If you hire a builder to construct your house you will regularly go on site to hear progress, to give updates on your preferences and ensure delays are avoided. It is not simply about wanting to maintain strict control of the project, you want a smooth delivery of the work through constant communication.

Imagine a world where you contract your builders, give them the architectural drawings, and then never speak another word to them until they deliver it months later. Or rather, if they deliver it months later, as opposed to years. Yet, clients accept this arrangement without question in the world of legal services. Surely, with a client centric approach, legal projects would be more streamlined and transparent?

The benefits of a client centric approach

The benefits of involving one of your client’s project managers can be huge. It requires little change in the way a law firm works. Namely, a weekly, or bi-weekly project meeting to update the client’s project manager on progress. In this meeting, barriers can be identified and scope creeping can be tackled early on. Furthermore, it may be well worthwhile to have the client’s project manager stay on site for one day a week to move the process along.

In pursuing this collaborative approach firms could avoid out of scope expenses.  Or at least, could avoid that dreaded moment of reckoning at the end of a project when you realise how much work has become out of scope.  In maintaining a constant client interaction, any work that falls outside of the project’s remit is immediately identified and can be separately negotiated for. Alternatively, work that is unnecessary is immediately identified by the client as such and thus avoided. In essence the client also takes a share in the outcome risk. So you and your client become jointly responsible for a smooth legal project delivery.

Agile – a project management framework

Most of those reading with a background in technology will be familiar with the loose agile framework we are currently describing. Agile is defined by Wikipedia as:

“an iterative, incremental method of managing the design and build activities of engineering, information technology and other business areas that aim to provide new product or service development in a highly flexible and interactive manner” Wikipedia

Agile is ideally suited to the world of legal project management.  Primarily, agile allows for greater interaction with the client to ensure the work delivered exactly suits the client’s wishes. Furthermore, agile lets you do so in incremental steps, so you can cut off issues immediately rather than when they become a barrier to progress.

But agile is most suited to legal work because of the uncertain context of legal matters. Lawyers and clients alike find it difficult to foresee the outcome at the beginning of a legal project. However in utilising a project management system designed to counteract surprises, firms can avoid unforeseen costs. Even better, they can improve the relationship with their client through the increased transparency agile brings.

As Dave Sampsell of BanyanRFP notes:

“Agile methods make project management easier by breaking the project down and rapidly delivering valuable work to the customer. That, in turn, encourages a cadence of communication and collaboration with the customer that allows the project to adjust its course continuously to satisfy the client’s needs.” Law Practice Today

Is your law firm facing the future with uncertainty? Think about agile. Agile lets you kill two birds with one stone. Namely, to increase client satisfaction and transparency, while also cutting unnecessary costs.