Planet4iT Blog


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Jim Carlson
Jim Carlson
Jim Carlson's 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.


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The dictionary defines a “Silver Bullet” as a bullet made of silver, used in fiction as a supposedly magical method of killing werewolves. The modernized version describes it as a simple and seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem. Executives use “Silver Bullets” to protect themselves from downsizing, outsourcing, and early retirement.

Some people are plugging Agile as the present day Silver Bullet.

In response, I simply say – HALT!

Agile is an adjective and not a noun. Agile provides the ability to adapt quickly to a changing environment without material impact to time and the effort to the team. Agile is about applying common sense principles; reducing inefficiencies, increasing quality, and continuously looking for ways to improve throughput. Agile is a radical counter-cultural change in the process – a paradigm shift.

Pure agile contains all the above, but to determine if Agile is genuinely the magical solution to our complicated problems, we need to debunk a few common myths first.

Common Myths about Agile:

1.    Agile is a project management technique – false

2.    Agile is Scrum – false

3.    Agile is a one-size-fits-all solution – false

4.    Agile is going to solve all of our complicated problems – (sadly) false

1. Agile is not a project management technique

Agile is not a project management methodology as some may advocate. Project management methodologies or techniques drive a plan using repeatable disciplinary processes. Conversely, Agile is about interdisciplinary autonomous teams aligning to a corporation’s objectives and trying different approaches and outcomes to advance innovation. Agile is flexible and principle-based, rather than prescriptive.

2. Agile is not Scrum

Scrum is one of many methods of software development. Agile is much bigger than Scrum and not limited to software development only. Agile principles are scalable to most industries and functions, including operations, marketing, R&D, and Legal. Scum might be used to get Agile out of the gate, but it is not substitutable. It is saying C++ and coding are interchangeable.

3. Agile is not a one-fits-all solution

Organizations are all different and unique. Each company has their own unique culture, inadequacies, working styles, and preferences. Trying to create a one-fits-all “Agile” solution, is not necessarily wrong, but it takes away from the real essence of Agile. Agile is about reducing inefficiencies, increasing quality, and continually looking for ways to improve throughput. It is not about speeding up code delivery to the point where quality capitulates.

4. Agile is not going to solve all our complicated problems

Agile is not a magic formula that will fix all our complicated issues, it has, however, common sense principles that will fix some of our problems. You might be following all the Agile principles religiously, but it is one thing to want to do the right thing, it is altogether another thing to “actually” do it. There will always be procrastinators, office politics, and career aspirations that get in the way of pure agile. What makes agile transformation so tricky is that it goes against our natural behaviors - to control and limit change and uncertainty. At the end of the day, and to be truly successful, our way of thinking (our culture) needs to change before Agile fixes problems.

In summary

Agile is not a silver bullet!

Agile is about applying common sense principles; reducing inefficiencies, increasing quality, and continuously looking for ways to improve throughput. Start slowly, educate the organization, use Agile to go Agile, and most importantly - allow room for failure and constant refinement. Nevertheless, I hope you find your transition to Agile both stimulating and gratifying.

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

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A noted Enterprise Architect and I were chatting over a coffee one day a short while ago about next- generation Enterprise software. The enterprise that employs him needs a global offering. The software Vendors were asked to meet 2022 needs for this strategic recruit, train and retain initiative. The project is fully funded by the top Executives. My friend was reflecting that the short listed Vendors who can offer ‘off the shelf’ ERP software were only able to meet 1st Quarter 2018 enterprise needs. The build solution seems to be the viable alternative at this time.  Our reflection was that this project is only the tip of the iceberg on what Corporations and companies are now facing if they are to survive.

Current fad is to use expressions in the likes of incorporating AI based behaviours; IOT; Cyber currencies and crypt based attestations; Data science and analytics; Cloud; collaborative source development; and voice activated activities. These have real meaning when a business entity is looking to build.

At the end of 2017, the top tech jobs noted by Industry experts are: Machine Learning Engineers; Data Scientists; Customer Success Managers; Big Data Developers; Full Stack Engineers; Unity Developers; and Full Stack Developers to name a few in the top quadrant. Shortages for each of these positions start at 10:1 for the machine learning folks to 4.5:1 for the full stack developers.

