Many lawyers ask themselves, and also me: What, actually, is a “project” in the field of law? Quite many of them seem to think that legal projects require a multitude of lawyers and, as a rule, happen only in the field of M & A. Hence the statement I hear from some lawyers “I don´t work in projects”. Oh, really?
The Project Management Institute PMI (an internationally renowned professional membership association for the project management profession) defines projects as ”a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result” and goes on to clarify that a project “[…] has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources and […] is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.” OK, we have three requirements: (1) beginning and end, (3) defined (read: limited) resources and (4) unique result. Sounds familiar? I am still having a hard time finding legal matters that fall outside this definition (if you have a suggestion, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org). So basically legal matters = legal projects, right? If so, why do we need the concept of legal projects, or Legal Project Management (LPM) anyway? After all, lawyers have been doing and talking about matter management (or case management) for quite some time.
The big difference between matter management and Legal Project Management is where these terms put the spotlight. Matter management has a rather narrow spotlight, it shines on a lawyer, quietly lawyering and matter managing through the night. There must be a client somewhere, or otherwise the lawyering and matter managing would be rather meaningless and, let´s not forget, remain unpaid. But with matter management, the client is outside the spotlight.
Legal Project Management, on the other hand, has a much broader focus and puts the client where the client belongs: in the spotlight. Centre stage, no less. LPM draws on project management tools and techniques developed or inspired by the PMI and other professional organisations. Tools such as
- analysis of project stakeholders and their interests,
- scoping discussions with the client,
- project communication plan,
- project evaluations, and others
all require a constant high-value dialogue with the client in order to find out what the client wants (or needs, which is not always the same thing), how and when the client needs it, how much time and money it is going to take, who needs to talk to whom when and how and whether the client is happy with the outcome or not. If you go and ask clients what they think of this perspective, I am positive that they will reply emphatically: “Yes, that is exactly the kind of dialogue I want to have with my lawyers”, even if they have never heard of the term Legal Project Management.
When are you going to start having these kinds of discussions with your clients? Legal Project Management will provide you with the tools you need.