Legal project management is the application of project management concepts to the control and management of legal cases or transactional matters. These principles have been used by multiple other professional service providers for many years. For decades, lawyers have loosely sketched out plans for matters but rarely put together detailed plans for end-to-end delivery of legal service on matters. As corporate clients have adopted project management to most, if not all, of their internal projects they are increasingly demanding legal project management from their law departments and external legal service providers.
Quite simply, legal project management is the formal and deliberate integration of planning, budgeting, and communication. It results in transparency for both the client and the legal service provider from the outset of the legal matter. Communication between and expectations of both parties is clear and written down in the Project Plan.
The typical Project Plan will be agreed to between the parties and will contain:
1. Summary of the Project
2. Goals of the Project
3. Scope of the Project
4. Out of Scope - As can often happen on legal matters out of scope tasks can be undertaken either because the client requests it or the legal service providers in their quest to provide a thorough analysis or work product think certain tasks should be undertaken.
5. Key Assumptions - These are assumptions the parties made when putting together the plan. Things could change in the future and those could impact the deliverables, the timeline, the staffing, or even the scope. But this is a great example of how expectations are managed at the outset.
6. Risks - what are possible obstacles to accomplishing the Project Goals?
7. Deliverables - what is the legal service provider going to deliver?
8. Timeline - what are the key dates for deliverables and communications/updates?
9. Participants - Resource Planning. Who are all of the people necessary to accomplish the Project Goals? How often are they needed? Who will manage the project? Who will do the work for each task? Who will be consulted and who will be informed?
10. Costs - Here's where the planning and assumptions of the above help legal service providers arrive at the costs of the project. It could be fixed fee. It could be part fixed fee and part hourly rate. It could be just hourly rates.
Legal project management is a great tool to deliver efficient legal services and it will only continue to grow as more corporate clients demand it and more legal service providers understand and see the value it provides to their clients.
Legal project management can appear to be a daunting task at the outset of a legal matter but don't OVERTHINK it. You can keep it simple as you try it out and improve upon your own process as you apply these concepts to additional matters.
Here are the 4 reasons why legal project management works:
1. Improved communication, transparency and, ultimately, trust between the parties. This all leads to improved client satisfaction.
2. Better expectation management - fewer surprises (hopefully, none!)
3. Cost certainty and cost containment for law departments. The transparent process allows for significant improvement in budgeting for legal costs.
4. Profitable fixed cost legal services for law firms. The more frequently legal project management is used by law firms the easier and easier it becomes for law firms to profitability price their legal services with precision. Fewer write-offs, better staffing and knowledge management to perform the work repeatedly with less effort.