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Holiday Bells: The 17 Days of Legal Project Management

Posted in General Counsel, Legal Project Management, Legal Spend, Outside Counsel

In a unique variation on the 12 days of Christmas, we at Edge presently are criss-crossing the country to conduct Legal Project Management (LPM) training programs for major national firms and in-house legal departments every single day – including weekends – from December 1 through December 17th. Richmond, then San Francisco, Palo Alto, Houston, Dallas, Charlotte, Seattle, Boston, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, Washington DC, Philadelphia and LA.  After a holiday breather, the beat continues immediately after January 1st.

What a Difference Half a Year Makes

As recently as six months ago, many law firm partners still argued that LPM was a flash in the pan, that there was no compelling need to add more discipline or a layer of oversight to the way they had handled legal matters for decades. Now, particularly in major firms with major clients, partners no longer ask for whom the bell tolls. They know it tolls for them. In the face of  surveys announcing further dramatic 2011 legal department budget cuts, an increasing number of inquiries about value-based alternative fee agreements, and  more RFPs from clients demanding information about how outside counsel plan to scope, budget and manage matters, most firms now accept that their clients have new imperatives and new priorities. The holiday message to law firms rings clear: If you want to remain on your clients’ outside counsel rosters, you have to adapt and give us what we need.  If you can’t, there’s a long line of competitors who will.

The ACC recently announced a December 10th training session for in-house counsel on Value Based Fees for Litigation. The allotted 50 slots sold out in record time.  The waiting list swelled past 100.  Curious about the overwhelming response, the ACC queried registrants and learned that many legal departments are facing 2011 budget cuts in the 20 – 25% range. Now there’s a sobering statistic. Hence the holiday rush for corporate counsel and smart outside firms to figure out how to ferret out inefficiencies and develop fee structures that will meet tight budgets for all kinds of matters, including litigation.

Darwin Lives

Chuck Darwin is widely misunderstood.  “Survival of the fittest” does not describe a triumph of the biggest, strongest beast. Darwin stated that “fit” refers instead to the organism that is best able to adapt to changing conditions.  He demonstrated that the animal that adapts best survives best.

Darwin could have been describing law firms in 2011.  In a time of enormous upheaval in the legal marketplace, firms that can respond best and fastest will move to the head of the food chain.  Those that cling to the “way we were” certainly won’t disappear overnight, but they’re likely to be surprised at the growth in their list of former clients.

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