Setting Priorities on the Deluge of Projects Hitting the Law Department

Hi Value – Tough Implement

Hi Value – Easy Implement

Lo Value – Tough Implement

Lo Value – Easy Implement

Johns Manville’s law department used a Resource Allocation Prioritization Process (as a consultant, I cringe at the name, but we all go to great lengths to find catchy acronyms).  If you want to try it, first have your lawyers list their top 20 current projects.  Next, the lawyer ranks each project according to its relative benefit to the company – low, medium, or high value.  (Actually, from the description I read in Counsel to Counsel’s November 2004 issue, I do not know whether the ranking was an absolute one, where the lawyer tries to place the project in relation to the value contributed of all other projects, or whether it was in relation to the projects on his or her plate.  My hope is that the ranking was within the lawyer’s 20 projects, because more senior lawyers would typically have more value-contributing projects.).  In the third step, the lawyer ranked the project on ease of implementation.  Again, I am unsure whether the implementation score matched to all projects or only the lawyer’s projects.  (As I write, I also wonder whether someone other than the lawyer advises on implementation and value.)

The law department then created a 3 by 3 matrix.  They noted which lawyers were doing projects in which of the nine cells, and reassigned some work.  As a final touch, the department talked through this RAPP matrix with business executives and they jointly changed some priorities, some projects and some assignments.

One can quibble with this process.  Lawyers can inflate the importance of their projects, or exaggerate how difficult it is to complete them.  One person’s “project” is another person’s “just get it done.”  Value to the company remains a problematic assessment for many activities (what is reviewing an NDA worth if the other side might purchase $100 million or might just be nosing around?).  Having quibbled, however, the core idea remains useful.  Think about what lawyers are working on and try to match their talents with the importance and difficulty of the projects.  Good law department management demands no less.

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