Typical Objections to Legal Project Management

Andrew Terrett (Director of Knowledge Management, BLG) and Joshua Fireman (VP and General Counsel, ii3) presented a full-day workshop on legal project management (LPM) at the Ark Group Legal Knowledge Management Conference (October 26, 2010). Here are my notes.

Typical Objections to Legal Project Management (LPM)

#1. Issues always arise in the course of a matter that result in scope creep.
– While this undoubtedly is true, LPM advocates say this highlights why it’s important to agree in advance what “done” looks like.
– It’s also very important to agree with the client upfront on a process for changing the scope of the project – how can it be done to ensure project integrity and a reasonable commensurate increase in cost and time.

#2. Legal matters don’t lend themselves to planning from beginning to end.
– Don’t try to create a comprehensive plan that covers everything from soup to nuts.
– Work with a much shorter planning horizon. For example, plan the work that must be done between now and the next milestone.
– Create plans for phases of the work, based on the firm’s experience of this type of matter.
– Be prepared to throw away the plan when the matter takes a sharp turn in an unanticipated direction.

#3. We’re already doing a lot of this…
– You may be doing all of this, but the planning process brings this to the surface. It makes implicit things explicit. In so doing, it eliminates the risk of problems arising from poor communication or training.
– Planning adds structure to what you are already doing and provides a common vocabulary for participants.

#4. Everything I do is unique… every deal is different
– REALLY?????
– As far as the presenters are concerned, this is a knee-jerk reaction from people who have not really spent enough time analyzing their work.
– Even if every detail is not identical from deal to deal, there is a good chance that there are common tasks (e.g., due diligence or closing mechanics). Identify those common phases/tasks and make sure you have processes to document and manage them.

#5. Project Management cannot be done int he context of a law firm/client relationship.
– Consider whether your client is already using project management techniques. If so, they will understand (and applaud) any efforts by their outside counsel to move towards project management.
– Find out if your client has an established project management methodology. That will help you understand better client work methods and expectations.

#6. There’s no suitable project management software for lawyers…
– Project management is not about the technology. In fact, there are lawyers who have successfully implemented LPM using nothing more than a series of Excel spreadsheets.
– Some tools to consider:
– MS Project, Primavera, Liquid Planner, On it, Swiftlight
– Budgeting software – e.g., Budget Manager, Engage, Feesability
– eBilling software – e.g., Serengeti
– Matter Management – Needles, Prolaw, Amicus Attorney

– “Use software as a tool. It should not replace critical thinking.”
– “The Apollo moon landings didn’t have MS Project….”

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