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Chess -- Really? Legal Project Management and Critical Thought

People often say that if you are a good chess player then you will be a good lawyer.  I, think, however, that being a good chess player really only means one thing – that you will win a lot when you play chess.  Chess is a board game where no piece can move contrary to the rules and where no one gets hurt.  In real life, real business and real litigation, the pieces and the players do not always behave according to the rules we all think we know.  How often in the last two decades has something happened that has fundamentally changed what is possible in our lives?  A good chess player can, and should, think many moves ahead.  I am not so sure that this is good advice in litigation any more. 
Too many lawyers spend so much time thinking (and endlessly talking) about what might happen ten steps ahead, that they miss the only step they can really do anything about – the next one.  Your ability to accurately predict and estimate is inversely proportional to the span of time and number of events for which you are trying to make a prediction or estimate.

Try diagraming what you think might happen in a case from inception forward.  If you are honest with yourself, it is impossible.  See the chart at the top.
Now spend some time on only the step right in front of you.  Do NOT ignore the possibility of taking no action at all – “no action” is always a possibility, and one that should be looked at more often.
A fundamental goal of my firm’s Legal Project Management work is being able to give clients real, meaningful information about the choices before them.  Throughout the course of the engagement, the firm will prepare for the client a detailed Legal Project Management Letter (“LPM Letter”).  The firm will sometimes not charge or charge a reduced fee for the preparation of the LPM letter.  LPM Letters are extremely comprehensive case analysis memos directed to the lawyer-client team, which address for the case at that point: the facts, the law, the status, the client goals, current options -- and for each option – the pros, cons, time, cost, risks, and likelihood of the option advancing the goals, what’s out-of-scope, legal fees, a communications plan, legal fees, and a recommendation.  After the client is presented with a LPM Letter, the client and the firm review the client’s goals and expectations and the client will decide which option to pursue. 




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