The Top 5 Project Management Skills Lawyers Need

Helloooo Happier Better Lawyers, Intrapreneurs and those of you who thought the Golden Globes were a joke when Matt Damon won Best Actor in a Comedy for his role in The Martian!

   Does he look like he's joking?

Executive Summary for my busy Happier Better Lawyers:

All lawyers are project managers, but strikingly, most lawyers are not taught how to manage projects.  Entrepreneurs have the mindset of a project manager at all times.  As a lawyer, you should take on the mindset of a project manager as well.  You will be a better lawyer, and frankly, happier, if you take on the mindset of a project manager. 

You will be a better lawyer, and frankly, happier, if you take on the mindset of a project manager.

By the way, time management and project management are not the same. In addition, the more senior you become as a lawyer, the more project management skills you'll need.  No one told you that you're a project manager? Shame on your bosses.  Don't know what PM skills you need?  Shame on you if you don't read on...

Here are the Top 5 Project Management Skills Lawyers Need (the 5 Ps):

  1. People Management;
  2. Problem Management;
  3. Production Management;
  4. Process Management; and
  5. (Getting) Paid Management

There's more detail on each of these in the full blog post below.  You need to learn these project management skills, and, like entrepreneurs, own the fact that you are always a project manager.  It's a lot, I know.  But you already have what it takes to be a great project manager, and you just need to seek out and refine your project management skills.  Here's a formula that shows how being a better project manager will help you:

PM to Happiness Formula:
Better Project Manager =>Stress less + Be Calmer
More Calm =>Do Better
Do Better =>Be Happier

Trust me, this entrepreneurial mindset and toolkit will lead to you being a better, and happier, lawyer. 

-- Calvin

#LetsBeEntrepreneurial

#HappierBetterLawyer

Full Blog Post:

As I discussed in my last blog postall lawyers should be taught entrepreneurial tools to help them become happier and better lawyers.  A second upside to teaching lawyers the mindset and tools of entrepreneurs will be an improvement in the diversity of the legal profession

There are a ton of entrepreneurial tools you need to excel in modern day legal practice, whether you're a law firm lawyer, government attorney or solo practitioner. 

Some of the entrepreneurial tools lawyers need include:

  • Branding skills;
  • Marketing skills (Branding and marketing are not the same!);
  • Value proposition development;
  • Business relationship development (notice I didn't say "networking"?);
  • Basic knowledge of business finance and accounting; and
  • Sales skills. 

We'll discuss these and other entrepreneurial tools in future blog posts, in my upcoming book, and hopefully in a workshop with you in person!  

In today's post, however, I want to quickly discuss one entrepreneurial mindset that all lawyers need which is not discussed that much:

"As a lawyer, I am always a project manager."

Here's a little problem though:  Most lawyers have never been taught how to manage a project!

All lawyers are project managers, yet most have never been taught how to manage a project.

All lawyers are project managers because with every client, matter or project, there are a ton of moving parts that each lawyer has to manage effectively.  As a matter of fact, the more senior you get as a lawyer, the more management skills you'll need. 

The more senior you get as a lawyer, the more project management skills you’ll need.
 You'll definitely need some juggling skills to be a lawyer.  No, I'm not calling you a clown.

You'll definitely need some juggling skills to be a lawyer.  No, I'm not calling you a clown.

Every new client or matter requires its own project management, and presumably you'll work with more clients and on more matters as you become a more senior attorney.  In a sense, the overall management of all of your projects and clients is one big project!  Finally, one mistake people often make is to think that effective project management is equal to effective time management-- time management is only one piece of the project management puzzle.  Time management and project management are not the same thing. 

Time management and project management are not the same thing.

No one told you that you're a project manager? Shame on your bosses.  Don't know what PM skills you need?  Shame on you if you don't read on...

  • Here are the Top 5 Project Management Skills Lawyers Need (the 5 P's): 
    1. People Management
      • You need to know how to manage all types of people, and people at all levels of seniority, who will affect the success of a project.  Your supervisor, attorneys junior to you on the project, subject matter experts being used, paralegals and administrative staff who contribute, and your client are all people to be managed. One particular project management challenge is learning how to effectively work with non-lawyers who have more experience than you or critical project management matters. How do you leverage their expertise but properly play your role on the project? And oh yeah, there's one more person who has to be managed who is critical to project success:  You! Frankly, managing yourself might be the hardest thing to do.
    2. Problem Management
      • Sh*t comes up.  (I know, I know, did I really have to curse?  Not really, but lots of lawyers do curse when things come up.  I'm just cursing 'cause I'm from Brooklyn. Or I'm just trying to get your attention. Or both.)  Anyway...problems may arise because new issues get flagged unexpectedly.  Roadblocks appear.  Deadlines change. A client (or the partner) realizes that what they really need is different than what they originally said they wanted.  On and on.  You'd be surprised how many lawyers get flustered or paralyzed when things don't go as planned.  There's a skill to handling snafus. Learn it.
    3. Production Management
      • There are two types of "production management"and the 2nd one is the one most lawyers need to be taught:
        1. Production of client deliverables (client "deliverables" could include a brief, a transactional document, a trial presentation or a negotiation [the word "deliverables" is project management-speak by the way]
        2. Production of new ideas and innovations.  As lawyers you're in the ideas business.  If what you're doing is just mechanical it'll ultimately get outsourced or automated.  So you must learn how to manage the process of coming up with new ways to think about legal issues, new ways to provide better client services, and new ideas and innovations on well...everything.  This production skill should be learned.
    4. Process Management
      • Time Management comes in here (both the overall project's timing needs as well your own personal time management)
      • Management of processes, requirements and logistics that affect the project and your ability to produce client deliverables (relevant processes include your supervisor's approval rules, firm bureaucratic steps, external regulatory requirements, etc.)
    5. (Getting) Paid Management
      • Budget Management - How much does your client want to spend on this?  Do they have Tesla dreams on a Toyota budget? How do you efficiently allocate and track a time budget for each team member?
      • Client billing, receivables management, the art of inputting time.  You must master these budget and payment items to make sure that you (and your company) get paid.

Those are the top 5 project management skills I believe all lawyers need.  It's a lot, I know.  But you already have what it takes to be a great project manager, and you just need to seek out and refine your project management skills. 

Here's how being a better project manager will help you:  The more you keep all of your projects, matters and clients under control, you'll stress less and be more calm.  The calmer you are the better you'll do.  The better you do, the happier you'll be.  Project management is a skill that almost entrepreneurs use on a daily basis. Trust me, this entrepreneurial mindset and toolkit will lead to you being a better, and happier, lawyer.

PM to Happiness Formula:
Better Project Manager =>Stress less + Be Calmer
More Calm =>Do Better
Do Better =>Be Happier

Agree?  Disagree?  Do you have additions?  Let's discuss in the comments section.

-- Calvin

#LetsBeEntrepreneurial

#HappierBetterLawyer