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Anti-Burnout Strategies for Partners and Managing Attorneys

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Anti-Burnout Strategies for Partners and Managing Attorneys

"Self-care without team care is futile." This is the starting point of this talk. Many people have described the practice of law as toxic, but that toxicity is also how we feel we "have to get things done." What if you could change that? As a partner, law firm manager, or managing attorney, you can. Over the course of an hour, you will be introduced to agile project management techniques that you can implement, immediately, as well as principles and approaches to change the way you see firm management. We will cover the three pillars of the Livable Law legal project management method: tasks, time, and things. You will be able to implement scrum meetings, task lists, efficient calendaring, and document organization.

Transcript

Hi, my name is Dr. Giugi Carminati and I am here to present Anti-Burnout Strategies for Partners and Managing Attorneys. And first, I want to start with explaining that I take this topic very, very seriously. I was a litigator for 14 years. I'm still an attorney. I worked at big firms, small firms. I worked at civil rights firms. I worked at commercial firms. And the problems that I'm addressing were present in every one of those firms until I became a project manager. And I understood and diagnosed the issues that were happening and started addressing them. So I never found a firm that was able to solve the issues that I'm raising until and unless I became the solution. And so the reason for me giving these lectures is so that you can become the solution in your own firm. And I really hope that you will take this presentation to heart. So. Let's start with maybe not so obvious point that frankly, you might be the problem whether you are a managing associate, a managing attorney, a partner, a firm owner. You might be a source of the problem. And it's not entirely your fault, but it's a good place to start. I wrote a book called The Livable Law Method, which was supposed to implement legal project management techniques in law firms. And part of what I addressed there was the issue of attorney well being and attorney wellness and the fact that as attorneys, we are not. Well, I stopped being a litigator. I burnt out. I picked myself back up again. I went through all of that and I realized there is something dysfunctional about the way we expect lawyers to practice law. And so I came up with what I call the livable law principles, and they are going to help me make various points over the course of this presentation. So here they are in one slide, and I will then repeat them in context as we move forward. The one I really want you to take in consideration is that burnout is forever. And what I mean by that is that when somebody burns out, it will affect the trajectory of their life forever. It will change the way they do things. And so this is not something where they can just pick themselves back up again and pick up where they left off. It will change everything. And in some cases it means that people will leave the practice of the law. And the fact that people are leaving the practice of the law because it is too toxic. Is it both a truth and absolutely unacceptable? So let's jump into my first principle, which is that people are not widgets. People are not consumable. People are not throwaway objects. People are people with their own bandwidth and their own capabilities and capacity to withstand stress and demands made on them. That was really the first important realization for me, is that the law treats lawyers like we're not human, like we are just units of production of ours. And that is something where we need to see a paradigm shift if we hope to actually address the issue of attorney well being. So in 2001, right? 22 years ago, the ABA asserted that too much emphasis was being placed by firms on billable hour requirements, which was leading to bill padding. Right. Because when unreasonable demands are put on people, they're going to try to meet them. But if these demands are unreasonable, then they're going to have to take unreasonable means to meet those demands. And there was a general inefficiency. Just because you spend more hours doing something doesn't mean you're producing better work. And it was also damaging firm culture, which is true. The ABA recommended that billing expectations should be set at 2300 hours annually and that these should consist of 1900 hours billable to clients and 400 additional hours for firm service, pro bono client development, training and professional development and professional service. So what does this look like in a normal human life? 2300 billable hours results in 9 to 10 hours per day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year. Okay. But here's the issue. The standard guideline for billable hours is that it takes approximately 10 to 12 hours to Bill eight. So to achieve AB expectations, lawyers would be expected to work 12 to 15 hours daily. Now, let's back up for a second. Ask. Think someone to work without fail 9 to 10 hours a day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year is not reasonable. We get sick. There are holidays. You might have to take your kid to the doctor. You might have to take your pet to the vet. Your mother might get sick. Your father might need some help. We are humans. We have lives. But when you take into consideration that 9 to 10 billable hours actually means 12 to 15 hours of work a day, then it becomes outright insane. There is a dark side to the billable hour. Okay. The fact that it creates the wrong incentives both to lawyers and to firms, the fact that the value proposition to the client is not always valuable and the fact that it creates unpredictable invoices because the goal is not to deliver work at the best price. The goal is to deliver as many hours as possible. And today we focus on the effect of the billable hour on attorney hours. Right. Let's look at that. Just that for now. And then we're going to look at how that translates to what it does to people's lives. So let's say that you start at 830 every morning. It means that you need to work until 830 to 11:30 p.m. at night. I don't know who is picking up your kids or working out or spending time your loved one or working on your marriage. But all of those things would normally be happening in those afternoon hours. That life, that part of our existence that is important to keeping us balanced and replenished and connected is