Legal Project Management: What is it? What is it good for? Why should we as lawyers care? Instead of an introduction, I would like to answer the questions that I as a practicing lawyer and expert for Legal Project Management get asked the most by other lawyers.
What is Legal Project Management (LPM)?
Legal Project Management (LPM) means applying proven tools from the field of Project Management to legal matters. These tools have been developed in order to solve complex problems (e.g. building skyscrapers, flying in space, developing software) within certain parameters. Those parameters include for example: the clients get exactly what they need, all involved know what to do, tasks are done in the right order and without duplication of efforts, cost budgets and schedules are (for the most part) met, etc.
Legal Project Management thus is a discipline that supports legal advice which is client-focused and effective as regards timing and costs.
What is the difference between Legal Project Management and other Project Management?
Legal Project Management is one of several sub-categories of Project Management. There are Project Management tools and methods for e.g. building projects, research and development work or software development. Likewise, there are Project Management tools that are especially suitable for legal work. Furthermore, good Legal Project Management takes into account the way lawyers work and think, while still inviting them to re-examine some habits and modernize workstreams.
What exactly is a ´project´ when lawyers are doing their work?
The definition of ´project´ is: a purposeful, unique endeavor consisting of coordinated and controlled tasks with start and end dates and which is undertaken in order to achieve a goal within certain parameters regarding time, resources and quality. All our legal tasks hopefully have a purpose. We are well acquainted with start and end dates (aka deadlines). Each dispute, each agreement is unique, at least in its details. Our time and resources are (all too) limited and we always strive for quality. Good Legal Project Management adds the last part of the puzzle: coordination and control.
Therefore: Almost everything we as lawyers do, each matter and each file, is a project.
Why is Legal Project Management becoming increasingly important?
Legal Project Management has grown big in the wake of the changes in the legal market during the recent years: A sellers´ market has turned into a buyers´ market where clients ask for “more for less” and have grown increasingly cost-conscious. Fixed fees or capped fees or budgets demanded by legal expense insurance or litigation funding institutions make good Project Management in legal matters necessary. If you are a lawyer getting paid in this way, but keep doing your work in the same way as before (when you just billed by the hour), you will have to write off money and you are living on the edge, financially speaking.
Who should be interested in Legal Project Management?
All lawyers who give legal advice should know the basics of Legal Project Management, whether you are working in-house or are a partner or an associate in a law firm. Also paralegals and secretaries can take on important tasks in Legal Project Management, if they are supported and backed up in these roles.
The respective legal topics and fields of law are of no importance, neither is the size of the in-house department or law firm. Also small entities with a limited number of areas of legal advice do profit from good Legal Project Management. And the bigger the entity and the more complex its projects, the bigger the gain.
How and where should I start learning Legal Project Management?
You can do courses in general Project Management and transfer the insights and tools that you get there into your work. However, this kind of transfer takes a lot of work and time. If your preferred style of learning is from books, you can work your way through one of those and apply your insights to your practice. I would recommend Steven B. Levy: Legal Project Management – Control Costs, Meet Schedules, Manage Risks, and Maintain Sanity.
Or you could do some training in Legal Project Management, for which there are different opportunities. The International Institute of Legal Project Management (iilpm.com) e.g. offers an eLearning programme. The IILPM also provides a global list of accredited training providers that provide face-to-face LPM training. Your investment in time should be along the lines of: (1) some time in preparation where you define your learning goals, (2) two to three days of LPM training and/or coaching to get to know the most important LPM tools, plus (3) some perseverance and brainwork during the following three to four months when you apply those tools to your daily work.
The return on your investment is going to be that you
are able to use the most important tools of Legal Project Management in practice and have started to use them regularly in your everyday work. Thus you
can see specific results regarding your work efficiency, your improved collaboration with clients and cost control. Further you
have gained new insights into the way how you provide legal advice which enables you to further optimize your workstreams in the future.
Apart from that, do I need to invest big, e.g. in special software?
You do not. You can continue to use the tools (paper or software) that you currently use in order to manage matters and your practice. Neither do you need special Project Management software; you can get very far with Word or similar, a little bit of Excel or similar plus a couple of whiteboards and lots of sticky notes. Maybe you need to invest in sticky notes in different colors and some pencils. But you don´t need more to start. And you don´t need to be tech-savvy either in order to include good Project Management into your legal tool box.
In a nutshell, what are the 4 most important advantages of good Legal Project Management?
You are able to advise your clients in a more target-focused way and manage their expectations better, also with regard to costs, because you do a thorough scoping of your matters.
You reduce risks and mistakes and decrease stress, because you plan your work and the work of your staff and colleagues better and work more efficiently.
You are able to control costs, because you have a good overview over the tasks at hand and work efficiently.
You improve both client and team loyalty, because you initiate regular evaluations and improvements.
Do you have more questions? Please send me an e-mail! firstname.lastname@example.org.
You might also want to check with https://www.consultingforlegals.com to find out more about upcoming LPM training opportunities. If you sign up for the newsletter, the information will drop right into your inbox.
About the Author:
Marion Ehmann is an expert for modern lawyer skills beyond §§: Legal Project Management, Client Focus, Tailored Communication, Productivity and Efficiency, Time and Stress Management, Innovation through Legal Design Thinking. She has trained more than 300 lawyers (law firm and inhouse) in Legal Project Management through intensive workshops and individual coaching. Marion is certified both as professional coach (PCC-certified by International Coach Federation) and as expert for Legal Project Management (LPP-certified by International Institute of Legal Project Management). Marion also has many years of experience as a practicing lawyer in Sweden and in Germany, where she was admitted to the bar in 1999. More information about her at https://www.consultingforlegals.com .
“My approach to training lawyers isto training lawyers is ´Learning and Doing´: experimenting with tools in workshops is equally important as the transfer of knowledge, and so is quickly applying the tools in everyday legal practice, which is supported by coaching.” Get in touch with Marion at email@example.com .