This post will take you through the utility, importance, basics, and tools for Legal Project Management.
Project Management is a discipline of its own and requires a formal certification. But, when viewed as a skill, it can be allied with other industries and help manage projects better. To understand Legal Project Management, we will first have to understand some basics of project management.
What is a project?
A project is defined by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) (this is the ultimate guide to Project Management) as:
“…a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. It has a definite beginning and end. The end is reached when the project’s objectives have been achieved. Most projects are undertaken to create a lasting outcome.”
- A project has a beginning and an end;
- It yields a unique solution; and
- It is temporary in nature.
For instance, organising a competition in your college is a project. It starts with planning the competition (primary aim, theme, participation, prizes, judges, venue, costs etc). It will yield a unique solution, i.e reputation of the college, student exposure and interaction across colleges, etc. Lastly, it will terminate on the completion of the competition and prize distribution. For efficient organisation and risk predictability, methods of Project Management can be applied.
Project management is highly customisable to each unique industry and its needs. In the legal industry, a legal project may take the form of any kind of client mandate: an entire engagement, a single matter, a particular transaction, a piece of litigation, or a group of cases. It may be complex or straightforward; but at some point, it ends and results in a unique client-specific solution. LPM is used for specific planning and execution, to boost the productivity of a legal service provider.
Each project is made up of a sequence of components called phases (such as document review, and due diligence). Phases, in turn, are made up of an aggregation of various tasks that are delegated to expert performers.
What is Project Management?
Project management as defined by the PMBoK is:
“The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. Project management is accomplished through the appropriate application and integration of the 47 logically grouped project management processes (into 10 key knowledge areas), which are categorized into five Process Groups: Initiating; Planning; Executing; Monitoring and Controlling; and Closing.”
What is Legal Project Management (LPM)?
Therese Linton, in her book Legal Project Management (2015), defines LPM as:
“An emerging discipline in the legal sector, which utilises project management techniques and adapts these for application to the management of legal matters. Practitioners of LPM apply various disciplines, tools, and techniques to the processes of providing legal services rather than to the substantive legal work itself.”
Susan Raridon Lambreth, founding Principal at LawVision and nationally recognised as one of the top leadership, practice group, and project management consultants for law firms is of the opinion that “Legal Project Management is a process of defining the parameters of a matter upfront, planning the course of the matter at the outset with the facts you have at the time, managing the matter, and, in the end, evaluating how the matter was handled (from both the firm or law department perspective and the client perspective). At its core, LPM is about better communication with the matter team internally and between the lawyers and their clients, whether the matter is being handled by a law firm or done within a legal department.”
The International Institute of Legal Project Management defines legal project management (LPM) as the “application of project management principles and practices to enhance the delivery of legal services”.
LPM is a tool to manage what is known as “the iron triangle” in Project Management.
The second triangle aims to balance the risks involved, scope, and quality of the project.
In the legal industry, these are termed ‘deliverables’ (factors that the legal professionals need to deliver, throughout the project), which provide value to the client and the legal professionals involved. Balancing these factors also ensures the sustainability of the firm/ legal service provider in the market.
The process of Legal Project Management
The process of Legal Process Management (LPM) involves four steps:
Step 1: Defining the Project (Project Initiation or Project Intake)
- Defining projects scope and objective
- Gathering information to understand client expectations
- Agreeing on billing arrangements
- Discussing project time and costs
- Enlisting objectives, assumptions and constraints of the project
Step 2: Planning the Project
- Defining project phases and tasks
- Developing timelines
- Selecting appropriate tools
- Supplementing step 1 with more detailed documents
- Sorting matters into operational difficulty (basic, moderate, difficult)
- Creating a schedule (Gantt Chart – list activities on a suitable time-scale, each word package or activity is represented by a bar scale that shows the start date, duration, length, and end date of the activity)
Project Schedule Template (Gantt Chart)
Step 3: Delivering Projects (Matter Execution)
- Create and circulate a project progress report (which may include: name of the project, project manager, list of delegated tasks, project headlines, and milestone summary)
- Include Traffic Light Status based on the RAG model (Red, Amber, Green) and one-sentence explanation.
