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Top 10 Ingredients to Embed Legal Project Management Successfully in Law Firms

Legal project management (LPM) may be the fastest growing BigLaw trend.  Fast growing, however, does not mean easy.  To help with the journey to adopt LPM, Michelle Mahoney has assembled, at the ILTA Blog, practical tips from multiple experts.  Below, I offer my Top 10 ingredients to embed project management successfully in law firms.  I encourage you to read the other tips as well.

My view stems from both my consulting practice and work I have done over the last 18 months with Elevate Services to help develop its Cael LPM™ Software.  My “ingredients list” reflects what we learned talking to multiple law firms about LPM and helping to specify and design the software. Here are my Top 10 ingredients to embed LPM successfully in law firms:

  1. Motivation:  Partners must see the competitive necessity of doing project management or at least feel client pressure for LPM.
  2. Management Support:  The Executive Committee must support the LPM initiative and encourage adoption.
  3. Establish the Matter Scope and Budget The firm and client must negotiate the matter scope and budget.
  4. Create an Activity Plan:  The firm must translate the agreed-upon scope and budget to reasonably granular activities/tasks and assignment of fee earners to them.
  5. Monitor Progress against the Plan: The firm must regularly monitor progress – time billed and task completion – against the plan.
  6. Communicate Progress to the Client: Regularly communicate progress against plan to the client.
  7. Integrate with the Finance System Tracking progress requires access to time entries and the ability to incorporate phase-task code sets, which requires support from the finance department.
  8. Fee Earner Cooperation: Punctual time entry and regular reporting of task status.
  9. Designated Matter Manager:  Someone with responsibility and authority to manage a matter: track actuals vs. plan  and cause fee earners to cooperate with tracking.
  10. Supporting Software:  Software that makes it easy for fee earners to report task status and that provides an easy-to-use overview of the entire matter for matter managers.

 

A Hint : There are additional – and different – requirements if the firm’s goal is more comprehensive, e.g., establishing budgets that meet client pricing requirements and that yield the firm’s target profit margins.

A Qualifier:  Long term LPM success requires regular and active client communication.  In the short term, however, firms should first practice project management internally.  With experience, they should start communicating details to clients.

[A slightly different version of this was first published at the ILTA blog, 23 October 2013.]

  1. James Hannigan

    Thanks Ron for this summary. I would add a robust change control process for inevitable scope restatements that occur over the life of a matter. This is where failure often occurs because the initial budget is not adjusted in a timely way.