obliterated. If you start thinking that you need to be putting in 12 to 15 hours a day. In the 1980s, Chief Justice William Rehnquist made an observation. And I'm going to tell you this Judge Rehnquist was not a particularly soft hearted individual. Okay. But he wrote law firms bent on making as much money as possible, treat associates very much as a manufacturer, would treat a purchaser of 100 tons of scrap metal. If you use anything less than 100 tons you paid for. You are simply not running an efficient business. That is the current paradigm. If you really want to do something about burnout and if you want to do something about turnover and attrition, this paradigm needs to shift. So what do we do? Well, obviously a culture that is hell bent on ours is not going to work. First. But second and very importantly. Even within the hours that are worked, we can be more efficient. Because that would mean that we can still produce the work we need to produce, deliver the services we need to deliver and not burn out our lawyers. What if we could achieve more work in the same amount of time? What if we could give our colleagues more predictable work schedules? What if we could have less chaos because less chaos means less stress? What if we could have lawyers focusing on lawyering rather than everything else that they do? And what if we could move away from the billable hour as the end all be all of productivity and the solution is, in fact, legal project management. Now, this lecture is not about legal project management per se. That's a whole other lecture. In fact, that's a whole other course I give. But starting to understand that there are tools and techniques will help you to take those first steps to shift your paradigm and understand that there is, in fact, a better way to practice law. Here's my second point. Self care without team care is futile. You cannot bubble bath your way out of toxic work environments. Self care has been really touted as something of importance that law firms need to encourage. But if the workplace itself is toxic and if the structure in place is harmful to the people working there, no amount of self care is going to address that. The other issue with self care as a concept is that it shifts. It's the responsibility onto the lawyer as the lawyers don't have enough to do as it is. This is like someone telling you they're drowning and you telling them, well, learn to swim. Well, that's all fine and dandy and it might be true, but the water is still drowning them. Okay, so. Now let's talk about why this matters. Burnout. Overwork. Working, inefficiency. All of these matter because one, it makes your law firm less efficient. If your law firm is less efficient, you are asking people to work more for less results. That is not an okay situation to be in. It is important because it leads to attorney burnout and as human beings, we should care about the fact that we are harming each other and that our profession is harmful. Third really important. The attrition among lawyers is staggering. We are talking 50, 60, 70% of lawyers quit depending on whether they're men, they're women, and depending on their race and cultural background. Because whatever structural inequities are in place, they are absolutely magnified when you have inefficient and toxic workplaces. Everything piles up on each other, which eventually leads to a dramatic loss of diversity in the workplace. And so this is a big deal because when you are talking about attorney well-being, you are also talking about diversity in the profession. And those two efforts actually do go hand in hand. Let's talk a little bit about turning mental health. In a 2004 study by Colorado lawyers helping lawyers. There was a survey of professions, and out of more than 100 occupations, lawyers had the highest rate of depression. In fact, lawyers are almost four times more likely to experience depression than the general population. This is catastrophic. And aside from depression, 1 in 4 lawyers also experience feelings of inadequacy and inferiority in personal relationships, as well as anxiety or social alienation at much higher rates than the population at large. When I say that the way we are practicing law is harmful, I really mean it. In 2016, an attorney and two mental health professionals conducted a study of 12,000 attorneys. This is not a small sample size, and they found staggering rates of hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol dependent drinking with higher rates among men. Substantial rates of behavioral health problems were found with 20.6% of screening positive for hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol dependent drinking. And I'm going to tell you, as someone who read the study, that the threshold was pretty high. I found it to be a little too high, honestly. A lot of people that were not counted in that 1 in 5 were still engaging in behavior that could be considered to be harmful to themselves. So we are not well and we are self-medicating. Men had a higher proportion of positive screens and also younger participants and those working in the field for a shorter duration. And that number means that their statistical significance, which means that this data is, is, is real. And the difference between men and women was significant with 25% of men engaging in problematic alcohol related behavior versus 15% of women. But again, remember, the standards were pretty high. So then in 2017, an ABA task force was created and as a result of and as a result of two devastating surveys regarding attorney well-being. And then in 2019, the ABA task force published its results and it was pretty dark. More than 13,000 working lawyers responded to the survey. Right. So these are people who are willing to answer. 28% of the lawyers suffered from depression. 19% of lawyers had severe anxiety. And this number, this number should stop you in your tracks. 