Early Stage Legal Project Management

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing two presentations by Susan Raridon Lambreth of Hildebrandt Baker Robbins on the subject of legal project management. Her most recent talk was an overview of the state of legal project management, now that we are — according to economists — on the other side of the recent recession. Here are my notes on part of her most recent talk.

What’s Happening in Legal Project Management?

To be honest, it’s still early days for law firms. While many lawyers would like to treat legal project management like just another business fad (remember the total quality movement?), some firms are beginning to see the opportunities rather than the burdens in legal project management.

So what are firms doing?

* Demystifying legal project management — understanding that they have been doing some elements of good project management for years.
* Obtaining formal training on the basics of legal project management for partners and associates.
* Learning project management terminology so that lawyers can discuss matter management in a manner that accords with how their clients think about matter management.
* Adopting matter budgeting tools and, more radically, actually managing a matter to the agreed budget.
* Taking a look at some basic processes within a matter and finding ways to achieve incremental improvements.
* Hiring professional project managers to help partner manage their matters.

The big takeaway is that we don’t have to approach this subject as if legal project management is from Mars while law firms are from Venus. Rather, we should approach it as a more formalized way of doing better what effective law firms have been doing all along.

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