- Red: Requires immediate attention
- Amber: In difficulty but under control
- Green: Going as per expectations
Step 4: Closing the Project
- Ensuring all deliverables are signed off
- Monitoring and measuring progress (tracking budget, phases, and tasks)
- Post-project review
- Evaluating progress in terms of the agreed scope
- Identifying bottlenecks that need improvement in future projects
- Identifying lessons learned, resources discovered, etc.
- Evaluating if clients were satisfied
- Identifying what worked well and what should have been done differently
Why is Legal Project Management important?
Greater Client Satisfaction
LPM helps in meeting client expectations, which are:
- understanding their business, and
- alignment of interests.
It provides clarity in terms of the process, resources, time, and cost involved in the project, making the clients integral and aware stakeholders. Current trends have observed clients seeking more efficiency and services at lesser costs (more-for-less challenge). This has led to the emergence of alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) that seek to replace the fixed price and hour-billing systems. Hence, to maintain a sustainable business model, in-house, extra-counsel, and law firms, use Legal Project Management (LPM) that provides a streamlined structure of delivery, assessment, and solutions.
Reduces risks and increases predictability
The process of LPM is meant to schedule the entire project, define its scope, time frame, and cost estimates. This increases predictability in terms of the budget and completion time of the project. It also reduces the risks associated with alternative fee arrangements (AFAs), while meeting client expectations.
Creates precedents for future planning
LPM involves a robust method of planning, scheduling, scoping, monitoring & controlling, costing, and executing. Once implemented in a project of a specific type, it can accelerate management in allied and similar future projects, by providing standard sets of deliverables.
Reduces management stress and increases productivity
LPM not only helps delegate work based on expertise and plan projects in an efficient manner, it also provides tools and techniques that can be used to improve workflow and reduce management stress. LPM can be as simple as listing the important tasks and phases in a word document and tracking them on a daily/weekly basis. You can use project management to eliminate wastes:
Overproduction: Examples include starting work before clearing conflicts, printing too many hard copies, and drafting a 10-page memo when only a one-page summary was requested;
Waiting: Examples include awaiting responses from clients, employees, or opposing counsel, starting a call or meeting late due to late arrivals, waiting for technology such as boot up/restart times;
Excess capacity: For example, not using the lowest cost resources such as clients, paralegals, and assistants that are capable of doing tasks, when partners are doing associate-level work, or over-staffing a matter;
Transportation (this type of waste refers to things moving as opposed to people moving, which is considered “motion”): Examples include moving files from one place to another and sending hardcopies rather than emails;
Motion (which refers to people moving as opposed to things): Examples include people spending extra time getting from one place to the next due to travel or poor office layout, delivering files rather than mailing/emailing them, extra keystrokes/clicks to find documents; and
Extra processing steps: Examples include conducting too much research or double and triple checking (e.g. approvals of expenses without any real review).Source: An introduction to Lean and Six Sigma for Law Firms, BCLMA.org
Legal Project Management Tools
The infographic given above lists all the important software one may use for different steps of a project life cycle. Some other basic tools that can be used are:
- Project Charter: Document that defines scope and related key issues: team members, project description, goals, scope, assumptions and risks, timelines, deliverables
- Communication Plan: A document that identifies how communication will be made (e-mail, reports etc), what will be the frequency, what are the goals of each communication, who will be responsible for initiating and tracking communication
- Project Plan: A master document that integrates the project scope, milestones, schedule, responsibilities, and estimated cost and is the primary tool for managing the project. The project plan is a living document: it is updated regularly to show the percent of the project that is complete.
- Gantt Chart: A document that lists activities on a suitable time scale. Each word package or activity is represented by a bar scale that shows the start date, duration, length, and end date of the activity.
- RACI Diagram:
- Responsible – Those who do work to achieve the task. There can be multiple persons or groups that are held accountable.
- Accountable – The individual ultimately answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the task.
- Consulted – Those whose opinions are sought. Consulting implies two-way communication.
- Informed – Those who are kept up-to-date on the progress of the project. Recipients of one-way communication.