11.4% had suicidal thoughts in the previous year. This is staggering. And then in 2014, there was a report by the National Association of Women Lawyers that said the report confirmed yet again that while law schools have been great at pumping out female graduates, more than 40% of graduates have been women since the mid 1980s. According to all law firms, have been exemplary at shedding them. Attorney wellbeing is actually an equity issue and we have to talk about it in those terms. If you are engaging in the same approach to management, you are going to get the same results. And this is why, for me, this has become a topic of personal crusade. We need to talk about the way we are managing lawyers and managing law firms. So women of color have the highest rate of attrition from law firms as they continue to face firm cultures where their efforts and contributions are neither sufficiently recognized nor rewarded. And this comes out from left out and left behind the hurdles, hassles and heartaches of achieving long term legal careers for women of color. This is a report from June of 2020. We are not even three years out from this, and depressingly, in July of 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism published an article titled Why Women of Color are Walking Away from the Law, which opens with the following statement. Not much has changed for women of color attorneys at law firms over the past 14 years, according to a study released last month by the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession. That is appalling and shameful. And why am I bringing this up? Because one of the reasons that attorneys are not doing well is definitely ours. But another one is because of the chaos in law firms. And one result of chaos is that people do not get the credit for the work that they are doing. They do not get valued for the quality of the work that they are doing. And those are the things that are actually driving women out of the profession because it is not worth it to be at a job where you are being personally broken by the mismanagement and inefficiency and chaos and at the same time not even being seen for the contributions that you are making while working under those conditions. That becomes an untenable proposition. So attorney well-being is not just about equity. It's not just about mental health, but it's also about giving people what they're due. Giving credit where it is due. And here I'm going to come to a really important part of this lecture. And if you don't walk away with anything else, I want you to remember this. Case management is not the same thing as process management. I'm going to say that again. Managing a case is not the same thing as managing the process that gets your team to work that case. And why is that? Law firms are really unique in that they do not train and assign project managers. And that may have made sense when you were a solo or you had a small firm and you were dealing with a few cases, that's fine, but. But law firms are now businesses. When I was at one law firm, I was overseeing over 120 cases as a managing attorney. 120 cases requires a project manager. I'm going to tell you something better. Ten cases requires a project manager. What is a project manager? A project manager is an individual that is looking at the process of working on the case. Not managing the strategy and decisions and research and approaches to the case itself. Decoupling those two roles is life changing. I had to pitch my boss on the fact that I wanted to be a legal project manager at the firm and he had no idea what I was talking about and the way I tried to explain it. And to his credit, he took me up on the offer and let me do something that was kind of unclear when I took over because it just didn't exist. And I said to him, You manage the cases, but I manage the team. I'm the one that has to watch how many hours they're working, if they're working on weekends, if they're working evenings, if we have enough bandwidth, I'm going to watch that. You give us our marching orders, but I'm going to implement them. And if we don't have the resources to implement the plan, as you have presented it to me, you either change the plan or change the team. But we are not going to overextend our team any more. And I saw myself as a protector of my team members. So why can legal project management change this? Well, for starters, task assignment and completion is completely transparent. There is a task tracking system. Every task is logged on there. Who is in charge? When do they get it? When it has to be finished, whether they're on track or not, and who they need to report to, who they need to talk to, who do they need to be? Keep informed. Task accountability is clear. Who worked on the draft? Who turned it in? Who did the heavy lifting? Deadlines and time constraints are planned for weeks ahead of time. Here's a really good one. Early in my career. I came home one evening and I told my husband it was filing day and therefore I was coming home. I don't know. An impossible hour. 1030 11 p.m. late into the night. And he answers, looking at me, Well, why? Why is filing day so complicated? Don't you guys know ahead of time you have to file? And I was like, You don't know what you're talking about. This is just a stressful job. Unfortunately, he was right. We know about filing deadlines more often than not 15 to 30 days ahead of time. Why are we rushing on filing day? The legal project management, if you implement it, can actually require that everything be done days before it is actually due. The moment an assignment would come in, a filing would come in that required response I would assign within three days it was assigned and we had internal deadlines. First draft draft of the partner. How long does the partner have to return a draft? Take take a moment to think about that. Imposing on your partners a set time that they have to give you back the draft. No more sitting on it until the last day and all of our filings were prepared three days before. I'm saying all the way through exhibits, sight checking, formatting. Everything was ready three days before filing day. So that on the day of filing, you know, short of having technical difficulties, that thing could be done in 30 minutes. This is how you manage time. This is how you manage attorney well-being. You remove this unnecessary source of stress. A legal project management also allows you to clearly distribute the workload. Okay. One thing that will happen, and this was pretty common. Once a week, we would have a meeting where we would go through everybody's tasks and I would notice, Oh my God, this lady has four motions due next week and this other lady has two. We need to redistribute or we need to make sure that nothing else that comes in is going to go to this first associate and we're going to give it to the second associate. Or how can we get extensions of deadlines? I could see immediately if a paralegal was running light and a paralegal was running heavy. One really important part about workload distribution is that there is a phenomenon in law firms which is high performance punishment, and that means that high performers usually get rewarded for their efforts with more work and then more work and then more work. And then you end up burning out your