Effective project management for the legal sector

It is clear that it is no longer sustainable for law firms to have an ‘open clock running’ on legal work for clients.  Clients are demanding greater transparency, increased value for money and clear evidence of efficiency and best practice in the way that their legal work is performed.  Law firms are responding to these challenges by developing and implementing a number of different strategies.  These include cost reduction, process efficiency, merger activity, new product development and a focus on deeper, more strategic client relationships.   The desire to implement these strategies creates the commercial drivers for legal project management (LPM).

Why project management?

In simple terms, legal project management is the application of project management techniques to the execution of legal matters.

A project is defined as:

  • Time-bound and has a customer
  • A complex effort with inter-related tasks
  • A non-repetitive undertaking
  • Has specific objectives
  • Has time and cost constraints
  • Needs a temporary organisation of diverse resources
  • Clear beginning and end states
  • A specific cycle of initiation, definition, planning, execution and close

This sounds like the perfect description of a legal matter at the most complex end of the spectrum….the sort of transaction for which clients are increasingly demanding greater value, transparency and increased certainty.

Benefits of legal project management

Project management methodologies aim to manage the three main issues law firm clients often complain about:

  • time overruns
  • cost overruns
  • failure to meet client expectations

Applying project management techniques to matters allows the law firm to gain a deeper understanding of the composition of a matter.  This in turn allows them to disaggregate the transaction and apply the most appropriate solution to each component.  This may be a specific sourcing or process based solutions involving subject matter experts, legal process outsourcing (LPO), information technology, and so on.  As such they are critical to enabling firms to manage the utilisation of their fee earners and critically to predict and manage profitability.   As such project management should be at the heart of the effective delivery of even the most complexlegal transactions.

Project management versus business process optimisation

However, while a firm might be managing their projects perfectly, how effective are the business processes that underlay the actual execution of the legal work?  Clearly, project managing an inefficient process isn’t ideal.  So while the skill of the project/matter manager is to:

  • configure the matter appropriately
  • ensure that each phase or element of work is planned, resourced and sourced appropriately
  • run and coordinate the disaggregated elements of the matter concurrently
  • manage quality and deliverables

It is also critical that the law firm understands which elements of the legal transactions can and should be managed as process and potentially subject to alternative sourcing and continuous improvement.

So firms need appropriate techniques and technology to effectively manage both projects and process.  A plethora of workflow and process integration technologies exist but so far few technologies have been successfully utilised in the legal sector that actually help firms apply project management techniques to legal matters.   The current crop of practice management systems just do not cut it!

VESK for Legal

At VESK for Legal we are committed to supporting innovation and bridging the gap between the expectations of lawyers and the reality of the solutions available to them. We combine our leading technology solutions with training and consulting services based on extensive knowledge and experience leading and working with some of the best law firms in the world.

We promote the successful application of project management tools and techniques to the legal sector through a combination of consulting services, training and technology.

Technology – Tempus Resource

While historic timesheets are great for billing and obtaining a historic view of performance, shouldn’t there be something that gives a clear, long term picture? One solution is to deploy some of the traditional approaches to project management, like Critical Path Analysis, risk management etc. along with the associated tools. However, the tools, processes and techniques of these traditional approaches require specialist knowledge, significant effort and provide at best a disjointed view of the world.  New approaches and new tools are now coming to the fore that provide a far greater degree of visibility, and predictability of their utilisation. For instance, the ability to have a forward view of utilisation:

Giving this visibility is one thing, but visibility is nothing without the ability to influence and control scenarios – so tools, like Tempus Resource also give the ability to move matters/projects, compress and expand matters/projects, or move resources between them to ensure a ‘flatter line’ or more even utilisation:

Taken together, this allows a law firm to have control and visibility of forecast utilisation and therefore billing and profitability on a month by month basis.

Law firm tools also need to support sophisticated use cases, whilst maintaining end user simplicity (fee earners should be earning fees, not learning how to use a suite of software tools).   Tempus Resource allows integration to any system that contains assignment level data and gives users an Excel like interface to plan work, whilst still giving the benefits of an enterprise class system.

Project management training and consulting

Through our partner Change Harbour Ltd, VESK for Legal offer a range of pre-defined and tailored project management training courses.  What makes our offering unique is that it combines extensive knowledge and understanding of the legal sector with certification in recognised best in class project management methodologies.

Project management fundamentals

To give delegates an understanding of why project management is important and relevant for them and introduce the key tools and techniques that will be useful for them.

The course provides:

  • Context – legal market and reasons it is important for the specific firm
  • Key concepts of project management and key tools/techniques

Tailored  project management training

Identification of a project management methodology that is appropriate to the requirements of the specific firm, develop a course to support that, deliver it and provide practical templates. The methodology is based on certified project management approaches depending on the specific needs of the firm (i.e. PRINCE, Agile or MSP)

Certification

Depending on the agreed programme our courses can result in recognised certification for delegates in Agile or PRINCE.

Process reviews

Consultancy exercises to review business processes, identify process improvements and opportunities for optimisation/alternative sourcing.

Further information

At VESK for Legal we are committed to supporting innovation and bridging the gap between the expectations of lawyers and the reality of the solutions available to them. We combine our leading technology solutions with training and consulting services based on extensive knowledge and experience leading and working with some of the best law firms in the world.

If you need more information about new approaches to and tools for project, process and resource management email David Bennett at david.bennett@veskforlegal.com or tim.hanson@changeharbour.com.