- Status Report: Periodic report on the progress of a project.
- Other tools:
- Clio for time tracking, document management, client intake
- Trello, Slack, Microsoft Task by Planner for Task assignment
- Google Docs for collaboration and for online file storage and hosting
How to become a Legal Project Manager?
Project Management requires a certification course, however, it is not mandatory for Legal Project Managers to acquire formal certification. A mix of legal background and management skills that can be acquired through online courses is sufficient for a Legal Project Manager.
- The LPM institute training courses and workshops (Duration: 4 months, Mode: Online, Cost: $300 -$800)
- The public training courses and non-certification training courses offered by Antony Smith (IILPM accredited training provider) (Duration: 3 days, Mode: Online, Cost: 800-1200 GBP)
- 4.5 days LPM training offered by LawVision (Duration: 4 days, Mode: Online, Cost:$1995)
- Applied Legal Project Management, IILPM (Duration: 21 hours, Cost: $697, Access: 18 months, Mode: Online)
- Associate in Project Management, Global Association for Quality Management (Cost: $300)
- Project Management Professional, Project Management Institute (Mode: Online, Exam fee for non-members: Rs 42,863)
- PMI Risk Management Professional, Project Management Institute (Mode: Online, Exam fee for non-members: Rs 30,120)
- Lean Six Sigma Certification Program, KPMG
- Six Sigma Certification, The Council for Six Sigma Certification
- Lean Six Sigma Certification, The International Association for Six Sigma Certification
- Legal Project Management- What is it and Why you should care?, Thomas Reuters
- A guide to becoming a Legal Project Manager, Clio
- 7 things lawyers should know about Project Management, legalmosaic
- An introduction to Lean and Six Sigma for Law Firms, BCLMA.org
- Legal Project Management in One Hour, for Lawyers, American Bar Association – Excerpt
- Therese Linton, Legal Project Management, 2015
- Steven B. Levy, Legal Project Management: Control Costs, Meet Schedules, Manage Risks, and Maintain Sanity, 2009
- Next Stage Legal Project Management, 2021
- Aileen Leventon, Innovations in Legal Project Management, 2018
- Edward Bowes (Editor), Lawyer’s Guide to Legal Project Management, 2017
- Byron S. Kalegerou, Using Legal Project Management in Mergers and Acquisitions, 2017
- Susan Lamberth, David A. Reuff Jr, Legal project Management- Increasing Adoption with Technology Solutions, 2016
- Susan Lamberth, Aileen Leventon, David A. Rueff Jr, Implementing Legal Project Management: The Legal Professional’s Guide to Success, 2015
- Susan Lamberth, David A. Reuff Jr, The Power of Legal Project Management: A Practical Handbook, 2014
Streaming Online Content
- The Legal Ops Podcast
- Legal Project Management in the Modern Firm, Legal Marketing Association (LMA)
- Life of Director of Legal Project Management, Legal Talk Network
- Legal Project Management, Lawsome Podcast
- The Importance of Legal Project Management, Legal Talk Network
People to follow
- Antony Smith, Legal Project Management, IILPM trainee
- Eliana Fonseca, Legal Project Management Specialist
- Kim R. Craig, Global Director of LPM Office at Seyfarth Shaw, LLP
- Aran Scott, Senior Legal Project Manager, Clifford Chance
- John Duggan, Director Lean Solutions, Seyfath
- Lucy Bassli, Legal Service Modernisation Advisor, Legal Ops, Legal Strategy Advisor
- Anna Marra, LPM Specialist and Councillor of Global Advisory Council, IILPM
- Kate Bassett, Head of LPM & Process Improvement, Ashurst
- Elizabeth Satterfield, Director of Legal Project Management and Innovation at Proskauer Rose LLP
- James Barrett, Senior Legal Project Manager at Eversheds Sutherland
- Legal Project Management Conference (Mode: Online, Costs: Free, Usually held in May)
- Global LPM Summit (Mode: Online, Cost: Free, Usually held in June)
- Legal Project Management Webinar, Association for Project Management
- Project Management for Lawyers Webinar, Lexis Nexis
- Legal Project Management Webinar Archive