high performer. And when you have legal project management in place, you can see if that's happening in real time and you can immediately nip it in the bud. And the other thing about legal project management is that it allows you to have a track record for each of your team members. And so promotions should and then can be based on objective outcomes and not fragmented subjective opinions, which we know are a fuel for inequity. Right? Like promotes like. And if you want to make sure that you're promoting women and people of color commensurately with their efforts and their abilities and their contributions, then you need to have an objective, transparent way to see what those are. Now, let's get deep into this question. What causes burnout? I've been talking about it like we all know what it is, but I don't think we really do. So burnout, I love this definition is the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion. And I'll tell you, that's how burnout feels. A reduction to nothing. Burnout for human beings has been defined as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of low personal accomplishment that leads to decreased effectiveness at work. So burnout doesn't just hurt people, it also hurts their performance at work. Burnout is defined as a mental health illness in ICD 11. Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one's job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job and reduced professional efficacy. Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life. Burnout was also included in the ICD ten in the same category as ICD 11, but the definition is now more detailed. This is not new. This is not a new concept. So how do you recognize burnout? Not only in others, but in yourself. Persistent feelings of exhaustion. One thing about burnout is that you can go and sleep seven hours, eight hours, nine hours, and you will wake up exhausted. There is no replenishment and you just tired all the time, despite objectively being able to get rest, being able to have, you know, a little bit of recharge, it's just not working. It's just not recharging your battery. Irritability with co-workers and clients, that one does happen. And you will notice yourself getting sneakier and angrier. And I often now have a sense of compassion when I see lawyers losing it. When I was, for example, an attorney litigating and I would see opposing counsel or other lawyers get really irrationally angry about things and and very cruel or mean towards me because I was like, Oh, I know what's happening. I know what's going on. This persona of the angry, impatient lawyer, I think is more a result of burnout than anything else. There will be a mental retreat from work and life. One way that you will notice that is if you need distraction while you're working because you just can't stay focused on work anymore. And so you put distractions in the background to keep yourself running even though you're running on empty. Definitely being cynical or hypercritical at work. Nothing's good enough. Nothing's okay enough. Nothing's working. Self-medicating with food or alcohol, for sure. Lawyers are terrible about alcohol. The numbers prove that. And you will see that at lawyer functions. Changes in your sleeping habits and then headaches or unexplained physical complaints. How common is burnout? It's actually ubiquitous. It's not an exception. It's the rule. 86% for female lawyers, 70% for female for male lawyers. And it's actually higher for caregivers than those who are not caregivers. Right. And why is that? Because when you're a caregiver, you are having other things pull at your resources, at your bandwidth. And so you have less to go around. It's actually very high among communities of color and historically marginalized people. 86% for black lawyers, 88% for Hispanic lawyers, 84% for non heterosexual lawyers, and 83% of lawyers with a disability. When I say that the issue of well being the issue of legal project management, the issue of burnout is an issue of equity. This is why. Lawyers who experience bias, harassment, discrimination and vicarious trauma report higher burnout, anxiety and depression. Not surprisingly, and among those who experienced bias or harassment, more than one third said they experienced such treatment from opposing counsel or their current workplaces. So what causes burnout? I talked about it a little bit. Right. Exceeding your bandwidth. But this is what it looks like, lack of autonomy when you don't have a sense of control. Why? Because it feels like everyone is pulling at your bandwidth and you can't do anything about it. Higher workload or pressure that is beyond what is reasonable to withstand. Lack of leader and colleague support. If you feel isolated. Unfairness. If there's profound unfairness at work, you are going to burn out because it requires bandwidth to withstand an environment that does not value you as a human. That dehumanization is exhausting. That causes burnout. A disconnection in values between what you're doing and what the firm is doing and what what your values are. And then lack of recognition again, because one way that you replenish bandwidth is by getting valued and seen for the work you contribute. But if you are not being valued and you're not being seen, then you are going to have to make effort to withstand that and that is going to pull on your bandwidth. Making a point. Number four. Burnout is forever. I really want to make this point hard. It's only the fourth one. We have a few more to go, but burnout stays with people. It's not something that you just recover from and it has long term consequences on people's careers. And so when you are talking and thinking about burnout, you have to understand that what you're trying to avoid is long term harm to the people who are entering the profession. And you should want that. We should all want that. So I've used this word a couple of times. Let's really dig deep into this. What's a bandwidth? Why am I talking about bandwidth? Bandwidth is the amount of intellectual, emotional and physical energy that the person has at their disposal. That's it. You have limited resources, period, because you're not a widget. Remember point number one. You're a human person. Responding to external demands for intellectual, emotional and physical engagement. Uses our bandwidth, and that is where that feeling of being pulled in a million directions comes from because everybody is tugging on your bandwidth. So what is the relationship between burnout and bandwidth? Well, burnout is the result of chronically overtaxing and then exceeding a person's