal-project management so charming to me is the openness to the concept of "integration." We are not talking about improving a department; we are talking about improving the capacity of a lawyer to build the most efficient solutions.
You have approached a number of business schools to offer to help them organize LPM courses. What is their interest in LPM? How will it benefit business students over a more general project-management curriculum?
I contacted business schools to see if they would be interested in organizing training courses in legal-project management. As far as I know, neither law nor business schools in Spain have yet explored the legal-project management. I got in touch with several organizations to introduce this perspective for the first time. Business schools such as IE , ESADE , DEUSTO, etc., usually have a business training core but they are also law schools. Some of them offer highly sophisticated training courses in law-firm management or legal marketing. But legal-project management is something different: it is a more effective way to work, which means that it can be of interest not only to big firms, but also to medium and small firms, and even more to each single lawyer.
Why should lawyers learn project management? How would legal-project management training differ from general case-management training?
I believe that learning project management can help a lawyer create a more complete professional profile. Our profession is not different from the others. We need to adapt ourselves to new demands. Lawyers exist to answer a need. If the need has changed, we have to change too. Legal-project management is a way to approach the mandate more efficiently and globally. This perspective makes us better professionals, just as learning new technologies or learning new languages does. The more we know, the more efficiently we work, the more value we will be able to produce and the more value will come back to us.
Tell me more about the book you are writing? Who is the audience and what will the reader come away with after reading your book?
My book aims to be an easy introduction to the principles of project management applied to the legal services. The target audience is lawyers and those who work with lawyers. I try to answer three basic questions: What is legal project management, how do you implement it, and why? I hope the reader will come away with a sense of dissatisfaction, the same that I felt writing the book. Just as I would have liked to have delved deeper into the subject in my book, I hope that my readers feel the same desire to go on and explore all the possibilities of legal-project management.
In your posts to LinkedIn's PMI LPM Community of Practice group, you requested tips and suggestions. How can the wider LPM community help you with your efforts and how can people contact you?
I would ask them to share examples and be generous with their knowledge. There so much to experiment with and to learn from. On my side, I am at their disposal to collaborate in fostering legal-project management approaches and building a methodology. They can contact me at email@example.com.