The Rise of Legal Project Management
Legal project management (LPM) seems to be making major inroads into the profession.
Back in April, the legal press carried two reports of interest. First, McCarthys’ project management plan in Financial Post (14 April 2010) reports that Canadian firm “McCarthy Tetrault is launching a technology solution it hopes will eventually help the firm better understand the costs of a merger or big piece of litigation. It’s a project-management system the firm spent more than 18 months developing in-house.” The firm describes its commitment and approach to project management at its website. And second, Tracking Numbers Key to Duane Morris’ Project Management in The Legal Intelligencer (21 April 2010) explains how project management supports the firm doing alternative fee arrangements.
This week I found that Altman Weil released a report on LPM, Legal Project Management: A Trend at the Tipping Point by Pamela H. Woldow and Douglas B. Richardson. The authors suggest that LPM a is trend, meaning here to stay, rather than just a fad. They relate the rise of LPM to other legal market trends, all of which stem from the shift in power from suppliers (law firms) to buyers (general counsel).
Today, via Twitter, I found that McDermott Will & Emery is using a Deal Dashboard to project manage transactions. The only information I could find about this at the firm’s website is a PDF at http://www.mwe.com/info/dealsdashboard.pdf. It is well worth reading. The screen shot make the system look quite easy and helpful (and leave me intrigued to know the platform on which it is built and the data sources that feed it). Further, the short text descriptions are, in my opinion, unusually well-written for a law firm, focusing on simple and understandable benefits.
Elsewhere, the references I found include a blog post by Jim Hasset, Legal Project Management ( Part 8 ) – McDermott’s Deal Dashboard, and one by Paul Easton, Law Firm PM Watch: McDermott Will & Emery’s Deal Dashboard.
Project management requires examining and managing processes, a task I have long argued is key. The legal profession has come a long way. Around 1993 another non-practicing lawyer and I tried to convince a litigator to use project management. Except we knew, at that time, we could not utter those words to a lawyer. So we explained in a somewhat round about but nonetheless clear way how we wanted him to consider using a very experienced legal assistant to help run a big matter. When he said “oh, you mean, it would be like having an extra very good secretary” my colleague and I exchanged a look that I still remember. We knew without saying anything that this was a lawyer who would never get it. Fortunately, at least some lawyers get it today.
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