Just a few short years ago, many law firms were seemingly taking a bold leap by hiring a single person to focus on anything and everything relating to pricing, legal project management and process improvement. Job titles often included the word “pricing,” but, for many professionals, also featured added titles like “project management” or other words/phrases meant to capture some broader array of amorphous responsibilities.
Initially, it was hard to tell exactly what someone did just by his or her title. I vividly remember being on a panel for an LMA New England lunch series a couple of years ago with a pricing director at another firm. My title then was “Director of Pricing & Project Management” and his was “Director of Strategic Pricing & Project Management.” The moderator dryly pointed out that clearly the other director was much smarter than me, and that the audience should pay more attention to him. That was the first day that I vowed to somehow work the terms “intergalactic” and “all supreme ruler” into my title.
Fast-forward to 2016: How has the legal market responded to these new roles? …with open arms! The expansion and breadth of roles now filled by business of law professionals focusing on one or more of the three Ps is nothing short of remarkable. This is not to say that broader roles are disappearing — many of the most highly experienced professionals in this area hold sweeping roles such as “Chief Value Officer,” “Chief Practice Officer,” “Director of Client Services and Pricing,” and “EVP, Practice Management, Pricing & Operations.” The change from five years ago is that the value of these roles has largely been validated, leading to an expansion of both responsibilities and workload.
While many organizations continue to employ professionals with broad responsibilities across a variety of practice innovation areas, we have seen a move from “the person” to teams of professionals with more focused roles. For some firms, the focus has been on project management. This might involve hiring one or more experienced professionals to design and run a project management program, or putting in dedicated teams of experienced project managers who work directly with case-and-deal teams to manage individual projects and improve efficiencies. Other firms have designed roles focused on profitability and metrics in an effort to help drive awareness of the drivers of financial performance and efficiency. Roles have also been created around process improvement to streamline and improve service delivery models. Finally, we are seeing the expansion of pricing teams to include analysts who focus on financial modeling and analysis.
For many organizations, the new challenge has become figuring out how to build an effective team of professionals focused on pricing, project management and process improvement. Often, getting past the threshold question of “Where to focus?” can be a daunting task and there is no single right answer. Instead, each organization has to assess its needs, culture, and how each of the three Ps connects to the company’s strategic objectives and vision. Not an easy task, but an important one, as firms seek to further respond to client demands for value and efficiency.
So, what do all these new roles mean for the future of practice innovation in the legal industry? I would sum it up as … incredible potential for change. Even as new, more focused roles emerge, the common thread that connects professionals in this area is the focus on change; the drive to look at the current landscape and find ways to do some piece of it different and better. That shared vision of change is what makes collaborating with other professionals in this area so invigorating, and what makes conferences like P3 so exciting. On that note, I hope to see you in May at P3.
Christopher Ende is the Managing Director of Pricing & Project Management at Goodwin Procter. In this role, he oversees development and implementation of the firm's pricing and legal project management strategies, aimed at delivering increased value to clients through innovative fee arrangements, process improvement and active matter management.
Hear more from Ende during his panel, "Building an Empire: How to Design an Effective Pricing & Project Management Team," at P3 – The Practice Innovation Conference, May 17–18, 2016, in Chicago.