This is a live post from a private large law firm practice management meeting. This session is “LPM Real World Experience: Lawyers Who’ve Led the Charge.” This is a presentation by partners from two large firms that have implemented legal project management. 

Large Law Firm 1 Speaker

Drivers for an LPM initiative:
1. It was client driven. The firm found client expectations were changing; clients wanted to see higher value from their providers and wanted reduced costs (or, at minimum, cost predictability). Clients wanted their outside counsel to be accountable, just as the GC is accountable for his or her budget.
2. The firm also believed that a true LPM capability would be a good competitive differentiator.
3. Client demand for non-standard fee arrangements.

The firm started down the LPM road about 2.5 years ago. Had to decide whether to start with an external consultant or invest internally to develop in-house. The firm decided to make (do it in-house) rather than buy (consultant). The firm started with a small internal team which took standard PM tools that team thought would be useful in law practice.

Once team developed a program, it did a small pilot with a few lawyers. They received ‘robust feedback.’ This led to iterating the LPM approach.

The original LPM working group did NOT include a KM lawyer. Thinks in retrospect this was a mistake because of their involvement in process and content management, which are skills most practicing lawyers don’t have. Once KM lawyers were included, LPM got good ideas on how to use template, naming conventions, and good practices for managing information.

Implementation of LPM is smoother if you run pilots first. The pilots at our firms not only refined the approach but created some champions.

We now have LPM used on multiple large matters. Benefits include
– Discipline around planning, delivering on budget, improved work product, and better communication with client (e.g., clear agreement on deliverables and project milestones).
– Fewer write-offs.
– Better rate management on a per matter basis. A single rate across all matters does not reflect reality of differing types of work.
– Create a historical database that enables the firm to do a better job structuring alternative fees

Large Law Firm 2 Speaker

Speaker has a strategic role a firm. The firm has a project management department that started in 2005. The department now has six people. It is integrate in the firm’s lean initiative. Overall goal is predictable fees and more client value. LPM is one tool in a lean Six Sigma initiative.

Attorneys start by saying “there is no process, we can’t create maps, everything is different.” But the process engineers / mappers sit with lawyers and start with basics (e.g., matter starts when client calls and go form there). At end of working session, there is a detailed process map. Attorneys are typically surprisingly pleased with result. The map shows step, expected time requirement, and associated billing code. The process map is interactive – a lawyer can click on a link, which opens a document in the DMS. Often however, lawyers need to create checklists to support steps in the process. The process map and linked resources is an excellent training tool and reduces e-mail traffic asking basic questions.

By indicating expected hours required for each task, the lawyer working on it can raise a flag if work is taking too long. This can identify anything from a variance in the work to a need for training.

There is a home-grown matter management and budgeting system to track progress of each matter.
The firm asks clients to rate the firm after each matter. The rating ties to ACC value challenge:
– Understands objective
– Legal expertise
– Efficiency and process management
– Responsiveness and communication
-Predicable cost / budgeting skills

Firm was able to show
1. Cost saving on a particular type of matter before client used firm and after – savings of about 40%
2. Though the firm’s blended rate was higher than competitors in RFP situation, firm was able to show its total cost was lower because it was more efficient.