The Journey to Legal Project Management Software at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan By Jennifer Parker and Monica Ulzheimer

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1 The Journey to Legal Project Management Software at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan By Jennifer Parker and Monica Ulzheimer November 2011 Sutherland s journey to develop customized technology for Legal Project Management (LPM) was successful because of a partnership between our attorneys, our business development and practice management team, and our technology team. This article reviews all the steps we took along the way, from considering available off the shelf products to customizing a platform in house with our own developers. Sutherland s journey to develop customized technology for Legal Project Management (LPM) was successful because of a partnership between our attorneys, our business development and practice management team, and our technology team. In early 2010, a cross functional project team was tasked with finding software to support the firm s efforts to implement LPM. This article reviews all the steps we took along the way, from considering available off the shelf products to customizing a platform in house with our own developers. Leg One Defining Our Itinerary It was clear that technology would not be the starting point. We first needed to understand where we wanted to go and then we could align the technology that best supported our needs. We began by getting groups of attorneys together to hear how project management can benefit attorneys and to discuss goals for our project management initiative. Many of our practice groups had been working on matters with strict budgeting, reporting and accrual practices. Different groups had developed their own forms for scoping projects, estimating costs, allocating available time to different staff members, and tracking accrual of legal spending against budget. But these processes were not uniform, and they needed more automation to increase efficiency, and to attract users who did not necessarily have direct client demands for these kinds of tools. We knew that more disciplined management of legal projects would deliver rewards to the firm, whether or not clients were demanding such practices by name. We also engaged the services of an outside consultant for this first step. At this point the goals remained pretty high level and included: The ability to manage fixed fee engagements more efficiently. The ability to determine matter costs in advance. The ability to monitor costs throughout the engagement. More visibility for both the client and the team into the steps and progress of a matter. The ability to tie our internal systems together for easier tracking and reporting.

2 Leg Two Exploring the Marketplace Armed with these lofty goals, we set out to find a software package that would lay the framework for our initiative. We looked at one full service product that did everything we wanted and more, but as we explored further we realized that the only way it could do all the things we wanted was if we used task codes for all of our billing and we needed to have a long history of matters coded this way in order to make the data more meaningful. Although we had some track record using task based billing, we did not have enough cases that used task codes consistently enough to make this product work. Nor did we expect our attorneys to begin widespread use of task codes outside of client driven needs. The technology was quite advanced, and it required a major shift in the way our attorneys worked. It was also a very new and unproven technology. We saw several other products that were able to address one or two of our goals, but not all of them simultaneously. Most of these products were in the process of developing Web parts for SharePoint. The demonstrations showed us lots of bells and whistles, but nothing that would help us accomplish all of our goals quickly and easily. We decided to focus on the functionality we needed right away and that led us to the decision to develop our own tool. By developing our own tool, we would keep the solution simple enough for the attorneys to use, but with the features they most wanted and needed to get started. Leg Three Returning Home Our technology team was already managing internal technology projects using Microsoft Project and Project Web Access (PWA) so we decided that we could develop our own LPM platform using these same tools. In our first attempt at designing a dashboard, we focused on a matter level engagement. We included a Gantt chart with tasks, estimated timeframes, and level of employee assigned. We also included Web parts with links to the document workspace, Elite accounting data on amount billed to budget, and a graph with a hybrid measure of time to project completion (see Figure 1). We used consultants to develop the Elite Web parts and had previously purchased the imanage Web parts from the vendor. All other elements were native to the PWA platform. Leg Four Taking a Test Drive We piloted the dashboard onto two of our practice subgroups and assigned a full time project manager to work with each of these groups. Prior to receiving the dashboard, each pilot group consisting of attorneys, secretaries and paralegals attended a half day training session teaching project management fundamentals and introducing the dashboard. The reviews following these initial sessions were mixed. The Gantt chart was thought to be too complex, the financial data was too simple, and there were requests for many other features that were not contemplated for this first pilot program. Leg Five Out to Eat At this point we knew that we needed to take a fresh look at the technology. If we were to redesign our dashboard incorporating all of the requested features, it would take too much time and too much money and be too complex for anyone to actually use. The key was determining the benefit of each

3 feature in relation both to the cost of development and, more importantly, to the amount of attorney time required to make the functionality work. For example, everyone wanted a tool that would allow them to budget for a matter based on how long various tasks take. This is an expensive process to develop and would require that attorneys enter their time by specific task, a habit to which many were not accustomed. We needed to determine if this level of investment would be worth the return. As a solution, we developed a menu of functionalities that we began presenting to various groups interested in LPM. (see Figure 2). Based on both cost and time commitments for each feature, we asked attorneys to identify their 5 favorite features. After trying this option, we decided that the next iteration of our dashboard needed to be more client facing and would have to be designed based on each group s or client s ideal meal chosen from our feature menu. SharePoint remained an ideal platform for this menu approach as we could design Web parts as they were requested and then publish on any given portal only those parts a group was likely to use. A typical dashboard configuration contains charts that track the status of spend vs. budget for the matter, links to the imanage folders for the matter, a Task Assignment tool, and a Project Schedule tool. Users also have access to the asksutherland knowledge management tool, our docket management system, and other resources. The project team also can set up a team discussion space as well as single repository for any reports required by the client. Leg Six To Infinity and Beyond... To date we have several client engagements in progress that are actively using our LPM dashboard. We even have a few clients that said the dashboard was an influential factor in their decision to choose Sutherland. SharePoint, integrated with our already robust legal applications, has started us down a successful LPM implementation. SharePoint will allow us the flexibility moving forward to enhance our platform based on specific attorney and client needs. By starting small and building solutions for teams one at a time, we now have several teams waiting at the ticket counter to begin their own Legal Project Management journeys.

4 LPM Feature Menu (Figure 1) Top 5 Feature Relative Attorney Hours (Scale of 1 100) Relative Costs (Scale of $1 $100) Budget Tracking at a matter level 0 $2 Tracking at a task level (this is the key to future estimating) 50 $70 Estimating (requires looking at historical data to be able to predict future costs) 50 $90 Alarms 3 $5 Project Tasks Building tasks from a template 30 $5 Team calendar functionality that ties back to Outlook 5 $6 Assigning tasks to team members 15 $4 Tracking task time based on Elite time entry 45 $70 Viewing and providing tasks in a Gantt chart format 20 $4 Being able to see my tasks versus all team tasks 0 $2 Communications Being able to selectively share any or all of the above with clients 6 $40 through reporting Being able to selectively share any or all of the above with clients 6 $60 through a shared Web portal Having a matter specific blog Internal only 15 $0 Internal and external 15 $5 Both 15 $5 Issue tracking through an issue log 15 $2 Central place to store matter team contact information 3 $0 Area to house general project and scope information (e.g. client 3 $0 matter number, responsible partner, etc.) Links to other useful sites (e.g., asksutherland and Elite WebView) 1 $3 Documents Access to imanage documents through matter portal 0 $0 Client access to select imanage documents through matter portal 10 $20 Access to group or client templates through matter portal 6 $5 Access to best practice documents through matter portal 25 $5 Client Rollup Being able to view multiple matters for the client on one page 5 $50 Having aggregate reports on costs, budget, tasks, etc., at the client 25 $45 level Error! Unknown document property name.error! Unknown document property name.

5 LPM Dashboard (Figure 2) Error! Unknown document property name.error! Unknown document property name.

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