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Delivering Results: Introduction to Legal Project Management - Part 2.

Introduction

In Legal Project Management (LPM) Part 1, we outlined LPM and its benefits and reviewed a couple of powerful project management tools: the Work Breakdown Structure and the Stakeholders Analysis Matrix.

The Legal Project Management Resistance Movement

However, despite these and many other useful project management tools, Altman Weil, the US management consultancy dedicated to the legal sector, indicates in its ‘Law Firms in Transition 2017’ report, that the implementation of project management by many law firms has had mixed results.

A full-scale implementation of LPM methodologies does in fact require buy-in and careful management because it necessitates changes to not only ingrained individual work habits but also legacy law firm and company processes and systems. An inspiring blog, for those lawyers skeptical about the efficacy of project management for their own practice of law, has been written by legal sector analyst, Jordan Furlong, ‘How I learned to stop worrying and love project management.’

The bottom line for law firms is that resistance to implementing legal project management could prove counter-productive. They will need to apply certain project management methodologies when fixed fee, capped fee or other alternative fee arrangements are agreed with their clients, otherwise unprofitably priced work will result. Agreeing to alternative fee arrangements and practicing project management go together.

Law Firm Project Management Innovators

However there are various law firms who have, for some time, taken a strategic approach to legal project management embedding its methodologies into their client solutions. They also promote their approaches to project management as a competitive advantage.

These include:

  • Seyfarth Shaw, pioneers of combining project management and Six Sigma process improvement to create their own branded methodology – SeyfarthLean.
  • Baker Donelson also have their own branded LPM framework – BakerManage.
  • Dechert emphatically ties its project management approach to offering clients alternative fee arrangements, in its simply named and persuasively written ‘Project Management and Pricing’ brochure, which they link to directly from their website, along with a short video.
  • Clifford Chance focuses in on ‘Continuous improvement’ as its route to applying project management and process improvement in its forward-thinking white paper, written back in 2013 and after five years of implementing their initiative – ‘Applying Continuous Improvement to high-end legal services.’

Conclusion

It has been said that project management is the art and science of delivery, with project managers bringing order to potential chaos. In-house lawyers can take advantage of their tools and techniques to improve the use of resources and enhance performance against their budgets. Likewise, as client demand for fixed priced legal services continues to grow, private practice lawyers can apply legal project management methodologies to provide their clients with the right legal solutions, within the agreed time period, at the agreed price and within their own law firm budgets.

Liz Kenyon