An Overview of Legal Project Management (LPM)

An Overview of Legal Project Management (LPM)

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A growing number of law firms and legal departments are integrating Legal Project Management (LPM) systems into their internal workflows. LPM is a tool to help deliver better, more cost-effective service to clients— and an important strategy for improving a firm’s overall financial position. Here are the key points to understand about best practices for LPM.

What Is Legal Project Management?

As defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI), project management involves the “use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people.” LPM, a particular type of project management, is a systematic approach to the planning, controlling, and completion of legal work within a clearly-understood framework which takes into account the specific business-related challenges inherent in providing legal services. 

LPM adoption has soared in recent years. There is a relatively straightforward reason why— clients are facing increased financial and/or budgetary pressures. They want and expect greater predictability, accountability, and cost control from their legal service providers. A well-developed LPM system will help you meet these emerging demands from both current and potential clients.

Developing A System: Understanding What Clients Want

Clients have been trying to control their legal spending for years. Nearly a decade ago ABA Journal published a report finding that cost reduction was a priority for large corporate clients; this trend has only continued and impacted practice areas all across the legal industry. Here are a few key expectations clients hold for their legal service providers:

  • Value and Efficiency: Clients want to know that their legal needs will be met in a timely, cost effective manner. They worry about being on the hook for duplicate or unnecessary work, or other forms of inefficiency. 
  • Predictability: Clients want to know what to expect, both in terms of billing and the potential outcomes of their legal matters. They do not want expensive surprises or unanticipated problems. 
  • Communication and Understanding: Most clients know legal issues are complicated and that, as laypeople, they won’t understand all the intricacies of the cases you’re handling for them. However, they do desire regular communication and updates from their counsel. 

As lawyers and firms face these increasing client pressures, a well-designed LPM system can help enormously. 

Three Principles of Effective Legal Project Management

LPM is an abstract and general term for a workflow process that can take many forms.  Considerations such as your practice area, the size of your law firm or legal department, and the needs of your clients will determine the specific structure of the best LPM system for you. Indeed, there is no one right or wrong way to handle legal project management. That said, all effective LPM systems share a few core principles: 

  • Proactive Planning: Some extra planning on the front end of a legal project is a lot better than damage control afterwards. One of the keys to building an effective LPM system is ensuring that all legal work is properly planned out. 
  • Communication is King: There should be procedures in place to ensure that all stakeholders—clients, collaborators, counter-parties, etc.—are in the loop at appropriate junctures. Communication is one of the keys to successful legal work. 
  • Benchmarks Matter: Finally, there should be metrics for assessing progress and success in each client project. While finding the right benchmarks can be more challenging in certain practice areas, it’s difficult to manage and coordinate work that can’t be measured.

Of course, execution is just as important as planning. Ultimately, an LPM system is just a structure to help law firms and legal departments work effectively by ensuring that tasks are assigned and completed in a timely manner, authority is delegated when appropriate, and matters that need attention get the required follow-up. No matter how carefully you plan, unforeseen complications will arise. A well-crafted legal project management system will help you and your team address and resolve those issues.

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About the author

Allen Rodriguez Allen Rodriguez is a legal product development strategist who has been serving the legal industry for over 21 years. Over the course of his career, Allen has built a reputation for creating innovative legal services products as well as developing highly effective law firm business and marketing strategies. Allen is a valued speaker on the topics of law marketing, legal services product development, and future of law issues.

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