Planet4iT Blog


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Lawyers plan, execute matters against scope, have deadlines, manage budgets, manage teams, manage stakeholders, remove obstacles, ensure efficient communication between clients and internal groups, and review the matter at the end to determine lessons learned before closing cases.
Sounds familiar? 

These are all project management tasks performed by lawyers on a daily bases. Nevertheless, a project that is titled a legal matter is still a project.

The Dilemma
Although Lawyers perform project management tasks, it does not make them accomplished Project Managers. Lawyers are subject matter experts. They specialize in a specific type of law, e.g. labour, criminal, corporate, property etc. Lawyers perceive any other work to be a distraction to their business. Lawyers also manage case files by doing the proverbial deep dive looking for the small letter of the law that will give them an upper hand in the legal case. They seldom look at the big picture to understand the external risk factors or have an appreciation for keeping all the stakeholders and clients informed about process and cost.

The Solution

Hire a dedicated Project Manager to work side-by-side with a lawyer! The Project Manager can focus on the processes associated with a legal case or matter. The lawyer is unhindered to focus on the legal work only. No distractions. Project Managers are natural leaders that enjoy working at the process level, and lawyers are book smart savvy academics that work with theory and stay at the policy level.

  1. There are various benefits linked with hiring a dedicated PM, including;
    Being Cost Effective – By assigning PMs to run legal processes, the legal firm is releasing lawyers to do other core legal work. Clients benefit because they are charged the lower PM rate as opposed to the higher lawyer rate for non-legal work. Lawyers are unrestricted to increase billing hours for core legal work.
  2. Separation of Duties – since PMs are not schooled lawyers, there is a clear distinction between duties. The lawyer does the legal work, and the PM does the planning, and process work.
  3. Leadership Skills – The law firm attains another leader in an organization that is a divided between lawyers and administrative staff. Legal cases are managed as projects with clear expectations, dates, and cost.
  4. Client Satisfaction Leads to Repeat Business – Clients are managed as stakeholders and are informed promptly about budgets and timeline changes. Project management is after all 90% communication. The Project Manager monitors the case, communicate more readily with the client and make sure expectations are clear and don’t suffer from too much legal jargon.
  5. Help with Technology – Lawyers live in a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data are growing exponentially. AI has already assisted lawyers to work more efficiently, providing legal research through automated hunts of case law and statutes, proofreading, error correction, finding missing information, document formatting and correcting inconsistent linguistic use. Data mining, pattern recognition, and matching can be applied for many purposes, including digital forensics, fraud and insider trading investigations.  With the assistance of a technical savvy PM, it helps the lawyer process information that at a manual level would be unworkable. With DNA matching, historic cold case crimes can be resolved, not to mention the impact of present-day techniques of validating evidence.
  6. Certified Professional – In addition to the PMP certification, the PM working at a legal firm, can obtain the Legal Project Professional™ (LPP) certification that recognizes a person with practitioner expertise about Legal Project Management and can lead legal matters as a legal Project Manager.
  7. The Competitors are Hiring PMs – Large Legal firms are hiring PMs. A Washington DC firm, Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, which focuses primarily on corporate and business law, recently brought on Ms. Deanna Burke, PMP as its first COO. Deanna has over 15 years of experience in IT project management, primarily in the aviation industry, where she led initiatives such as implementing air traffic management solutions.

The Opportunity
Hiring PMs to work with Lawyers is a win-win for Law firms. Lawyers are free to do legal work, and PMs has a new industry to influence and optimize the industry.
Go out there, my fellow colleagues. Opportunity knocks for you to sell your capabilities! It will be nice indeed to be on the same side of a Lawyer

Written in collaboration between Jim Carlson and a Consultant Program Principle

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About one year ago, I read this truly thought-provoking research paper1 that raised a noteworthy question – can we increase hiring success using Emotional Intelligence to place the right PMs on the right projects?  


We have all been there!We interview a remarkable candidate that has all the correct answers, qualifications, experience, and knowledge to be successful in his or her new PM Job. Nevertheless, for some unknown reason, the wonderful candidate is not a good fit, the troops are in an uproar, the client complains, and you have to find a replacement candidate quickly to mend the relationship fences. What gives? Why did this flawless candidate not succeed in his/her new role? How did you drop the ball? What is the secret sauce of hiring the right candidate for this innovative transformation project?

Is There a Better Way?

The feedback you received from your client is that your candidate wasn’t a good fit culturally for the organization. What it means is that the organization or project functions differently than the candidate. When the organization wants to go faster he/she wants to go slower, when they are strategic, he/she is tactical etc. Can we say “soft skills” quagmire?

According to J. Rodney Turner, PhD. and Ralf Müller, the authors of “Choosing Appropriate Project Managers”1, a PMs EI including Emotional (EQ), Managerial (MQ), and Intellectual (IQ) are all contributors to project success. Turner and Müller also advocate that EQ has a more significant impact on project management success than MQ, and IQ with some leadership competencies within EQ being more important to others depending on the type of project. Turner and Müller conducted semi-structured interviews and used a web-based questionnaire with over four hundred usable responses. The research that was published by the Project Management Institute, Inc. in 20061 supports the hypothesis that a PM’s leadership style and EI competencies contribute to project success, and the type of projects he/she will be successful at delivering for the organization.  

What the Research Tells Us

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), was the most prevalent for successful project outcomes. PMs must be emotionally intelligent to be successful. It makes it imperative that a hiring manager identifies the leadership competencies when recruiting PM candidates. 
Based on this PM leadership competencies the most successful PMs are motivated achievers, critical thinkers that are self-aware with strong resource skills. 

Key Data Points

IT and Renewal PMs have identical EI profiles, and PMs managing Repositioning and Organizational Change projects have similar leadership competencies
High-performing, high complexity projects or programs will require a PM with high ratings on all leadership competencies (EQ, MQ and IQ)
PM in high-performing, mandatory (Compliance) projects show strong competencies in critical thinking (IQ), conscientiousness (EQ), influence (EQ), and managing resources (MQ)
Repositioning projects require strong EQ, as well as empowering (MQ), managing resources (MQ), and critical thinking (IQ)

5 Changes to Incorporate into Your Hiring Process

1. Recognize the types of projects that your client undertakes, and the appropriate leadership styles for every kind of project
2. Identify the leadership styles of your PM resource pool (use a Leadership Dimensions Questionnaire (LDQ) tool that measures EI accurately)
3. Further, develop the specific leadership skills that are in high demand based on your client’s market
4. Maintain PM profile centrally and choose appropriate PMs when placing candidates
5. Celebrate the PMs and their contributions to your success

In Conclusion

Turner and Müller are not saying that all PMs will fail unless they have the right leadership style and EI competencies. What they are saying is that performance will be impaired on specific project types if the PM doesn’t have the appropriate leadership style and competencies. As a PM’s career develops, he/she must look to enhance his or her leadership style. If the PM specializes in one type of project, it makes sense to acquire the appropriate leadership style and EI competencies. As the PM progresses from low to high complexity projects, he/she will have to enhance his or her leadership competencies, especially developing emotional dimensions. 

1. Based on the Research Paper By: 
J. Rodney Turner, PhD. and Ralf Müller, DBA, 2006, Choosing Appropriate Project Managers, Matching their Leadership Style to the Type of Project. 
Published and Available for Purchase on

Written in collaboration between Jim Carlson and a Consultant Program Principle.