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The popular image of the lawyer is often as a lone soldier, engaged in personal combat of various kinds, such as arguing a case in court, representing a client in negotiations, or some other dispute resolution or deal-making. Yet that popular image, as practicing lawyers soon come to realize, hardly corresponds to the day-to-day experiences of most lawyers. Most lawyers work as part of a team or teams, and most lawyers work on projects, such that effective project management becomes as important a skill as many others, such as research, writing, speaking, and negotiation, for example, that are fundamental to the practice of law. This article aims to identify some of the most important elements of project management that may apply in a typical law firm setting. Each project, of course, is different, and your individual circumstances and preferences will affect your style of project management. Nevertheless, some elements of project management hold true for almost every project, and the choice to omit any essential elements of effective project management should be well-considered and deliberate. DEFINING GOALS The first, perhaps most important, step in any project is to define the goal of the project. Essentially this phase involves conceptualizing the expected results of the project — its hoped-for benefits. Necessarily, in the process of defining goals, one must reject some alternate goals and possible alternate outcomes. For example: suppose you wish to plan a CLE conference for clients and prospective clients. You should start by considering the value and purposes of such a program. If business development is a central purpose, you may ask whether that will likely be achieved, or whether some other form of business development might be more effective. If the project passes the big picture test — “Is this generally a good idea?” — you may pass to a more refined level, asking what, in particular, you expect the project outcome to be. Is the goal to get a large number of attendees? Is the goal to attract particular attendees? Is the goal to highlight the firm’s expertise in a particular area? The answers to these, and many other similar questions, may greatly affect your expectations regarding the project, and the character of your preparations for the project. ESTABLISHING A STRUCTURE Fast on the heels of the goal-defining phase, you must begin to think about a structure for implementing the project. Again, each project will be different, but some of the most basic structure issues are set forth below: Personnel: The question of who should be involved in the project typically must be raised as one of the first issues in structuring the project. Indeed, the availability of appropriate personnel to implement the project may be a key factor determining success. The recruitment of personnel, moreover, necessarily involves some process of defining roles to be performed in connection with the project. In the CLE seminar example, there will be a need for speakers or panelists, but also someone to gather and develop written materials, someone to develop an invitation and a list of invitees, and someone to handle the logistics of the seminar itself, such as the lining up of a room, refreshments and audio-visual equipment. The people involved in performing these various tasks need not all be different individuals. Indeed, it is often efficient to have a single person perform several overlapping tasks. But it is useful to identify essential roles associated with the project, and to assign specific personnel to perform those roles. As a project manager, part of your responsibility will be to delegate responsibility for some parts of the project, and thereafter to take steps to ensure that the delegation is working effectively. Timing: Virtually every aspect of a project may be affected by the deadline, real or imposed, for completion of the project. In the CLE seminar example, a seminar that must be put together a week from now may look very different from a seminar for which you have six months to plan and implement the program. Even if there is no specific deadline for completion, you will need to have a general sense of the time frame for the project: immediate (today), short term (next few days), and so on. You will also want to take account of any major milestones for the project, and the intermediate deadlines that should be associated with each milestone. A large part of the process of project management is charting the progress of the project, through various milestones, to completion. As interruptions and delays occur, moreover, your job as manager is to help identify ways to expedite the project to timely completion. Budget/Resources: As with timing, your budget for the project, including money and other resources, such as physical space and the ability of personnel to commit time, may greatly affect the character of the project. Thus, in the CLE example, if you are the only person available to work on the project, and you have a few hundred dollars as a budget, the seminar will be very different from a seminar with multiple team members, a substantial budget and a commitment to a large venue for the seminar. COMMUNICATION, RECORDS No matter the size of the project, some method of communicating with project staff, and some method of keeping records of developments related to the project, must be created. Without such communications and recordkeeping, it may be very difficult to track the progress of the project, to identify problems as they occur, and to ensure that proper coordination of work occurs. There are many types of communication and record-keeping systems. Among the systems to consider are the following: “To do” lists: This method simply tracks tasks, role assignments, and expected completion dates. The to-do list may be circulated on a regular basis for updates, and may be part of the agenda for project team meetings. Team meetings: Regular team meetings — in-person, by conference call or otherwise — permit project personnel to review the status of assignments, to brainstorm regarding potential solutions to problems encountered, and to exchange views on overlapping and integrated tasks. Databases: More sophisticated, large-scale projects often are managed with the assistance of computerized databases. Smaller versions may be used to keep track of less complicated projects. TROUBLE-SHOOTING Every project will have its share of problems. The trick, from a management perspective, is to anticipate problems whenever possible, to plan for the possibility of problems and to address problems promptly when they occur. Among the most basic strategies for trouble-shooting are the following: Identify big problems early: Fundamental structural problems with a project, such as not enough time, money and personnel, generally can be identified even before a project begins. These kinds of problems do not go away; they generally get worse as the project progresses. A project manager must not ignore fundamental problems in hopes that some “miracle” solution may arise during the project. Solutions to fundamental problems must be identified as early as possible. If no solution appears, then the project may have to be abandoned, delayed or significantly modified. Think a few steps ahead: When problems arise, they almost always have short-term and long-term implications. So, too, with solutions. A change in the project structure, resources or focus to meet today’s challenges may greatly affect your ability to address challenges that will arise in coming days and weeks. Solutions must be chosen for the long-term benefit of the project, wherever possible. � Avoid imposed solutions:A project manager can facilitate problem-solving by sparking discussions, providing insights and offering support. However, telling project personnel exactly how they must do their jobs is rarely effective. Indeed, most attempts to compel personnel to take steps that they do not understand, or do not agree with, are doomed to fail. A project manager generally must ensure that solutions to problems are realistic, and that they can be implemented by a willing and motivated staff. This outline of project management is not complete. Yet even on the smallest of projects, some elements of this outline probably apply. Even very junior lawyers will quickly find that development of project management skills is a key element in a successful law firm career. Steven C. Bennett is a partner in the New York City offices of Jones Day and a member of the firm’s training committee. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the firm or its clients.

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