ARK: 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.


Six Sigma = “a rigorous and disciplined methodology that uses data and statistical analysis to measure and improve a company’s operational performance by identifying and eliminating `defects.””

Lean = a set of principles, concepts and techniquest designed for the relentless pursuit of the elimination of waste. Toyota made this management approach famous.

Lean Six Sigma attempts to identify an efficient way to complete a set of repeatable deliverables.

It is very hard to apply these processes to an inherently unique task – although you can bring project management principles to bear.

Project Managment = “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project objectives.” (Project Management Institute)

The practice of law is part art and part science:

– Art: people, management, negotiation
– Science: scope, time cost, risk communications, quality

Why doesn’t Project Management appeal to Lawyers?
– they weren’t trained for project management in law school
– lawyers feel that there are so many variables in the practice of law that it is hard to impose structure on it
– lawyers have not traditionally looked to the business world to find best practices to adopt
– lawyers enjoy the autonomy that comes with subject-matter expertise

The drive to LPM is accelerated by several forces, starting with the client’s need for budgetary certainty. In-house counsel are getting increasingly concerned about costs. They want value and they want budgets that are agreed in advance and then met or improved. They definitely don’t want cost overruns. Further, as law firms shift their focus from revenue to profitability, LPM will be an essential tool to ensure client satisfaction with appropriate margins for the firm.

LPM is not a magic bullet. Most projects do not meet the goals of on-time and on-budget delivery. However, without LPM the participants won’t know what exactly on-budget delivery means.

Planning is key. However, it isn’t a one-time effort. You don’t plan once and then just execute against your plan. Instead, you create a plan, begin to execute, manage and monitor, and then use your monitoring data to improve the plan as necessary.

At the end of the project, you produce not only the project deliverables to your clients, but also your project records, which become the project assets that remain after the client has moved on.

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