The first time I was asked to help improve efficiency and manage the value and cost of legal services with Legal Project Management (LPM)practices was in 2005. I was retained by the Associate General Counsel of a well-known defense contractor who believed that if his clients used project management practices to build complex rockets and manage the cost of government contracts, lawyers should be able to do the same thing in providing legal services. We collaborated with the Fortune 10 company and AmLaw firms and developed a play book that promoted transparency on how both the law firm and the defense contractor worked (focusing on reconciling conflicting metrics and incentives), aligned the teams and scope of work, and even developed timelines, Gantt charts, budgeting tools and forecasts. Because of my 20 years as a practicing lawyer and experience in both a BigLaw firm and BigLaw department, I was comfortably embedded in some matters (8 figures in billings annually) to coach the lawyers in LPM techniques, decision trees, and scenario analysis. I believe we were successful only because the lawyers used tools they had developed to apply project management concepts to their matters.
In 2010, I worked with the Associate of Corporate Counsel (ACC) to develop a program to teach how LPM is part of a portfolio of critical tools to implement the ACC Value Challenge. In 2011, I was asked to extend that work to both leading law departments (such as DuPont under Tom Sager) and law firms whose leadership believed that ruthless efficiency is critical to the firm's business model and client service.
Here we are,12 years after my foray into LPM with the defense contractor. The market pressures in the legal industry on both the buy and sell sides have not abated, and value, predictability, and spend management/profitability are well established needs.
Technology applications and training programs abound, but ultimately effective legal project management is about effective communication. EI not AI. People, not just process. Value is added when everyone understands why they are doing whatever they are doing and where they are going. Everyone involved needs a relentless commitment to maintain focus to stay on track or make changes for which there is ample consensus.
The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (aka CLOC) has joined this conversation with a working group that has developed a business case and a simple playbook for LPM across the legal supply chain. It is relevant for in-house lawyers in confirming the scope of work and goals with their clients, and even determining that some matters do not require the legal department's involvement. It is relevant for in-house lawyers when they make a decision about how to involve outside counsel and external service providers, and how to communicate about roles and responsibilities and protocols for performance monitoring. CLOC's LPM materials are essential information for law firms to better understand how to collaborate with their clients. The information is on the CLOC website, and as the principal author of the business case, we’re pleased to provide a copy on request.
For nearly 15 years, I've tried to demystify LPM, its benefits and its challenges. I’ve presented, trained, consulted, and written a great deal about LPM tools, techniques, and related topics over the years. Coming back to where we started this journey - my own experience as an in-house lawyer, I am pleased to announce my contribution to a new book published by Ark, "Building the Law Department of Tomorrow." In Chapter 2, I draw from our perspective as both external and inside counsel, as well as serving as an advisor to both to show how Legal Project Management can help law departments add value, enhance performance and improve relationships with outside counsel. I hope you will add the new book to your reading list.