Legal Project Management Essentials
Developing Legal Project Management (LMP) skills is a surefire way to grow your legal practice. It not only helps ensure that your client’s projects stay on budget, time, and within legal restrictions, it also it builds client satisfaction and loyalty. While some firms hire non-legal professionals to “manage” the project as a whole from a business efficiency perspective, the lawyer or other legal professional, who also has business acumen and management knowledge, is the ideal legal project manager. So, exactly what role does a legal project manager fill?
So, exactly what role does a legal project manager fill? According to Susan Raridon Lambreth, founder of the LPM Institute, a legal project manager has multiple responsibilities, including: • Analyzing the stakeholders • Developing a project charter/scope of work document • Developing a project plan (including a work breakdown structure and budget) • Monitoring the completion of tasks for the matter and other updates throughout a matter (changes in the stakeholders, risk assessment, budget, scope changes, etc.) • Monitoring the matter against timelines, deadlines, and budget • Ensuring sufficient communication with the client and matter team • Reviewing the matter at the end to determine lessons learned and work product developed
Whether the LPM personally completes each responsibility or ensures that it gets done by delegating individual tasks to the appropriate parties, following these principles will help ensure success.
I. Develop A Project Management Mindset Legal project management involves more than the pertinent hard skills. Of course, the legal project manager must be a communicative leader with strong problem-solving skills, but because it involves considerable interactions with multiple groups of people from team members and the firm’s executives to clients, succeeding as an LPM also requires a high level of emotional intelligence. Ultimately, a successful LPM learns to “think” the LPM way:
Create a plan: • Establish clear goals • Organize into measurable steps • Prepare for potential “plan changers” – such as new legislation, new client expectations, etc. • Identify potential risks Execute the plan: • Encourage ongoing feedback – clear, consistent communication • Review status regularly • Be flexible when a change of course proves necessary. Discuss/evaluate the end package • Determine what worked, and what needs changed or improved in the process • Maintain record of process for future reference
II. Take Advantage of Technology Implementing legal project management software or a cloud-based system is essential, enabling the LPM plus all other pertinent parties within the firm to: • Plan and manage projects • Create and track the project budget • Contain and easily reference project documents • Match documents to tasks • Facilitate communication and collaboration • Maintain an overview of the project • Record end processes for future reference
III. Continue Project Management Education While certification (there are multiple options) is essential to growth within your law practice, it isn’t the last stop. To be a successful LPM requires an attitude and aptitude for continual education. Course work changes. Legislation changes. Technology changes. Best Practice changes. Staying in the education and learning loop ensures an LPM will keep their knowledge and skills honed and ready to move their practice forward.
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