Earlier in this article, the author introduced communications as a fourth critical element in effective project management. Poor communications and lack of responsiveness was consistently cited in the recent surveys of corporate/in-house counsel as major reasons for their dissatisfaction with their legal service providers. The most detailed project plans, schedules and budgets are not enough to guarantee success. Inconsistent, incomplete or non-existent status information, failure to listen to client concerns or solicit feedback, and inappropriate modalities of communication are all indicators of poor communications that can adversely impact the success of a project.
Clients don't like surprises. Legal services that don't conform to scope, overrun budgets, and are not delivered on time put the corporate/in-house counsel, who likely were instrumental in retaining outside counsel, in the unenviable position of having to explain these surprises to their corporate management. In today's 24/7 global business world, computers, the Internet (i.e., extranets and intranets), cellular telephones and personal digital assistants leave little excuse for poor communications between a client and their legal services provider.
Simple measures go a long way to establishing solid communications. Specific examples (all used routinely by this author) include weekly teleconference status calls among the legal team and the client (at pre-arranged times and with agendas), biweekly status memos updating the client on schedule and budget, and frequent emails and telephone calls from the case principles to the clients.
The key to achieving successful communications is that once the communications protocols are established, they must be monitored as rigorously as the monitoring and control of the scope, schedule and budget.