Peer to Peer Magazine

June 2013

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 76 of 115

Coupled with the increasing adoption of non-hourly methods of billing, such as fixed or contingent-based fees, clients and law firms alike need to determine the most cost-effective and efficient approaches to conducting matters. A 2012 ALM survey summed up the problem neatly in its title, "Legal Project Management: Much Promise, Many Hurdles." It is clear more needs to be done to advance legal project management. THE NEW BREED OF PROJECT MANAGER Firms that have already recognized the importance of legal project management seem to be addressing this need through two different, though not mutually exclusive, approaches. with the law firm by providing greater efficiency, transparency and predictability throughout the lifetime of the matter. Indeed, when participating firms were asked in a recent ALM survey what key benefits they realized as part of their LPM-related initiatives, 62 percent indicated the main benefit was strengthened client relationships. There is also a very strong internal dimension, as indicated by the second most popular benefit identified: improvements to internal efficiency and productivity within the law firm (56 percent). Through the proper application of LPM disciplines, firms have clear visibility into budgets, updates on fee estimates and regular client communication, all of which help minimize potential write-offs through poor communication and scope creep that can occur throughout a matter's life span. • Certify lawyers in legal project management • Hire non-lawyer project managers who have come from similar roles elsewhere or are certified by the PMI Although the first approach is an interesting and necessary development, it is the latter that is contributing to the emergence of a professional career track for the expert practitioner. One thing is clear: Those performing LPM or responsible for managing teams conducting LPM come from an extremely wide variety of backgrounds. In part, this is due to the evolving nature of the role and definition of LPM within the legal profession. It is also indicative of the diversity of appropriate skills already present within organizations. Some practitioners have moved from internal project management, supporting major internal projects, to support legal project management initiatives. One of the first to see the potential advantage of project management specialized for legal was Kim Craig at Seyfarth Shaw. Kim started their internal project management office (PMO) in 2004. She now directs Seyfarth's legal project management office and is responsible for overseeing 17 individuals who partner with attorneys on the efficient and successful delivery of legal services. Christopher Sweet of Reed Smith earned a number of formal project management qualifications, including becoming a Six Sigma Black Belt. After completing a law degree, Chris joined a pharmaceutical company's in-house legal department as their first project manager, focusing on managing outside counsel spending. He joined Reed Smith to manage legal project management and analysis early last year. Other proponents of legal project management include those who have obtained a JD, MBA, PMP qualification or some combination of these accomplishments. BENEFITS OF LPM The primary areas of responsibility for a legal project manager typically focus on enhancing the client's experience in engaging 78 Peer to Peer FOCUSING LPM EFFORTS Improving existing processes — perhaps, the ultimate goal of LPM — is also becoming a key focus. For example, Seyfarth Shaw has developed more than 300 process maps (many developed in collaboration with their clients) to get closer to this objective. Defining and implementing the necessary infrastructure is also key to LPM efforts and can include developing tools for data analysis and generation of custom reports, defining appropriate matter-specific processes and procedures, and the development and delivery of training. Consequently, many legal project managers use this information to determine pricing and contribute to the firm's development of alternative fee arrangements. In addition, some LPM teams have a clear revenue-generating focus. Clients are beginning to recognize the value a firm's legal project managers can provide and some have even explicitly stated via panel tenders or requests for proposals their willingness to compensate law firms appropriately for LPM resources. With a role defined this broadly, one of the biggest challenges legal project managers face is prioritizing where best to provide support given the relatively small, focused teams in place and the growing demand for services. MEASURING LPM'S CONTRIBUTIONS Measuring the contribution of LPM is still in its infancy. There are a number of metrics that can be used; some are quantifiable, and others are more subjective. Generated fees and margin levels are perhaps the most obvious and easiest measurements to manage, especially if focusing on the contribution of out-of-scope work on a matter. What is harder to measure is the impact of improved processes within the in-house legal team. While intellectually this is easy to surmise, rarely is there a concrete baseline against which to measure. Only a few firms have this kind of data. Other indicators include level of client demand and number of internal requests for LPM support. However, the most critical

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Peer to Peer Magazine - June 2013