11 steps to kick start legal project management in your legal practice

Legal Project Management is relatively new area of the project management landscape. Therefore, it has no solid, widely agreed framework or tools to be used. Some even argue that LPM is just a temporary consulting hype not an area of legal services. Luckily the reality is proving that as clients want more efficiency, legal services have to adapt in order to improve efficiency and protect profitability (and I tend to call big part of this adaptation process Legal Project Management).

In these circumstances (no weathered project management framework like in construction or IT development) lawyers often ask how to kick start bringing LPM to their practice. Below 11 easy to understand and implement (but hard to master…) steps which will allow you to kick start (or coordinate better) your legal project management activities. The below applies mostly to external counsel working with the Client, we will cover “LPM Kick start list” for in -house separately.

  1. DEFINE SCOPE – clearly discuss and formalize matter scope. Define exclusions. Get the understanding of the granularity needed (roadblocks only or we check every possibility no matter how unlikely).
  2. BRING TO SURFACE AND UNDERSTAND CLIENT SUCCESS CRITERIA – define and put on paper 3 – 5 SMART points defining future success as understood by Client.
  3. DISCUSS RESOURCES – what level / type of resources are required? Does Client want to have partner level involvement in each step or is happy with some items tackled by paralegal?
  4. DEFINE BUDGET – both billing budget to be shared with Client and internal with cost and profitability. Understand what Client is willing to pay for and what are Client budget requirements and limitations. Agree on billing format.
  5. DEFINE ROAD MAP – describe most likely road map and time frame needed to achieve success criteria in given scope and with defined resources. For period closest to date (say two weeks or month) break down high level points into actions which are actionable and can be assigned to specific people.
  6. DEFINE GOVERNANCE – in separation to legal matters – how project is going  to be managed in practice  (status meetings, reports, tools etc). Present proposal and clarify with Client.
  7. RISK MANAGEMENT – present major risks and propose possible ways of mitigation in given Client situation. Always tend to quantify risk (both in monetary impact and in probability). Suggest way to review and manage risks in the project.
  8. COMMUNICATION – define clearly how and when Client wants to be informed.
  9. CHANGE PROCESS – discuss early how changes to scope, budget, resources, time line and risk appetite will be performed? Educate on cross reference between time – cost – resources-quality.
  10. DEFINE INTERNAL OPERATIONAL MONITORING POINTS – define what project success looks like to you internally. Tackle profitability, Client repurchase intent and operational KPIs like billable hour per FTE or ratio of billed-to-work rate.
  11. EXECUTION – As legal matters actions are executed review, give more details or if needed amend the areas above. Monitor and inform Client on execution versus what was initially agreed.
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