The discipline of project management is not new – it is just becoming the latest buzzword in the legal industry – and for good reason. As many of you know, traditional project management emerged out of the construction and engineering industries and has never been really suitable for the legal industry. The IT industry, however, has in the past 20 years taken to a modified project management process that is lighter and more suited to lawyers. Although legal has been somewhat slow to embrace this discipline, the landscape is changing and there has been a fundamental shift in how law is being practiced today and in the future. (Just look at all the articles about alternative fee arrangements).
Even before the recession, corporate legal departments were being asked to reduce their total legal spend, bring greater control and predictability to their legal budgets and demand greater efficiency from outside counsel. The recession escalated this mandate and there continues to be immense pressure to control and manage legal costs. Whether corporate legal departments like it or not, legal project management is here to stay.
3 Key Benefits of Legal Project Management
Change is difficult for any corporation or law firm but with it comes the possibility of great innovation. Implementing basic project management fundamentals in all of your legal projects will help you work more efficiently, increase your productivity and improve how you interact with your legal and business teams. Here are 3 key benefits of legal project management and why it’s necessary in the legal arena:
1. Managing Expectations
Project management is all about managing expectations – whether it be with internal or external stakeholders. This seems like a simple concept but how many times have you received an invoice from an outside law firm or vendor and it was more than you expected? Implementing project management discipline in all your legal projects, whether they are matters, litigation, deals, or transactions, will ensure that your projects are on track and that milestones and deadlines are met accordingly. It will also help alleviate those awkward conservations with the senior management team about why your legal departments spend dramatically increased with little to no advance warning.
2. Updating Project Stakeholders
Communication with project stakeholders is important to the success of any project, legal and otherwise. Keeping a team well-informed ensures there are no surprises at the end of the project or in this case, billing cycle. Regular and consistent communication is a simple enough concept but it takes discipline to do it right. Besides, isn’t it easier to be proactive rather than reactive?
3. You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure
Although this cliché gets touted like a mantra in some organizations, it’s true when it comes to legal project management. But the reverse is true also: you can’t measure what you don’t manage. You must agree to the scope of work, objectives, key performance indicators and success criteria in advance and review them regularly as your legal project hits milestones. It’s critical to take action early if you are failing to achieve any of your goals or performance targets and alert the team. Tracking, assessing and measuring legal project status can be summed up in a one of Albert Einstein’s concepts, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”