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Five Questions to
Ask a Project or
Change Manager

This is the second part of our series, Preparing for the Future: What Corporate Counsel Need to Know About Change Management. Our first part looked at five best practices in change management.

In larger companies, in-house teams can often partner with project management and change management professionals, while teams in smaller organizations can collaborate with outside consultants. It’s an opportunity to work with change management experts who have supported large-scale transitions, managed change in the workplace and know the pitfalls to avoid. Taking full advantage of their experience, instead of starting from scratch, will save significant time, money and effort, and foster a smooth transition. When meeting with a change manager, legal department ops professionals should consider starting with the following five questions to get the most out of the partnership.

  1. What is the change management approach for the project, and how will it support adoption and reduce resistance? Determine exactly how the proposed change management strategy will support the improvements the leaders need to make across the in-house team.
  2. What type of support will you need from me to help ensure the success of the project? Whether the legal department is implementing matter management software or alternative fee arrangements, be clear about what everyone – from the legal department ops professional to the general counsel – is expected to provide.
  3. How is the success of the project determined in your eyes? How do I influence that?. Success may look different to each stakeholder; legal department leaders may primarily focus on financial components, while junior attorneys focus on how work processes are affected. Change managers can help balance individual stakeholder’s concerns with a holistic perspective.
  4. What will I need to supply in terms of resources, including money, people, research and executive support? How else can I support this process? Again, a candid conversation about the specifics needed from all levels of the legal department will help the process move more smoothly.
  5. As we move forward, what’s the best form of communication, and how will I stay updated? Whether it’s via weekly email recap or a series of conference calls, ensure that the legal department ops professional, or another individual who is driving the change, is regularly in contact with the change manager and serving as a liaison with the general counsel.

Being uncomfortable with change is a universal experience, and change management is particularly daunting in the legal profession, where lawyers are known for their resistance to change and innovation. But lawyers can’t stick with the status quo as the practice of law continues to evolve. To handle the shifts in the current legal market and better anticipate the changes on the horizon, in-house teams must overcome the obstacles to embracing change. Partnering with change management professionals to make the most of their experience and expertise will help in-house teams not only survive, but thrive, as the transformation of the practice of law continues.

In our third and final installment, we’ll look at five projects where it makes sense to bring in project management.

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