Over time, organizations have increasingly adopted legal project management to change their business model, increase efficiency and effectiveness. Like other fields, good project management is essential for departments to handle legal matters cost-effectively and efficiently in the field of law. This makes legal project management an integral tool for law firms looking to expand client expectations and adapt to the continually evolving role of in-house lawyers. That said, businesses need to gain some insights into LPM and how it can affect their business.
What Does Legal Project Management Mean?
As the name suggests, legal project management involves applying project management principles in delivering legal services. This helps law firms handle legal matters productively and increase client satisfaction while maintaining the firm’s profitability. Generally, any legal work, be it non-contentious work or litigation, should be managed properly from the start to the end.
Legal project management basically relies on defining parameters of legal matters upfront, planning its course based on facts, managing the matter, and evaluating the outcome at the end. Initially, most successful employment lawyers were using this aspect to manage their work. The only difference is that client pressure on attorneys to use LPM for a proactive, disciplined, and systematic process is the current driving force.
That said, legal project management follows the following stages;
- Defining the scope of the matter
- Developing the project plan
- Conducting the legal matter
- Reviewing the process and outcome
What are the Features of a Great Legal Project Manager?
With all these importance, what skills, attributes, and abilities should legal project managers demonstrate?
Project Management Skills
Stellar project management skills are a must for astute legal project managers. They should be familiar with several project management methods/techniques and experienced in implementing them. This is, without a doubt, the most fundamental prerequisite.
Generally, achieving your objectives in the law field requires great communication skills. Project managers with effective communication skills find it easier to communicate and understand the legal matter at hand. More importantly, legal project managers should have great client-facing communication skills. In most cases, legal project managers shape the lawyer-client relationship. Therefore, they should understand what clients value and design the matter while ensuring that the client’s value is delivered.
Law firms can only make money if their project costs are less than the amount charged to clients. As such, legal project managers often have a say in the cost of individual legal matters. Note that this statement doesn’t mask the fact that calculating attorney fees is quite complex and sophisticated. In some law companies, legal project managers work together with legal costs pricing specialists to determine the costs. Regardless, the point is that project managers should manage the commercial aspect of legal matters effectively.
In the current digital world, it is impossible for project managers, regardless of the field, to work seamlessly without excellent IT skills. With responsibilities of scooping matters and pricing, good IT skills are fundamental for legal project managers. For instance, the explosion of data analytics makes it easy for legal project managers to review previous matters and estimate the time and costs required to solve the pending legal matter.
Legal project managers should also be familiar with various legal practise management systems, workflow systems, contract management systems, and other tools designed to ease legal work.
Unlike other sectors, legal project management is still in its infancy stage. Therefore, there is no settled or largely accepted legal project management approach. As such, several changes are bound to occur in due course. A legal project manager should be flexible and willing to adapt to changes as they come. Project managers may also be required to take the lead in creating and improving these processes.
Is Legal Experience Important for Legal Project Managers?
It isn’t surprising that some legal project managers entered the law field from different sectors. Some law firms specify that they require project managers with skills in other sectors, commonly with consulting and professional service industries. Therefore, it is possible for project managers to shift industries regularly.
However, most professionals who shift to the legal sector from other industries tend to stay longer in the legal service. This is because more opportunities open as they build up their knowledge about legal processes and terminologies. Therefore, while legal project managers may come from other industries, those with a background in law will easily adapt to this position and become effective quickly than someone who has to learn about legal aspects on the job.
Implementing legal project management is beneficial to law firms and clients seeking legal services. Clients benefit from few surprises, better communication, greater efficiency, and reduced expenditure on legal matters. On the other hand, law firms benefit from reduced write-downs, increasing profitability, enhancing client relationships, and attracting new work.
If you intend to work with a legal team in your upcoming employment legal claim, make sure that you choose an employment lawyer with great legal project management skills.