bandwidth. And if we don't quit, which we don't, we don't quit. Lawyers, especially women attorneys, we don't quit. Historically marginalized folks don't quit because we've been told to quit many times in our lives implicitly or explicitly, and we don't quit. So when things get tough, we don't quit. What happens instead in a toxic environment is that we work until we break, and then fixing takes a lot, but by then we're probably leaving the profession. So how do you preserve bandwidth? Well, first, there needs to be a match between demands and availability. Right. There has to be harmony between those two concepts. You need to be able to work on things uninterruptedly. You need to be able to not be pulled out from a million directions when you're working on a task. You get to work on that task and bosses need to recognize that and be okay with that. You need to be compensated adequately for your time. You need to be compensated adequately for your efforts. You need to be recognized for your work. And that is not money. That is promotion. That is the corner office, that is titles, that is being given latitude and leeway when you need it. Being recognized for what you bring to the table. I'm going to tell you a story about not being recognized in a way that was not about money. I was at a firm, the toughest firm I have ever worked at. I was working 70 to 80 hour workweeks. One week I billed 100 hours. It was tough. It was really, really destructive for me. But I did it. I just worked my rear off because I thought that if I worked hard enough, I would get recognized. One of the things we had to do is that we were traveling several weeks, every several days, every week for about a year and a half. I'm talking 2 to 3 nights a week. And I had three kids under five at the time. I was tired, but I did it. And then one day I get a message telling me that. The firm no longer wants to pay for my Uber cabs, Lyft, whatever, from the airport to my house. And I wrote back and I said, if I have to drive home in the state that I'm in, given my schedule, I will kill myself. I will have an accident. I cannot I get in the back of the Uber and I fall asleep for 40 minutes until I get home. Two in the morning, I'm back at the office at eight. I'm back on a plane at two. I work until three in the morning. I run three, four days. On four hours of sleep, I will kill myself. And the response came back. Well, you need to find alternative arrangements. I quit that day. That is not recognising people's efforts. That is not about money. It wasn't about the Uber. It was about not recognizing the efforts that people are making and you have to recognize their efforts. And then control. You have to give people control over their workload, over their schedules, over their hours. The reason that working remotely has become so successful. Is not about laziness, which unfortunately gets depicted that way. It's about control. If you control where you work from it, actually. Feels good and it takes you away from burnout. It actually helps to reduce burnout and reduce attrition because it gives people a sense of being able to invest time when they have it, invest energy when they can, and measure and pace themselves. That's why it's so important. So let's think about that. Giving control to your team members is a way to reduce burnout. If they are mismanaging the control you give them, they're not the right person for the job. Being more in control of them won't fix the issue. You'll just create a more toxic environment for everybody else there. So how do you replenish bandwidth? Right? Well. Recreational engagement. Skydiving. Scuba diving. Hiking, walking your dog, reading a book, listening to music, going to the movies. Playing darts. I don't know what it is that makes you happy, but those engagements are what matters. So when you look at a schedule and you see someone who has to work from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., you know what they're not doing? Recreational engagement. You need to give time to people to do things they want to do that have nothing to do with work. Which actually brings me to the second thing that replenishes bandwidth. An absence of demands. Giving people a space where they are not being asked to do anything is critical. And you do that by not bothering them outside work hours. Do not put demands on people 24 over seven that burns them out. Make space. Employers and managers always ask, What can we do? What can we do? What can we do? The answer in some ways is but out of people's lives. When people are working, they're working. When they're not working, they're not working. Leave them be. Make space for their life and as an individual. The way to replenish bandwidth is to make space for your life. Don't check email. Don't answer phone calls. When you're off work, you're off work. And then obviously, I included this one. But we all know this. Rest, sleep, sufficient hours. Take the time that you need to rest. Rest is a need. It's not a luxury. It is a necessity. It is important to your brain, to your body, to your health, to your interpersonal relationships, and to your productivity. At work. Resting is not a luxury. Resting is not something that you do because you're being lazy or cheeky or whatever it is. Rest is an important part of your life, like eating and breathing. Next point I want to make. This one's hard, but, you know, it was coming, right? Boundaries, not balance. For decades, two decades have been around. Professionally speaking, I've been sold this idea of we have work life balance. That is a terrible concept. It's terrible because here's the thing. Balance, first of all, assumes that your life, your real life, the life with your partner, spouse, lover, family, children, parents, pets, friends, whatever it is that makes up your life. That life is to be balanced with work. Your life is all encompassing and is way more important than work. And as a manager, that's really hard to hear. As a firm owner, you're probably not going to like hearing that. But remember, the first thing I said to you, frankly, you might be the problem. If you don't understand that your team's lives is more important than the work they do for you, you are part of the problem. Your life is more important than your work. The second issue with balance is that work always wins. Life is a bunch of rocks and sand and pebbles that you put in a jar. Work is water. If you pour it in, it's going to go everywhere all the time. It is the glitterbomb of professions. Practicing law goes everywhere and you can't get rid of it. This is why. Boundaries are