Differentiation between legal operations and legal projects

Both projects and operational activities are necessary to run the business. However, the tools to execute and master them are different. The question which is often asked is how to differentiate the two. Few tips below:

  1. Timeline – projects are from their nature time bound and operations are day to day activities (using different words – projects are temporary and operations are repetitive and ongoing),
  2. Product – projects deliver unique products, which often is defined during the project activities, operations deliver same product on repetitive basis,
  3. Approach to standardization – in operations we usually focus on repetition and standardization, when project results differ from one project to another,
  4. Financing – projects have usually fixed budgets allocated when daily operations function usually on self-financing basis (generating profit to cover the cost),
  5. Developing business – operations, as repetitive cycle is suitable to maintain status quo, projects are used frequently to change and develop business,
  6. Different skill sets – operational managers are focused on improving the repetition of operations, when project mangers focus on building the toolbox (framework) to deliver results in different projects.

What are the examples of legal operations -repetitive tasks which benefit from standardization?

  • Time spend tracking
  • Billing activities
  • Document (including contracts) management
  • Repetitive, standardized legal matters (for example simplified, electronic company registration)
  • Vendor / client data management
  • Legal research and draft preparation
  • Litigation support

What are legal projects examples – which benefit from project tools?

  • New legal service development
  • Implementation of new technology into legal services
  • Complex legal matters for example Mergers and acquisitions

Due to legal services characteristics (mainly working in very regulated and hence rule based environment) part of legal projects will be on border line and will be a mix of operational and project characteristics.

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