ARK: Key Project Management Concepts

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.

Key Legal Project Management (LPM) Concepts


– Scope is the work that must be performed. And, the key challenge is managing scope so that it doesn’t expand without specific agreement from the parties involved. In identifying the scope, distinguish between the “must haves” from the “nice to haves.”

– To identify the scope, start by breaking down the project proposed into its constituent parts: the phases/stages of the matter you’ve been engaged to complete. Then for each phase/stage, identify all the tasks that must be completed. And, importantly, identify those tasks that must be completed before other tasks can be started.

– Be sure you identify and understand risk points arising in your project.


– Using prior experience, estimate how much time is required to complete each task. Then build in a cushion since necessary resources are not always available at the point the task must start. As part of this process, chart the “critical path” of the project. This means finding the longest path from beginning to end, assuming all subordinate tasks are completed.


– To create a budget from scratch:
— Step 1: break the project into its component parts
— Step 2: assign resources to the project (each resource has a cost)
— Step 3: consider contingencies and then account for them

– Be sure you can access to historical data, because it can provide guidance on how your firm, your lawyers work.

– Be wary about providing “ball-park” estimates. They are notoriously inaccurate and lead to client unhappiness.


– Step 1: determine at what level of detail you will manage the budget.
– Step 2: ensure timekeepers enter their time regularly and in sufficient detail. (You need to be able to identify the individual tasks.)
– Step 3: compare estimate, cost to date, and remaining work.


– Start by identifying the risks involved in the project.
– Then determine the probability and severity of the risk.
– In terms of risk planning, understand what must be done to mitigate, avoid, transfer or accept each risk.
– Realize that some risks may be hidden or unclear because the project’s requirements are unclear. In this case, can you identify likely risk triggers?


– Start early to plan for good communication — not only good communication with the client, but also good communication within the client organization and within the law firm.
– Understand upfront who needs to know what, when and how,
– Ensure there is a project sponsor
– Identify who is responsible, who is accountable, who needs to be consulted and who needs to be informed. Then, construct a communications plan accordingly.


– There may be an inherent tension between how traditional project management defines quality (e.g., meeting requirements) and how lawyers and their clients define quality. What does this mean for LPM?

– Project managers are bedeviled by the “Iron Triangle” or “Triple Constraint.” There are three factors that we have to balance in every project — Time, Scope and Cost. You can’t increase scope without having to increase time and cost. Impose upon this triangle the incidence of risk and varying (and perhaps poorly articulated) definitions of quality, and then it becomes even more difficult to balance Time, Scope and Cost.

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