important. Not balance. If you're off. You're off when you're at work. You're at work. If you're home with your kids, you're home with your kids. If you're home with your spouse, you're home with your spouse, whatever it may be. If you're not at work, you're not at work. And as a manager and a firm owner, you have to be willing to let people impose boundaries and you have to encourage it, actually. Which is one of the big tenets of the livable law method as I came up with it. Now I'm going to give you a little primer on what is project management, okay. And I'm not going to spend a long time on this because this is not a project management lecture. But now that I've painted the world as it is, I want you to know that there are tools to make things better. Otherwise, it's not fair. I'm just, you know, showing you a problem and then not telling you how to fix it. So project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Okay, so there's parameters, there's objectives, we're going to meet them and there's ways we're going to do that. Awesome. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite time scale and budget. Oh, we don't do that much with the law, don't we? What if I told you, Hey, go write this motion. Don't take more than eight hours. Don't take more than four hours. Don't take more than three hours. Oh, now we're talking, right? Imagine budgeting like that. Imagine being able to send invoices and promise costs to your people, to your clients with that mindset. And project management is the science and art of organizing all the components of a project. And there are three pillars to project management the management of tasks, the management of time and the management of things. Do you notice that there is no management of people? There's a reason for that. Because you are not managing people. You are managing the outcomes of their work. You're not controlling people. You're asking them to do a certain work and they're going to have to deliver that work. That is how you measure productivity. You're not controlling people. So what does it mean to manage tasks? Well, first of all. You have to manage deadlines. All right. When is it due? What's our internal deadline? What's our external deadline? And actually, I stopped caring about external deadlines. Not entirely, obviously, because we have to file, but as a project manager, I didn't care about the external deadline because to me the internal deadline was real, was enforceable. If somebody misses an internal deadline, it's just as bad. It's terrible. This is the deadline that drives our work. It's not a soft deadline. It's a real hard deadline because without it, you are allowing chaos to creep back into your workplace. You want to have deadlines internally, not just for the final draft. When do you have the first draft done? When do you get it to the partner? When do you get it to the client? When do you get it to the paralegal? How long do they have to put together exhibits? If everything is being determined ahead of time, everyone can manage their workload. Management of tasks requires assigning to people. So not only are you going to assign who has to do the work, but you need to immediately assign, who needs to be conferred with, who needs to be informed and who is actually accountable ultimately. Why does this matter? I'm going to tell you why. And you think about whether this has ever happened to you. Somebody works on a draft. Great. They get all the way to the end of the draft. Great. They go through a bunch of reviews. Great. And then two days before it's due to be filed. Oh, you know what, though? So-and-so and such department needed to take a look at it, too. Let's get it over to them. That's unfair to the person who's going to have to make the edits. And that's totally planable ahead of time. Who needs to look at this draft? Whose input do we want? What? How do we want to come to fruition? So identifying who is working on tasks and who needs to be involved early on avoids those last minute issues. And then accountability, right? If you are managing tasks, everybody knows what they're doing. When players know what research they're doing, what parts they are writing, they know if they're writing or reviewing or whatever else. Paralegals know what they're doing within the process assembling exhibits, site, checking, ensuring compliance with local rules, whatever it may be, and everybody else in that chain of production knows what they're going to be doing when. And it actually helps to create accountability because if somebody drops the ball, we all know where it happened and that will help down the line to figure out how to help them, how to troubleshoot the issue or how to give credit where credit is due and provide feedback where it needs to be given. The second pillar is management of time. You do this in three sub pillars. The first one is understanding bandwidth, and I've talked about it so I will not talk about it much again. But understanding that every person can only do so much. And that overburdening your high performers is unfair and damaging to you and to them. Calendaring. Oh, boy, Oh boy. Have I had conversations about this topic. Law firms need to have a central calendar. Now, look, I say law firms generically. Maybe in your group it's a section or a department or a group, whatever your organization is. But if a group is working together and they're sharing resources, then you know what? They need to have a centralized calendar. Everybody has to have access to that calendar. Everybody has to see the calendar. Everybody has to understand when things are due, including I'm going to say it again, internal deadlines. When is it due to whom? When does it have to be done? When is it going out the door? A centralized calendar that everybody understands. And then management of time is time. You need to understand time for completion of a task. Here's an example. I had a fantastic associate. She was a superstar. She had a couple of motions. Responses, Motions. I forgot what it was, but it was briefs that she had to do. And it was Friday afternoon during our weekly meeting, which we called a well, there's various names for it. It can be a swamp out or a task matrix review or whatever it is. And it turns out that she had something that was due later in the week, but she had a lot on her plate and she said, Well, it's okay, I'll work over the weekend. And I said, No, you won't. We don't do that here. And she said, Oh. And I said, No, we're going to ask for an extension on some on a project of yours so that we can move it out another week and then you'll have