"[R]eal productivity gains rarely come from just improving current processes, especially in non-commoditized markets such as legal.... Obviously, firms and practices will do well to address inefficient processes; removing waste is almost always beneficial.... However, most practices need more than waste removal, more than process improvement. They need effectiveness. They need to do the right things and then look at doing those things right."
Toby Brown once again raises the question of whether law firms are better off putting their efforts into process-improvement, rather than project management. Over the past few years, Toby has written a number of posts for 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, with the theme of LPM being necessary but not enough and process-improvement initiatives providing a much greater return on investment than project-management initiatives.
In his most recent post on this topic, Mr. Brown argues that client demands for better, faster, and cheaper legal services is driving law firms to increase their productivity. But, "[b]cause in most respects ...LPM is about doing something the same way only with more discipline[,]" it is
"not sufficient to drive improvements in law firm productivity....Project management brings discipline to a process, but is not about improving a process over time."
Steven Levy, in a post to his Lexician blog, takes issues with how Mr. Brown characterizes legal-project management. Mr. Levy's post focuses on the importance of effectiveness over efficiency. He argues that LPM's focus is on effectiveness rather than efficiency and that effectiveness is as, if not more, important than efficiency. He writes:
Levy also takes issue with Mr. Brown referring to LPM as a technique: "[A] legal project manager has a series of techniques she can bring to bear on the project at hand, and on the environment in which she undertakes those projects. Just like she does as a lawyer....But Legal Project Management is not a (single) technique in itself."
I have great respect for both of these gentlemen and enjoy reading their blog posts. On this issue, however, I have to agree with Levy. Increasingly, lawyers are being called upon to deliver legal services in novel ways and in new environments. It is because their existing processes are not well adapted to this new environment that many law firms are turning to LPM. Simply making these maladapted processes more efficient is not going to keep their clients happy.
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