A key driver in today’s legal environment is the need to manage all aspects of a firm as efficiently as possible to enhance the client experience and drive profits. Much of a law firm’s day-to-day work involves marketing projects that must be managed effectively to achieve those ends. Doing so requires a framework and strong project management tools.
To meet the increasing demand for robust project management skills, some legal professionals are obtaining their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute. But what is the PMP, what does it provide and is it worth it for legal marketers?
The PMP, a credential gained through the Project Management Institute (PMI), is considered the industry gold standard in project management certification. It provides a framework to help project managers meet the triple constraint for completing projects -- keeping a project on budget, within scope and on or ahead of schedule. The PMP provides a solid management framework based on PMI’s own guide, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). This manual provides PMI’s global standards for project management that include guidelines, rules and characteristics for the activity.
Largely known for use in technology and large-scale construction projects, the PMP teaches project managers to manage projects of all sizes.
“It’s a way to provide a streamlined set of processes and systems across projects and the same consistent, continuous experience for every client,” explains Scott Rubenstein of Rubenstein Technology Group, developers of RubyLaw, in New York City, who earned his PMP in 2010.
But this rigorous credential is not easy to obtain. It requires 4500 hours of prior project management experience (which is an average of two to three years of full-time experience managing projects). It also requires completing a detailed application, including quantifying every hour of experience, and taking a 35-hour training bootcamp before sitting for the test.
“You can’t fudge those hours, either,” says Brandon McAfee, Senior Business Development & Marketing Manager at Miles & Stockbridge who obtained his PMP in December 2015. “Attempting to falsify experience can lead to an audit, which will require you to have a manager sign off on every project you identify as having completed,” warns McAfee.
It was the rigor that drew both McAfee and Rubenstein to the certification. “The PMP seemed the most well-known and hardest credential to get,” explains Rubenstein. “It’s a real credential that requires you to show proficiency in their project management body of knowledge.” The skills and experiences associated with the PMP have helped Rubenstein Tech complete large website projects for big law firms like Bryan Cave, Winston Strawn, Perkins Coie and Akin Gump.
McAfee, who says the training provided through the certification is useful for marketing technology programs like mobile websites, salesforce implementation and proposal automation implementation, says the PMP started out as a professional goal of his. “I wanted to challenge myself, so I decided that the PMP was the certification to get,” he says.
Both said they studied for several months and used a variety of tools to prepare, including the PMBOK and, for McAfee, Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep.
Rubenstein and McAfee also believe that the PMP can be useful for most people, particularly those who routinely manage projects. Though the PMI methodology is designed for high-level large projects, it can be scaled down and applied to smaller projects as well.
“It provides a structured approach, a mindset for completing projects,” explains Helena Lawrence, Senior Marketing & Business Development Manager at Orrick.
Lawrence, who got her PMP in 2007 and is the Capital Chapter’s president-elect, finds it useful in multiple situations, including meeting planning. She, like McAfee and Rubenstein, maintains certification by completing 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every three years and maintaining membership in PMI.
Rubenstein enjoys working with PMPs within law firms like Lawrence and McAfee. “They’d have a complete 360-degree view of a project and we’re speaking the same language, so there is not as much client education or training required to complete projects,” he says.
Both McAfee and Rubenstein highly recommend the PMP for legal marketers. “Almost everything managers at law firms do is like a project, including trials, programs and selecting and procuring technology. You want to make sure you have a general framework from which to work,” Rubenstein explains.
The PMP methodology, they say, also helps you identify and address issues based on the analysis you do when structuring the project using the guidelines. “It’s going to make you think of things a little bit differently when you’re managing a project from now on,” adds McAfee.
As important as anything else, says Rubenstein, is the fact that the use of the PMP methodology gives clients more confidence in your firm’s abilities and effectiveness.
Finally, says Lawrence, “The PMP is useful for people who want to advance into project or program management in their firms.” And, while there are alternative certifications you can get outside of PMI, their certifications, especially the PMP, is the traditional best in class.
In fact, for those who don’t want or aren’t ready for full PMP certification, PMI offers an alternative. It’s the CAPM or Certified Associate in Project Management. A lot less rigorous to obtain, it would give professionals who conduct regular smaller projects at work many of the same tools PMPs have. As importantly, it will provide the PMI methodology.
By Dahna M. Chandler, Principal, Audience First Communications, Inc. for the January/February 2016 Capital Ideas Newsletter