Legal work rarely takes place in a vacuum and can involve managing multiple strands, comprising tasks, milestones, deliverables and other things that are familiar to project managers. Though they may not always think of it that way, often the work lawyers are doing is project management. For many firms the rise of "Legal Project Management" (LPM) is effectively the formalising of project management in a legal setting.
Not every matter needs an LPM framework or a project manager working alongside our lawyers, but for those that are large and complex enough to require it, LPM provides huge value to clients and the internal team.
There are countless project management methodologies which claim to be the silver bullet for successful delivery and myriad technology solutions available, but it is just about getting the basics right and, ultimately, about people. Without a culture of collaboration and sharing, methodologies can fail, and technology solutions languish, unused.
Unsurprisingly, the world of project management has obvious crossovers with legal service delivery, as outlined in our LPM top five tips:
- Planning the delivery of the project or matter; communicating and collaborating effectively. It's important at the start of a project to define who is doing what and when. How we scope a project at the outset is perhaps the most important task to get right.
- Taking a step back from the action. The role of the Project Manager often means seeing the whole picture. If you've got an agreed scope and RAID ("Risks, Actions, Issues, Decisions") log, it's the Project Manager's role to make sure that these are revisited and monitored.
- Reporting regularly and at the right level of detail. Reporting can take several different formats, but it's important to keep an open dialogue with your client and project team and be transparent about progress against the plan. Have key milestones been hit? Have we resolved the risks discussed? Are we performing to cost and schedule? A difficult conversation at the end of a project can be avoided if regular and open updates are given throughout the project lifecycle.
- Rationalising work in progress. Limit (if possible) the number of different things you are working on at any one time. The world of software development and agile has long been an exponent of this, using KANBAN boards and sprints to effectively schedule planned work and limit any unplanned work. In the age of remote working, it's easy to get distracted by emails, notifications, or surprise calls.
- Taking time for reflection, and continuous improvement. When a large project completes, the temptation is to move immediately on to the next matter. However, it's important to take some time to review and reflect. Lessons learned meetings or "post-matter reviews" (PMRs) can take as little as an hour, but the insight gained is invaluable. What went well and what were the challenges? What was our client's experience? Can we identify training opportunities, or improve our internal processes and materials as a result?
Project management is a mature field, but that doesn't mean it is always delivered well, which can lead to scepticism about its value. Done well it can transform the client experience and result in a win-win for all involved. Our job is to prove that value and demonstrate how project management can make everyone's lives easier not just at the start of the work, but throughout and beyond the completion of the project.