This article is the second of a three-part series on Legal Project Management. Read the first here and sign up to our newsletter to receive the final part in the series.

Legal Project Management (LPM) will fundamentally change the way that lawyers work. These changes aren’t to be feared they’re critical to the sustainability and transformation of the legal profession.

The first article in this series introduced a rationale for LPM and went on to discuss the challenges that law firms face when developing change programs that are designed to embed LPM into the firm.

In this article, I deep dive into the basic  concepts, creating the awareness and understanding of LPM that is required for lawyers to start the change journey.

What is LPM?

LPM, or Legal Project Management, is an emerging discipline and major innovation in the legal sector that adapts and applies project management techniques to the management of legal matters.

Practitioners of LPM apply it to the process of providing legal services rather than to the substantive legal work itself.

LPM is  becoming increasingly common, especially when faced with alternative fee arrangements or where there is a commitment to improving efficiency and client service.

LPM first appeared after the Global Financial Crisis, as law firms and in-house teams were under significant pressure to change their approach and the fundamental cost models of legal services. Firms needed to be more effective, more efficient and reduce costs.

The benefits of LPM

LPM benefits both lawyers and law firms.

For individual lawyers, LPM provides the framework, tools and techniques that help them deliver on time and on budget, and delight clients.

Through the coaching work that I do with lawyers and legal teams, I’ve seen almost miraculous changes and benefits, including:

  • Improved focus and prioritisation
  • Reductions in stress and overwhelm
  • Increased satisfaction
  • Improved efficiency
  • Ability to cope with increased volumes
  • Clarity of client outcomes.

One of my clients, a Managing Partner of a boutique firm, was amazed at the difference between LPM and non-LPM lawyers when the firm’s work tripled unexpectedly. LPM lawyers coped with the increased demands while those that hadn’t adjusted their ways of working really struggled, working longer hours and feeling more stressed.

For law firms, the benefits of LPM are also clear:

  • Reduces write offs
  • Supports alternative billing
  • Improves profitability
  • Improves efficiency
  • Improves quality and effectiveness
  • Boosts client retention
  • Boosts legal staff retention.

Understanding the LPM lifecycle

All legal matters are projects, they are simply a special type of project. They all have a start and an end, a defined set of objectives and deliverables, and follow a consistent set of phases.

At a basic level, all legal matters have the same standard phases:

  1. Matter Initiation
  2. Matter Planning
  3. Matter Execution or Matter Delivery
  4. Matter Closure.

The unique elements for each type of matter occur within Matter Execution, where lawyers handle all the deliverables and activities unique to that matter to meet the client’s objectives.

However, once a plan has been out in place for a legal matter, you can’t just “set and forget” and assume that the matter will run to the plan. This is where the art of LPM comes in – with “directing and managing” and “monitoring and controlling” activities feeding into and out of the second and third phases of the matter.

LPM ensures the matter stays on track by:

  • Predicting and resolving risks to successful delivery before they occur
  • Responding to issues that have occurred so they don’t push you off course
  • Directing the people assigned to the matter
  • Managing client expectations
  • Identifying and obtaining approval for variations to cost and time.

The LPM Framework

I have selected and tailored good practices from the field of LPM to create a LPM Framework that is applicable to ALL legal matters. It contains the critical building blocks for running a successful matter:

  1. Matter Scoping
  2. Matter Scheduling
  3. Matter Costing.

These building blocks are supported by specific disciplines:

  • Resourcing and People Management
  • Stakeholder and Client Management
  • Monitoring and Controlling.

It takes time to understand and embed these disciplines and knowledge areas into legal practices, however the results are attractive for both lawyers and firms.

As a leading global expert in Legal Project Management, I have worked with thousands of lawyers to develop their capabilities and skills. My groundbreaking LPM Competency Framework is the first step to becoming a better lawyer through the understanding and application of LPM. You can access my LPM Competency Framework here.

About Therese Linton, Principal and Founder, Basalt Group

Therese is a global leader in the field of LPM and project management capability building.Her book Legal Project Management can be purchased from LexisNexis and Booktopia. For the past 10 years she has been developing legal project management competency frameworks for major commercial firms, the Law Society of NSW and the College of Law, delivering successful outcomes through face to face training programs and workshops. New developments include the upcoming launch of LPM online education and certification programs.