bandwidth. Because we understood how much time she needed to complete a task. And sometimes not everyone understands how long it takes to complete a task. A good example was one time a partner got mad at a paralegal because it took her a day and a half to put together exhibits. But I thought. That was correct. Actually, because. She was putting together, I think, 5 or 6 binders with 200 exhibits in each one. And that just takes time to do manually. So understanding how much time it takes to complete tasks is an important part of managing your team's time. Part of this notion of managing time is to understand that the workweek is finite. And that is the point that I was making with the story about my superstar associate. It's Friday afternoon and she's telling me she's going to work over the weekend. Unfortunately, those hours are not available. And that was my job to protect my team. The partner wouldn't have cared. The partner wouldn't have noticed, but did. The workweek is finite. And I know you're going to tell me, But but but remember, I started with frankly, you might be the problem. Yeah, This is where it lands. After hours are not available. Early mornings. Not available. Weekends Leave people alone. Vacations. The number of times I've seen people get emailed and then respond on vacation. Is outrageous. You have a certain number of hours available to you if you're working as an attorney, if you're managing other attorneys and staff members and whoever else works at a firm. The workweek is finite. Stop bleeding into the rest of people's lives. The third pillar is the management of things. And that means you discover and document management, client file management and the drafting process. And I can't go into depth on these because they're very complex. Uh, issues. But the first one is that your firm needs to have a really good handle on e-discovery and document management. And that includes having pristine logs of what documents are there. Having solid e-discovery procedures and having people who are knowledgeable enough to not reinvent the wheel and not use systems that are ten years old to do things that now should take a few minutes given the technology we have available. Second thing is client file management. For every ten paralegals, there are 40 ways to organize a file, and for every ten lawyers, there are 50 ways to organize a file. I mean, people are not very organized and disciplined about the way they organize your client file. And you need to get a handle on that because you know what causes a lot of wasted time and stress and disorganization and utilization of bandwidth, improper client file management. People should never be looking for a file more than 30 seconds. And you need to ensure that's the case in your law firm. And then the drafting process. I've talked about it before, so you know where I'm going at. But we need to understand what the workflow is for drafting and everybody has to be willing to abide by a schedule. You cannot have one person taking forever, one person asking for immediate turnarounds. There has to be a method to the madness of the current drafting process. Which brings me to a seventh principle of liveable law templates. Save time and sanity. They do. We should not. Be recreating drafts of documents from scratch every time. People need to. Understand what they're doing. When I'm telling you about lack of control, uncertainty, unfairness, erratic feedback being pulled in a million directions. All of those things are caused in part by the fact that a lot of law firms don't have standardized documents. Have them. If you. All are drafting the same document over and over and over and over again, have a. Template. Even better. Invest in a software that auto populates those templates because that will save everybody time. And remember what I said about doing more work in less time. That's one of the ways you do that. Let's delve a little bit more into time management and the concept of quality versus quantity. Because time is how we value lawyers work. Unfortunately, time is what is limited because now you know that the workweek is finite. If you didn't know, then you know now. Right? The workweek is finite. There's only so many hours. And you also are now for sure adopting the idea of boundaries, not balance. So when people are not working, they are not working. So your time is precious. The time that they have available to work is precious. So how do you look into this time apportionment? How much time will a task take? What other projects is this person working on? Is anyone else on the team running light and could either work on this project or take things off the other person's plate and then look back and say, well, how long did it actually take? Was I right? Was I wrong? Because we may be incorrect about our assumption about how long things take. So we want to be able to keep a measure of that. You want to immediately tell yourself we'll paralegal help be needed? How soon? When? What type of help? And then can any subtext be pushed out or down? Right. So down the chain of command, Look, we are hierarchical profession. It's just the reality of it. Okay? So can any subtask be pushed out to consultants. Outside. Counsel, um. E-discovery companies. Other people? Can other people. Do these things? Is there companies that do client intakes? There are companies that answer phone calls. For example, at my law firm, I had a small law firm. That was called the woman's lawyer and that represented victims of domestic violence for five years. And my paralegals did not answer the phone. I had an answering service for that. Right. So certain people do other things. You want to make sure that the right people are doing the right task. That is how you make sure that time is apportioned correctly. Because if a paralegal is a billable entity, which they are, they can. Bill. Then you want to make sure that they're doing that as much as possible, right? How do you look at deadlines? This is a little bit of a of a. Deep dive into the concept of deadlines I was. Looking at earlier, who is calendaring? This one was a big one. Who does the calendaring in your team? Is it always the same person? Because that's important Consistency in the formatting and. The content of the calendar entries actually matters. Do you include deposition notices with every calendar deposition? Do you include orders for hearings? Do you include drafts? What do you include in a calendar entry? You want the same person doing it the same way every time. You want to have redundancies, right? Multiple calendars. You want to make sure that if one