The ABA Journal profiled Cleveland-based law firm Thompson Hine and its managing partner, Deborah Z. Read, highlighting their “SmartPaTH” process to manage cases and satisfy clients.

This is part of the Journal’s “Legal Rebel” series.  It is both amusing and sad that these ideas would seem radical, especially these days.

Here’s the description of the process on the firm’s website:

“Thompson Hine SmartPaTH® is our comprehensive program aligning our service delivery with the needs of our clients. Using SmartPaTH, we:

  • Define matter scope, work plan, key decision points and workflow to yield a transparent, predictable process
  • Share / mitigate budgetary risks and surprises
  • Monitor project work and costs against the work plan and budget
  • Proactively recommend value-based pricing alternatives to support client goals
  • Use process efficiencies, work flow mapping and flexible staffing for cost-effective engagements”

According to the ABA Journal article, the legal process management is the most important element in the system and this process is designed to promote efficiency in achieving clients’ goals.

Interestingly, the firm does not mention negotiation, mediation, or other forms of dispute resolution.  As we all know, use of ”ADR” is not always appropriate and doesn’t always lead to the most efficient process or best result.  But it is surprising that ADR isn’t included as one way to help achieve Thompson Hine’s stated goals.  These days, that’s radical.

Although the SmartPaTH system doesn’t explicitly refer to negotiation, it does address many of the topics in my book, Lawyering with Planned Early Negotiation: How You Can Get Good Results for Clients and Make Money.  The book provides detailed suggestions for working with clients, managing the process, and using appropriate attorney’s fee arrangements, among other things.

This is also consistent with an excellent new book published by the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution and Commission on Disability Rights.  It is Structured Negotiation: A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits, by Lainey Feingold.  The book describes how to:

  • prepare a structured negotiation case
  • establish ground rules
  • share information and expertise
  • move negotiations forward
  • handling unexpected developments
  • negotiate and draft settlement agreements
  • use post-settlement strategies (e.g., enforcing agreements and dealing with the media)

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus and former director of the LLM Program in Dispute Resolution, at the University of Missouri, School of Law. He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also an avid writer and contributor to Indisputably.org