What is Legal Project Management?

Legal project management is a discipline to manage legal projects, whether they are matters, cases, transactions or deals, efficiently, consistently and predictably. When properly implemented, legal project management is a discipline that yields efficiently planned and delivered legal services and permits more accurate forecasting and budgeting.


Legal project management embraces a simple philosophy that suggests that there is efficiency from doing better what has already been done.

Legal project management not only provides greater transparency into legal work but it is designed to be a collaborative tool to be used with outside law firms, vendors and business teams on an ongoing basis.

Teams can centralize business-critical information, share status updates and collectively view and update documents, resulting in greater accountability, increased productivity and efficiency.

Building Blocks

Like traditional project management, legal project management includes task, milestone management and resource management. What differentiates Onit is that we believe that spend management is a critical component to most professional's project management needs.

The cornerstone of spend management starts with electronic invoicing and includes billing rule validations, alternative fee arrangements, budget and timekeeper management and discount management.

Legal project management becomes uniquely powerful when combined with spend management because it delivers a powerful tool for easier collaboration, better communication and greater operational and financial transparency into legal projects.

Why Legal Project Management?

In today's economy, everyone is trying to do more with less and corporate legal departments are no exception. Legal budgets are closely scrutinized and management teams are demanding their legal departments be as proactive and efficient as every other business division in the company.

Rising Legal Costs

In the last decade, corporate operating expenses have gone up about 20% and overall legal costs have gone up 75%. Legal spending has continued to be out or control but internal pressures are forcing legal teams to be more financially accountable.

The issue of increasing costs certainly is not a new one for general counsel. Surveys in the last five years consistently identified the need to control costs as general counsel's top concern and most important priority.

Legal Project Management for Corporate Legal Departments

Effectively-implemented, legal project management for corporate legal departments can produce significant incremental changes, both in improved delivery and efficiency. Think about it. Legal work is projects and lawyers are project managers by definition.

Applying a consistent and rigorous structure to how they practice the law will only improve the process. Here are the four basic steps that bring that discipline to the corporate legal department:

  1. Initiation

    a. Create project
    b. Define issue
    c. Define project goals and scope of work to be performed
    d. Define desired outcome
    e. Have initial conversation with outside counsel (if necessary) about the project

  2. Planning

    a. Agree on a project plan, which breaks all deliverables into discrete items
    b. Agree on a budget according to the project plan
    c. Agree on a staffing plan and detail who will work on the project and at what rate

  3. Execution and Monitoring

    a. Begin execution of the project plan
    b. Get weekly status updates (or more frequent for shorter projects)

  4. Completion and Evaluation

    a. When a project is complete, go through an evaluation process that includes the following:
          i.  Project evaluation
         ii.  Firm evaluation
        iii.  Lessons learned
    b. Use closing process to help you create better templates for future projects