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 LegalProjectManagement, we will first have to understand some basics of project management.
“…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.
“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.”
“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.”
LPM is a tool to manage what is known as “the iron triangle” in Project Management.
The iron triangle aims to balance time, cost, and resources to meet efficiency standards.
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
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)
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:
Defects and all related waste, including inspection, testing, and correction: Examples of defects include missing a filing deadline, incomplete forms, bad drafting, data entry errors, and omissions;
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;
Inventory: Examples include work in process (WIP), unread email, marketing materials (such as collateral, brochures, and promotional items, or event materials);
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).
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.
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.
Clio for time tracking, document management, client intake
Refer to this website for project management templates.
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.