Project Management

Project Management skills are essential to successful legal operations management. 

Ops in a Box, Legal Edition contains 30 templates, many of them checklists, step-by-step guides and forms. All are items built, tested and refined while launching legal operations at 3 different Fortune 500-size companies.  

We dedicate only a single document to a project management overview for two reasons:

  1. Project management principles, processes and tool examples are built into the entire kit across every topic.  For example, see the onboarding process map and the vendor onboarding Gantt chart.
  2. Strong kits of project management reference materials exist. In particular I recommend the Project Management Institute and Six Sigma materials.

For Six Sigma, I can personally vouch for the high quality of the Villanova University materials. See for example, their Green Belt certification and their Lean Six Sigma certification

In addition, there are a several well-regarded legal-specific lean six sigma organizations, including:

  1. Seyfarth Lean founded by partner Lisa Damon, who was the highest profile early legal pioneer in Lean Six Sigma and remains a leader in the space.  My legal department recently rolled out Seyfarth Link to replace a former inefficient process. While we are very happy with it, our business clients like it even more than we do!
  2. Legal Lean Six Sigma Institute founded by Catherine MacDonagh;
  3. Lean Legal Academy offered by Gimbal Canada founded by Karen Dunn Skinner and David Skinner, and
  4. Law Vision Group founded by Susan Lambreth.

If you pursue PMI or Six Sigma training for yourself or your team, I encourage you to complete certification. As a current  ALA Certified Legal Manager and a former Certified Six Sigma Greenbelt, I can attest that both certifications have made me more market competitive. Certifications help demonstrate industry commitment and knowledge, and a continuous learning mindset, which is a good indicator of: adaptability, resilience to change, being a self-starter ,and proactive in seeking out solutions.  As a hiring manager, I look for certifications to confirm a person’s training and vocabulary.

Beyond marketability, team training in a project management discipline gives everyone on the team a shared vocabulary and tool kit. When I was at Viacom rolling out a Matter Management system across 24 countries, the team leads for finance, technology and legal took the Villanova Green Belt course together during the project. The shared point of reference streamlined communications and effort, and was a significant contributor to our success. Our company covered the coursework under its tuition reimbursement program and we paid for the certification course fee out of pocket.  Well worth the effort.

Keep in mind if you are considering certification:

  1. Many certifications have an experience requirement and can only be pursued while you are in a relevant job. If that’s the case, don’t pass up the opportunity even if you do not have an immediate need for the credential. 
  2. Look for a reputable provider. Ask references who have the certification as well as a hiring manager or two or mentor in the relevant field.

Also, while not a project management curriculum per se, I highly recommend reading Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto.  With irrefutable data drawn from medicine, the air force and from commercial construction, he demonstrates how a “stupid little checklist” -an important tool in any project management approach - can raise the baseline standard of performance, ensure consistent excellence in service delivery, and reduce risk for complex problems.

Let me conclude with an Atul Gawande quote:

“Much of our work today has entered its own B-17 phase. Substantial parts of what software designers, financial managers, fire-fighters, police officers, lawyers, and most certainly clinicians are too complex for them to carry out reliably from memory alone. Multiple fields, in other words, have become too much airplane for one person to fly.”

Words to live by.