The pace of job change is nothing like I have ever seen in my 30 years as a career manager. However, from a job advice perspective, I want my professionals to get on these projects now or invest in education immediately to join a project this 2018 calendar year. No one can aptly predict the journey to 2022 and beyond, but many of the world’s great Seers have already stated in multiple publications what business and consumerism will look like.

Your mission, is to get yourself on one of these projects immediately. Taking on any maintenance and enhancement (read Legacy) role may be career limiting if you are not a ‘Boomer’. If you current Employer is staying the course in 2018, they will be in peril by 3rd Quarter 2019 or sooner! Technology companies are building, buying and introducing immediate Gen technology across multiple channels. Ideally one wants to be involved in the application and integration of these technologies and products.

The Build era is where I come from. The Boomer philosophy in those days was anything was possible. Great new companies rose and stalwarts fell. Leaders were identified and careers made. It was easy to reminisce over coffee with my fellow Boomer colleague on the good old days. However, what got our brains burning is the opportunity to forge a phenomenal career in today’s environment. The pace of change is very fast. Just by recognizing this gets you well positioned. The next step is to join a software or infrastructure build project, company or alternative initiative now. To borrow a corny expression: embrace the change and get on with it. 

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I have witnessed many changes working in the World’s most culturally integrated and growing City over 30 years in Technology recruitment. The first in a series of topics I will be sharing in a series of posts, on a recent phenomenon that is mind boggling –  I was recently in a meeting with a VP and they are at a 40% close rate on Millennial candidates! Are you kidding me! What is happening to our corporations, mid-sized and start-up companies in the recruitment cycle? Without doing a thing, the close rate should be 75%. In the Agency world we look hard at individual performance if a Recruiter falls below 85% on close rate.

So it has to be the Millennial candidate - right? ... Wrong, our stats show no difference in closing on millennials vs baby boomers.

I was taught by an industry veteran that people look very hard at 6 items even before they consider salary; over time, nothing has changed.  If you understand the needs of a prospect and create a narrative over the full recruitment life cycle, then the offer closes if salary is market reasonable. After 17 years of statistic accumulation, we see a close rate over 90% as being acceptable.  

The General Manager in Sports, Director in Entertainment productions and VP level in business are responsible for the composition of their teams. As we see in current affairs; the bright light in Sports is on capable Managers recruiting and retaining key talent to win; and dark side – the Entertainment industry’s decision makers (Directors and Producers taking advantage of their status), are heavily involved in the process of selection and offer. This leads to simple questions – “Are you involved in every selection in your team?” and “Have you developed a recruit and retain process that works for you?” Not what your company does, not what HR recommends, not what someone in company down the street does, but what works for you?

The Millennial needs are no different than other demographic categorizations. They want interesting and challenging work that makes sense to them in their career progression. Working in an Industry for a company that is either a leader or an up and comer. That the people & managers, technology and location of the suitor meet their individual needs. This is standard closing material. However, I very rarely see this over the vast number of clients with who we have worked with over the decades. 

My recommendation is to use what we do in the Agency world. Constant feedback with the candidate. This is exceptionally difficult to do if you are not using some sort of 3rd party service. Justification of using in-house recruiters versus Agency costs has been around forever. It`s not going away. Therefore how does one get a 3rd party involved? The answer is to both bite the bullet and select your Agency that you have a relationship with (not a company that Purchasing or HR or Administration has chosen) and get on with it, or bring in an outside Consultant versed in closing. The objective is to receive and give feedback through each step and delay in the process. Your favourite sports team didn`t just land the key free agent by putting an offer on the table. They worked the deal from the time they identified the opening to the time when actual ink went on the contract. You must follow the same steps. 

Otherwise 40% is the reality.

In conclusion, the 40% Millennial close doesn’t have to be your reality. If your objective is to build, lead and retain the talent that works for you, then you have to be involved. Develop a process. Like everything else, ask an expert. Make sure you know the 6 non salary related reasons for change (needs). Get an independent 3rd party involved to assist with the feedback. Be bold, sell the opportunity and always be closing.