Legal Project Management (or LPM) is becoming essential for law firms. For good reason. Firms often run countless numbers of complex matters at once. Keeping track of all this; the wins, the losses, whether something is over or under budget; is impossible without good project management. However, LPM’s are often held back by an inability to scale what they do. Without scale, firms can never truly benefit from the oversight and control project management can bring to their firm.

So, how can the legal industry tackle this problem? In this four part series, we’ll be looking at the state of LPM right now. Part 1 broke down why LPM is important, and how firms are currently failing to implement it. In part 2 we identified the myths law firms need to overcome to scale LPM. This week, in part 3 we’ll be offering advice and tips from Legal Project Managers on how to bring this much needed change about.

Empower your team

Integrating LPM at scale successfully can be tough. In addition to implementing new metrics, and measuring new data streams, you also have to manage team integration. This can mean internal integration between Project Managers and the teams whose matters they must manage. But it can also mean between client legal teams and internal ones. For advice on how to make this a success, we must turn to Barclays. In order ensure LPM existed across all of their counsel, Barclays developed an LPM Consortium.

“We invited our top 15 panel firms to join and bring their LPM teams to meet with us. The goal was to bring them together to help Barclays solve some of the challenges in handling matters. We had an initial meeting where we discussed our views of LPM, what it means to us and its importance and the panel law firms shared about some of their LPM programs. The goal of the Consortium was to bridge the gap between the Barclays’ relationship team and the firms’ teams.”

LawVision/LPM Institute

Barclay’s approach has empowered their counsel to work more closely and share best practices for LPM with each other. In turn, their counsel are offered a better idea of their performance, how they can improve it. Empower teams to take this proactive approach with clients to strengthen relationships and ensure LPM scales naturally.

Offer a choice

Internally, it is also important to allow teams to approach LPM incrementally. Shanna Davidson, Legal Operations Manager at Barnes and Thornburg suggests offering three ‘versions’of LPM to lawyers who can then self select the level most suited to them.

Self-Service: A library of checklists, budget templates, and language are provided to the lead attorney.
 
Monitored: LPM staff helps create the initial budget, assumptions, and estimates; lawyers subsequently receive weekly/monthly budget-to-actual reports.
 
Managed: LPM staff helps create the initial budget, assumptions, and staffing plan. LPM staff conducts a kick-off call with the matter team before work commences and continues to hold weekly/monthly status calls to address budget assumptions, scope changes, billing complications, and budget-to-actual performance. An end-of-matter debrief occurs at the conclusion of the matter to memorialize lessons learned.

Shanna Davidson

This advice ensures that at least one manner of LPM has to be implemented, but in a way that leaves some control (and therefore enthusiasm) to the lawyer making the selection.

Celebrate your success

Everyone knows that the best way to ensure something keeps getting done, is to show that it works. Its not good enough to say that LPM is increasing profitability, or improving client satisfaction. Scaling LPM is about showing exactly how it helps and then inspiring others to push change through themselves. This can be done in two ways. Through project champions and through firm wide reporting.

The first method, creating LPM champions, is about finding inspiring people who enjoy LPM and then offering them the opportunity to train and inspire others. It’s a technique we use at Clocktimizer. Rather than training the whole firm to use our tool, we train select project champions who become advocates for our platform. Uptake tends to be higher as a result of the authenticity of the champions you select.

Secondly, firms must measure and share their LPM success stories. Take the analysis of time cards. It’s the first essential step to determining everything from profitability to keeping a matter on track. This used to be a time consuming and thankless task. But at Hogan Lovells, Stephen Allen has reduced this to a matter of seconds.

“As a test, we ran 75,000 lines of who, what, for whom and how much, plus a billing narrative of anything from one word to 150 words, through the software. [Clocktimizer] designated those tasks to activities in 36 seconds. We timed it!”

Stephen Allen

Exciting news like this should be shared with the firm regularly to emphasise how and why LPM at scale is so important.

Rethink how you communicate LPM

Our final tip for implementing LPM at scale comes again from Shanna Davidson of Barnes and Thornburg and it involves communication.

“Focus on enhancing the communication loop, both internally and externally. Often the term “legal project management” can be intimidating for both clients and attorneys alike. By initially focusing solely on improving communication, whether that be clearly defining a matter’s scope of services, sharing the alternative fee arrangement with the team, or providing client stakeholders regular updates at preferred intervals, you set your firm up for “easy win” opportunities with your clients. We have experienced significant traction with our attorneys by focusing on the basic LPM principles centered on communication.”

Shanna Davidson

Often the barrier to implementing LPM at scale is because of a misunderstanding of what it entails. Reframing it in terms of communication makes it more accessible and likely to be accepted. 

Up next – a case study in scaling LPM

Our final installment in this LPM series will look at a case study in scaling LPM. We talk with Katja van Kranenburg of CMS about how she uses LPM techniques beyond matters to improve R&D processes in her firm.