Is Legal Project Management Easier Than You Think?

Aderant Think Tank

Is Legal Project Management Easier Than You Think?

With clients now insisting upon greater transparency and consistency in their legal service providers, forward thinking law firms are proving this using Legal Project Management (LPM). The August issue of Business Law Today found that unlike their counterparts in the medical and professional fields, attorneys have been late adopters of “project management” practices. While LPM remains a mystifying topic to many, implementing it may be easier than you think—and can make a direct impact on your profitability and client retention.

As the ABA explained in a recent publication, LPM consists of:

  • A systematic approach
  • Scoping, planning, managing and controlling legal work
  • Clearly defined time, budget and performance requirements – by both law firm and client
  • Capture of lessons learned after project completion to enhance future performance

A key point to remember when considering LPM adoption is that the push for these changes is coming mostly from law firm clients. The LPM movement appears to have arisen from client concerns about value, communication and the predictability of fees and costs. According to the ABA, LPM is “developing a solid track record for providing what clients want from their lawyers.”

For small and mid-size firms considering such a change to their practice environment, the natural reaction will be “Why bother? Status quo has worked just fine.” As the Business Law Today story reported, when lawyers hear about LPM “they react much like those surgeons who resisted operating room checklists: Why do we need to do this? This is not the way that I have always practiced. This encroaches on my autonomy. I know all these processes already – this is a colossal waste of time.”

There can be immediate benefits to integrating LPM into your practice, however, even if it’s not being mandated by your clients. When project management strategies are properly integrated into your daily routine they can reduce errors, improve efficiency, shine a light on your budgeting and costs, as well as help you decide how to best allocate your firm’s resources.

Obviously, any major change to your practice should be undertaken with care. If it all sounds like too much trouble, legal experts suggest that a firm can start their LPM program with just one client. Analyze every aspect of that relationship and try to identify the inefficiencies and areas for improvement. Make it a point to communicate more with the client and clearly describe to them the value of the proposed work, the anticipated fees and your strategy moving forward.

In last year’s Altman Weil Survey, the study found that more than 90% of firm leaders believe there is a permanent market shift requiring greater efficiency in the delivery of legal services. So it certainly appears that the efficiency train has left the station, and LPM offers a solid method to achieve better results for your firm.

The key to getting the most out of your LPM strategy is to start implementing LPM then step back and look at where the process is helping you better understand your business. Understanding the impact of leverage on profitability is a prime example. Everyone knows that a change in leverage affects your profit position, but how many of us are aware of the impact before it is too late? Using LPM and tracking your performance against the estimated budget will quickly identify that leverage is moving from your projections and you can act to resolve this and protect your profit margin.

Again, don’t feel you have to jump in and implement an LPM strategy full-scale right away. Try it with one client first and see how it impacts your understanding and ability to service this particular client’s needs better, and move on from there. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it will become entrenched in your firm’s culture.

Join the discussion on LinkedIn or Twitter @Aderant and let us know what you think!