At Dechert, we constantly strive to find new ways to deliver additional value to our clients while remaining acutely focused on delivering the highest quality of legal services.
We are one of the first law firms in the United States to establish a firmwide Project Management Department. In that regard, Dechert made headlines in 2009 by engaging a leading legal consultant in the field to train all of our partners worldwide in project management.
Training is just the beginning. Our Finance Department’s Director of Project Management leads a dedicated team of professionals with MBAs, Six Sigma accreditations, law degrees and advanced training in math and statistics. The team is committed to ensuring that Dechert partners, associates and staff have the tools and support they need to plan, budget and manage client matters as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible.
Successful project management relies on accurate budget forecasts, deliverable work plans and flexible, customizable, real-time financial reporting systems. By measuring client budget and work plan performance on a quarterly, monthly, weekly – or even daily – basis, we can make the strategic, data-driven decisions that lead to optimal outcomes.
Most importantly, successful project management encourages frequent, transparent communication with clients.
At Dechert, realistic project planning is the first step in any engagement. We collaborate with clients to identify key business objectives and make strategic decisions that are unique for each matter. We ask, what are a client’s goals in successfully resolving the matter? Where has the client identified risk? Does the client have particular pricing parameters or pricing arrangements in mind? How does the client want its work to be managed?
The answers to such questions provide the framework for the project plan. We then draw on historic data to determine the best ways to meet each client’s staffing, budget, scheduling and billing needs.
I.Budget Efficiencies and Alternative Pricing
Drawing from the available project management tools and systems, we develop customized budget projections for each matter. By determining appropriate levels of staff and resource allocation from the beginning of each matter, we are able to avoid surprises and are able to stay on task. We base budget forecasts on such factors as the scope of work anticipated throughout the representation, projected fees and costs, and staffing and resource requirements. Our budget program includes staff management, billing management, budget discipline and monitoring, and regular work reviews. We tailor each projection to accommodate individual client cost control, reporting and billing preferences. Depending on a client’s wishes, we update budgets on a monthly, quarterly or rolling basis.
We also recognize that one size pricing does not fit all. Our sophisticated and highly flexible project management systems allow us to be creative in crafting and managing clients’ work under various alternative fee arrangements. Accordingly, a significant portion of our revenue is derived from matters other than those based on the billable hour. Dechert is very adept at managing fixed fees, flat fees, volume discounts and phase based discounts, and these various alternative arrangements can be adopted alone or in various combinations. We also recognize that alternative arrangements can be value based, aligning interests by putting “skin in the game.” We want our clients to know that we are flexible and we welcome finding solutions that meet their pricing needs.
Improved client communication is a major benefit of successful project management. One of the ways we improve the frequency and quality of our communication with clients is through regular reports.
Our project management reporting platform helps us create and release customized reports and status updates for each of our clients as often as they need them. Reports are as general or granular as desired – ranging from daily tracking of the amount of time and expense each timekeeper is investing in a task to percentage breakdowns of the work that remains to be completed. We use a suite of more than a dozen standard reports to measure budget and work performance, but will develop individual reports that are structured to specific client requirements.
Our clients come first at Dechert. We maintain close contact with clients throughout the duration of a representation by letting them know about all relevant developments, events and outcomes as they occur so we ensure that we are staying in line with our clients’ goals and business objectives.