October 15, 2012
In many cases the work required of a business attorney is “time sensitive” and must be completed in accordance with a schedule set by the client as part of the client’s planning for the timing of a larger business project. For example, the client may wish to complete a new contract with a major customer or an acquisition of another firm before the end of the particular month or calendar quarter in order to meet the expectations of outside investors or simply stay on track to achieve revenue and profit goals included in the client’s strategic plan. In those situations it is imperative for the attorney to do more than just “do their best” to complete the required work on time and within budget—the attorney must promise that the work will be done on or before a specified date and must DELIVER ON THAT PROMISE.
Great attorneys are excellent project managers and should be able to sketch out the work flow for the assignment in advance and anticipate potential disruptions and changes—including the demands of other clients and possible unavailability of other attorneys within the firm even though that should not be mentioned to the client who is only concerned about whether his or her work will be done on time. If the attorney notices any specific challenges or issues that might impact completion of the project they need to be discussed with the client in advance so that there are no surprises later on as the due date approaches and anxiety increases. One particular area to discuss is what the attorney will need from the client in order to meet the schedule and the attorney should obtain a commitment from the client to cooperate in providing information and/or prodding other parties to the transaction to do what is required in order to stay on schedule. The attorney should plan on providing the client with regular progress reports and, of course, any unforeseen event that might throw the schedule off needs to be communicated to the client immediately.