LPM sounds intimidating. Anything which has to be shortened by using initials has to be, right? Not to worry. Legal departments don’t want to be bogged down in complicated legal project management processes any more than outside lawyers do. They are only interested in legal project management to the extent it gets them to their goal: engagements with outside lawyers who will do what they say they are going to do, on budget, and on time.
Legal Project Management can be thought of as the GPS of an engagement of outside counsel. Every trip starts with an intended route, and a GPS does nothing more than tell you where you are in relation to that route. It keeps you on track. LPM=GPS.
The biggest obstacle to beginning a foray into LPM is what I call the intimidation of complexity. Where do I start? What methods should I use? Will I need software? Why can’t I just practice law? The trouble, however, is that legal departments do not exist for the purpose of allowing outside law firms to practice law; they exist for the purpose of solving the company’s headaches from within, quickly, cheaply, and efficiently. Outside lawyers will only be engaged if they help solve a problem in alignment with those goals.
Elaborate software and project diagramming are unnecessary to both the process and a happy client. There are but three secrets to implementing LPM for outside lawyers and law firms: 1.) start somewhere; 2.) keep going; and 3.) the simpler the better. A good outside lawyer with sufficient experience can sketch a project management outline for an assigned matter on the back of an envelope in less than five minutes.
An LPM Example
Here is an templated example of a project management outline I sketched out for a recent assignment from one of the insurance companies I represent in a relatively small, straightforward matter. Complicated, it is not:
Pleadings Closed 4/1/2016
Written Discovery Complete 12/31/2016
Depositions Complete 1/31/2017
Dispositive Motions Filed 3/15/2017
Mediation Completed 4/30/2017
Settle or Try Decision 5/31/2017
The budget portion of the legal project management sketch is hardly more complicated:
Investigation Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Pleadings Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Discovery Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Dispositive Motions Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Expert Workup Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Mediation/ Negotiation Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Total Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Trial Preparation Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Trial Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
Total Planned: $ X Actual: $ Y
The plan is kept electronically in the matter (hard copy is fine too for the traditionalists), checked at regular intervals, updated, and the updates fed back to the client, so the client can see whether the matter is on course as planned, or whether adjustments need to be made, either to the plan itself, or to the execution of the plan.
A legal project management plan is only as good as the effort put into it up front, however. There must be agreement and buy in up front from the client, and major deviations in the plan must be explained to the client’s satisfaction. Unforseen developments will be encountered, and adjustments to the plan should be made where warranted.
LPM is no more than a good outside lawyer road-mapping a matter for his or her legal department client. It gives the client the data it needs to exercise oversight and cost control in increasingly more demanding and less forgiving environments. LPM=GPS.
For more information on how to effectively use LPM, reach me at email@example.com or 717-731-4800.