Agile for Attorneys, Part II

This is Part II of a two-part series. Click here to read Part I

We continue our discussion of the agile method, this time with a focus on how to get started and project management. Again, any new approach or change should be evaluated within a standard processor framework. The goal is to avoid adopting an agile methodology without a full understanding of your firm’s needs or strong support from firm leadership.

Keri Coleman Norris, LegalShield’s SVP of Legal Regulatory Affairs and CLO explains how executives need to develop new skills in this Law Practice Today article; these skills include the agile methodology which can be used beyond software projects.

Agile works beautifully for lawyers too because it is not only quick, adaptable, and flexible, but it mandates a team mentality and process. By securing early buy-in from all stakeholders, and being quick and adaptable, we cut down on mistakes and see improvements faster. Every lawyer in every setting can benefit from this.

I recently connected with Angie Pettigrew, our director of legal product development who states the advantage of agile as the ability “to continuously deliver useful features or products.” Angie’s examples of successful agile projects are technology implementations, such as the artificial intelligent help feature Erin or the LegalShield mobile application, but she is quick to point out that the method can be applied to anything in any organization.

Continuing my discussion with Amy Stinyard, who leads LegalShield’s project management, it’s important to distinguish agile from another often-mentioned technique, “design thinking.”

Dave Coffey (DC): How is agile different from design thinking?

Amy Stinyard (AS): In many ways, design thinking is complementary to agile. Design thinking allows you to understand the problem, examine various solutions, and then design a solution you will pursue. Agile can then be used to execute that solution which could be process change, a strategic focus, or a tangible product.

DC: Can you explain how a firm or company would get started with agile?

AS: First, they need to understand the benefit associated with an adaptive and flexible approach to problem-solving. They should then learn about the agile framework and processes that have been proven to work for other companies. Next, they should then begin to practice agile and monitor their success. The primary factors in agile success are dedicated teams and executive leadership buy-in. Company leaders need to respect the process and give the teams room to practice and learn.

Amy has pointed out a critical piece of any successful project, which is buy-in. If your firm is considering using agile, ensure that all the partners support the decision. Also, for any project, an agile approach is very helpful to avoid the problem of locking down a solution to a problem that may become irrelevant by the time the project is complete.

Project Management Software

Angie commented, “Agile by far is the best approach because you always move forward and everything is measured by the value it brings, so there isn’t a lot of time wasted.” Therefore,

Agile is a technique but many attorneys are confused by whether the software systems that are project management solutions, like Trello or Asana, are doing “agile.” Think of agile as a way of approaching a problem and solution and the project management solution as a way of tracking your progress for that project and any other task.

Lawyers can use informal systems as simple as lists or post-its but the ability to easily manage multiple, independent and dependent tasks cry out for technology. Amy commented, “There are many good project management systems. I like JIRA because of the price and the value they deliver. Version One is a good product as well as Rally.” A methodical evaluation of various systems will yield the best fit for your firm.

A fundamental principle for anyone considering agile and project management software is the need for collaboration and remaining open to change. Successful businesses are embracing both agile and disciplined project management and lawyers can leverage their experiences. All feedback is welcome on Twitter @Gundog8 regarding this and other issues.

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