Managing legal work with Agile
By Royal Reed
We are busy people. Think about the challenges that modern families face in having to allow enough time for their loved ones to have quality conversations with one another on a regular basis. We lawyers have to do that much more for many clients, usually at the same time, to make sure we manage and progress their briefs without leaving anyone too far behind.
The ability to manage reasonable progress on many matters without forgetting any clients becomes a large challenge when we have multiple clients and projects going on. For lawyers that skill is a necessity which becomes more and more challenging to manage when clients expect much more in a timely manner as well as there may be others involved in these transactions expecting things at the same time.
It is not a bad idea to have a list of clients and matters that one must work on each day. But how do you sync the list between a team of people and how do you manage this list when changes come in very fast from clients and for their matters that you do not end up redoing your list every hour. We have found it hugely challenging to manage all the current clients and their work in progress for them as a small team of ten with limited amount of live matters in a boutique size firms. The need to be totally on top of our clients requirements and to efficiently coordinate everyone in the team’s time and available resources make it doubly hard.
We have initially managed our concerns by meeting more frequently, regularly updating each other about our status and availabilities, and taking on tasks from each other and sharing the workload in a more organic way. We were diligent to make more of these meetings regular but even with those meetings we still needed to remember them and keep updating our lists which were time consuming and scary to think of what if we missed something for our own list or cannot recall the others who had agreed to share the work or what work they agreed to do. These are ongoing problems for any team seriously working together on clients work.
We turned to using a task board, this was a big visible board which we managed with post-it notes on the wall. Although it was good, the wall got too busy, and the art of moving the post it notes across on a certain wall became a task on its own which also did not deliver the true real time status update for us. We had so many pieces in flow and we needed some way to also see what certain matters and lawyers were working on for discussions. The project owners and the managers were all more burdened by moving tasks and keeping the board up to date than being assisted by the board, the luxury of having a lot of time to move post it notes all day is not part of our daily reality. This also clash with our desire to keep our ability for some of us to work remotely when necessary.
Over time we tried a number of virtual spreadsheets, we tried setting up a kanban board both physically and virtually, we shared virtual lists that allow regular updates from each and every team members. Through all this many of the lawyers who were keen to manage our WIP in a good way were searching for good ways to manage the work.
Eventually a lawyer among us found a somewhat appropriate solution based on a Scrum style virtual online task board. We settled and started to succeed as a team with the software which was initially called DePulse when we started using it but now is known as Monday.Com. We loved the ability to have a very easy to use virtual board, with many tasks listed in a variety of ways according to our need and the ability to visualise and update the board very easily in terms of the people, deadline and tasks assigned to them.
We are on a roll when we are able to see our own tasks, receive and review others tasks that affect us, as well as being able to search anything that may be allocated to us, or being commented on for our update. It made a world of difference for a team that wants to deliver and progress work at the same time, without wasting time waiting for that meeting to be reported back, or to re-arrange our tasks and priorities. The system talks to us when someone made moved or completed a task, which allowed us to be up to date at any time just like a virtual chess board we feel like all of us are moving at the same time without waiting.