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Legal project management and legal innovation

By Aaran Scott.


Introduction

When doing an internet search on the phrase 'legal project management', Google returned 1,750,000,000 results in 0.58 seconds.


This article by Aaran Scott, Director of Legal Project Management at Clifford Chance, does not want to add to the already massive repository of knowledge about the generic activities and value-add of legal project management. Rather, it will explore the proposition that legal project management is the glue for deploying many of Clifford Chance's innovation capabilities to deliver increasing client value.


Innovation at Clifford Chance covers a range of specialised capabilities; in addition to its award-winning [1] legal project management and continuous improvement capabilities, it also covers specialist resourcing through two delivery centres, a range of legal technology solutions, a data science capability, and a dedicated research and development team. Our legal project managers (LPMs) often act as a bridge between the legal teams and the other innovation capabilities, and evidence shows that deploying these capabilities on client matters can help the firm strengthen client relationships and win more work.

"Clients are increasingly deploying project managers to manage their overall project costs and expect us to be able to provide data and information to fit in with their project management methodologies. This requires much more than simply providing time recording data; it is time-intensive and calls on a set of skills which most lawyers simply do not have. Clients are entitled to ask us that, for high value matters with unpredictable timelines and large costs, we can integrate our processes with theirs as regards overall cost control and management. For this, LPMs are our secret weapon." Simon Gleeson, Partner, Financial Regulatory


LPMs are not practising lawyers, although some of our team members are former lawyers that decided to change careers. Having that background gives us real insight into the practice and business of law and have the time and mindset to consider how we might innovate for the long term, whilst retaining the laser focus required for short-term delivery.


What does this mean in practice?

Having an LPM on a matter increases the proportion of technology used and the amount of work allocated to delivery centres. By leveraging the efficiencies of technology and getting the right work to the right resources, legal project management also supports our Commercial team's objective of giving the client price certainty.


"The project management of [Project Samarkand] itself was a real competitive advantage and differentiated Clifford Chance… [client] was very glad that [Partner, Emma Davies] had made the suggestion to use legal project management for this project as it had helped the [client] team a lot and saved time and effort in managing such a large number of documents being produced across the world" Senior Lawyer, Global Private Equity firm, Hong Kong


When working on a live matter, we are constantly looking for the most efficient ways to deliver to clients, but there's very little time to think about improving processes. However, when it comes to the deal review or our own lessons learned process, that's the opportunity to consider bringing in Continuous Improvement specialists, to work with the lawyers to improve processes for the future.

Legal project management is maturing as a function and has grown exponentially over the last six years at Clifford Chance. The reality is that the demand for experienced resources across all markets is outstripping supply and we need to look at how we can achieve scale with the resources we have.


One solution has been to establish our Legal Project Analyst (LPA) capability based in our Delivery Centre in India. Our LPAs help track budgets, maintain scope and action logs, as well as support the administration and deployment of legal technology. This enables us to assign the right work to the right resource, reducing the overall cost of our service for clients and allowing our LPMs to manage more matters. Another solution is to invest in a bespoke legal project management system designed to help us more easily leverage our collective expertise and continuously improve our learning from previous matters.


Arguably, our LPMs are the most familiar with our Delivery Centres' ever-expanding offering and are well placed to spot opportunities where their experience and expertise is an effective and valuable extension of the core legal team. Having two Delivery Centres enables us to offer a range of services that we weren't previously able to provide; activities like supporting NDA hotlines, client outreach, repapering, we can now do efficiently, effectively and at significantly reduced cost. We know that clients would love it if one law firm is able to provide everything at the right price point. What they don't like is having to use law firm A for this, law firm B for that, and supplier C for the other. Using our Delivery Centres and a combination of our Innovation capabilities gives us the opportunity to offer clients the end-to-end service they are looking for.


"The Delivery Centres provide access to a much wider pool of resources and skills. We take bright individuals, who don’t necessarily want to be practicing lawyers, train and support them to deliver on several workstreams. They become the experts at these tasks as they do them day in day out. Part of this expertise is in the use of legal technology which enables them both to deliver efficiently and to focus on more challenging activities." Lucy Nixon, Head of Newcastle Office


"We have an experienced team who have been using innovative solutions for over 15 years - they are focused on delivering the best outcomes and collaborate with our LPMs to align the right resource to the right work, streamlining the process and driving efficiencies." Yoshita Malhotra, Head of Legal Support Centre.


In short, Legal Project Management helps strengthen client relationships and potentially enables the firm to win more work by ensuring that a matter is delivered efficiently, thereby easing the pressure on client budgets and timeframes.

The Legal Project Management (LPM) Network

Recognising that new ideas often come through transparent collaboration that welcomes diverse views is one of the drivers behind the formation of the LPM Network. Open to participants from both law firms and corporate legal functions, I'm one of the co-founders along with Vennisa Amin, Head of Legal Project Management at Barclays, Kevin O'Sullivan, Director of Legal Project Management at Baker McKenzie, Helga Butcher, Head of Client Solutions EMEA at Ashurst, Kate Bassett, Head of Legal Project Management & Process Improvement EMEA at Ashurst, and Dee Tamlin, Director of Legal Project Management at White & Case. Our ambition is to help LPM professionals learn from each other, work together and, through collective efforts, bring innovation and positive improvements to the legal profession and increased client value.


"Legal Project Managers are primarily project managers. The Legal Project Management Network is enhancing project management skills in the legal context, to build a profession and chosen career path, with a view to enhancing client experience." Dee Tamlin


Hearing and looking across the industry, we all seem to experience very similar challenges, and through creativity and collective collaboration, we hope to help provide our firms and clients with continuous innovation and enhanced solutions.

 

Notes

[1] It is a matter of great pride for Aaran that the Clifford Chance Legal Project Management team has recently won the 'Best Innovative LPM in a Law Firm' category at the inaugural International Institute of Legal Project Management Awards 2022. This award recognises the hard work of our global Legal Project Management team in delivering an outstanding legal service to our clients. The submission highlighted how, by leveraging technology and our LPM methodology, LPMs support our lawyers throughout their projects and provide innovative cost-saving solutions.

 

About the Author

Aaran Scott is the Global Lead for Clifford Chance's legal project management function and is responsible for the deployment of legal project management best practice within Clifford Chance.

With over 15 years' experience at managing transformational projects within financial and legal services, Aaran is skilled at utilising lean and agile methods to successfully manage large and cross border projects.


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