calendar goes down or there's an error, there's another one to back it up. One thing that I. Strongly encourage you to do is to circulate on a weekly basis a separate document with your deadlines 30 to 60 days out. I got a lot of pushback on this, But why? It's on the calendar. I'm like, I know. Do you know how easy it is to gloss over what's on the calendar after you've looked at it 15 times? If you get a calendar in a different format, for me, it was a word document or. Even in an email. Once a week that says, Hey, everybody, listen up. This is what's going on. You can sit down and have like, Hey, you know what? I really I need to look at this again with fresh eyes, present it to me in a different way because you won't just gloss over it the way that you would do if it's just your regular calendar. I did a weekly review of deadlines. That were seven days out. What's coming down the pike in the next seven days? Is everything being worked on? Is everything being handled in a timely manner? Are there any crunches coming up? Are there any emergencies that we might foresee? You really get everybody to focus on the next seven days. And then I've talked about this a lot. I've said internal versus external deadline. Some of you may wonder, okay, well, how much sooner, Right. Three days is the minimum. Your internal deadline has to be at a minimum, three days before your external deadline. I would rather see it 5 to 7 days. And then, of course, internal deadlines are real and they include hearings. Ha! Right. If you need something prepared for a hearing, it needs to be ready 5 to 7 days out from the hearing. No. Same day, No night before throwing together binders. You know what? Also, that helps with not making mistakes. Communication. This is a big one, and I'm glad that this is we're going to work on for the next few minutes. There is a difference between communication and communication, and this is really. A generational issue, but we have to get into it. Email is not the same as chat. The fact that if you step. Away from your inbox, you'll come back and there'll be 15 new emails is not okay. There is real time communication and then there are emails. And those are two very different. Things. So you need to ask yourself, how. Does your team communicate with the outside? How does your team communicate amongst itself? How much time do your team members spend going through emails? Does an inbox allow threading and organization of communications? Does your method of communication create more or less work? Do people have to search through their inbox to find. A communication about a particular subject? Does your method of communication allow for real time communications? So what do I mean? Like what does it look like? Email is for. Lengthier, slower communication. Chat, which is unfortunately how people use email is something more akin to. Google Chat. Or teams or Slack or whatever other chat function where people. Can go back and forth in conversations. That are divvied up by subject. Chatting is real time communication outside. Of your inbox, and it's organized by case, team or project. It coexists usually. With an editing function. An example are the ones that I mentioned. The other thing you want to do is. That I mentioned it. I'm going to dig deep a little bit into this. When I say that you have. To have a calendar, deadlines and. Upcoming tasks, so you want to have a calendar, at least two of those. You want to have a document circulated once a week, pulling out deadlines that are coming up in the next 30 days. And then you want to have a weekly review by. The legal project management and the lead personnel. To look at what's happening next week, every single week. So my encouragement to you. If you walk away from this thinking I. Got to do something is to start implementing legal project management. And honestly, I'd love to help you, but there's plenty of books out there to do it at your firm Start today. And it's going to be hard. Because lawyers are independent. We have low resilience. We take things super personally. We don't like to be managed. We're not taught project management. We are overworked and stressed as it is, and we live in a toxic culture that says deal with it, be tough. You know, these are the challenges. Go out and conquer them. And one way you do that is by having dedicated legal project management. Sorry, dedicated legal project managers. Because a case is not a fiefdom, right. The case belongs. To the client and to the lead attorney, that's fine. But the people that work in there are humans with their. Own lives and they cannot be directed. By the whims and stresses and. Panics. Of the lawyer in charge. Which is why. I would come back to my point number nine, which is that you should serve the client, but. You protect your team. And a legal project manager does just that. They protect the team. So here's a hit list of things you should start doing right away. No emails outside work hours. If you email outside work hours, you make it clear that nothing is expected until business hours. Which brings me to the next point. Have business hours. They're a thing. It's okay. You're not a weakling for having those minimize frenetic communications. Please eliminate ASAP from your vocabulary unless you actually mean ASAP. Streamline your workflow. Never expect or rely on people to work on weekends and evenings. Research and implement time. Saving technology and. Model the self-preserving. Behavior you expect from. Others. Finally, if you have to. Ask for extensions because I'm going to say it again. When you do that. You are still serving the client, but you are protecting your team. So my final words. Are do begin. Implementing legal project management. Implement boundaries. Exemplify self-care and. Prioritize team care. Keep track of bandwidth. Don't hold meetings that could be emails. Expect 24 over seven availability. Ignore workweeks and workdays. Confuse managing cases with managing processes. Become a bottleneck for other people's work and make up. For personnel shortages by punishing your high. Performers. Don't do those things. Thank you so much for watching. This, CLE. I hope you learned something. I hope you feel better and I hope you go out into the world and make this profession better for others. This is my contact information. I welcome emails. I welcome questions, I welcome feedback. And I'd love to talk to you. Thank you so much.

Presenter(s)

GCL
Giugi Carminati, LLM
Space lawyer, eDiscovery attorney, legal project manager, and former litigator
Livable Law

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