LPM can start with one lawyer working on a single matter. LPM does not have to be a firm-wide initiative. Many lawyers have taken LPM online and live courses to improve service delivery to clients and reduce write-offs.
Part 6 of our series is the last. We asked speakers from the LPM Global Summit for their advice to individual lawyers who are trying to implement LPM. These lawyers can use the same LPM methods that legal project managers for task management, budgeting, and scoping. They are also able to manage budgets and manage risk.
Here are the words of our speakers.
Plan for Success
Planning is the most important aspect in LPM. Planning is key to LPM. Planning is the key step in LPM. It helps you set goals, manage risk, and deliver legal services on-time. Planning helps lawyers avoid making reactive decisions and wasting valuable time. Planning is one way to make sure that work is done on time.
If you're a solo attorney, it may be tempting to save money to get things done quicker. Ranjit Olio is the executive director of Allen Overy and says that it's not a good idea. Spend time planning your matter. Don't just rush to the first draft. She said that planning is a time-saver and a way to save both time and heartache.
Baker McKenzie's LPM Director Kevin O'Sullivan believes that planning should be prioritized. O'Sullivan suggests that lawyers take the time to think about this approach. "If you are a lawyer, it is important to think about the approach they will take at the outset and in detail. O'Sullivan states that this is particularly true for large client matters.
It's all about the process
David Rueff shares a similar opinion to ours: "When you talk about LPM, you don't necessarily need technology...LPM is truly about process."
Here is the LPM description that we use often:
The process of legal project management involves defining the issues upfront, planning the course of the matter using the facts at the moment, managing the matter and evaluating the outcome (from both the firm's perspective or the law department perspective)
Notice that technology is not included in the definition. Rueff states that the process for lawyers, and individual lawyers, boils down to three main steps.
- Create a scope statement
- You can use this scope statement to make an estimate
- Use the estimate to communicate your expectations to your team.
Rueff says, "If you do these three things, you will be an excellent lawyer project manager... You're going for success by helping clients understand that you are not only a great lawyer, but also a good steward and business partner helping to achieve that end in a cost-effective manner."
How do you create a clear scope statement. Rueff believes that a good scope statement starts with an engagement letter.
One of the most efficient ways to accomplish scoping is by creating a more professional engagement letter. Many engagement letters are standard forms that law firms use. You can however make this more personal by describing the services that you will offer. If you're working with someone else than a lawyer, he suggests you give more details about the delivery process.
Rueff cautions lawyers not to make assumptions about the client's knowledge, even in small matters. The ability to communicate how services will be delivered helps clients understand and anticipate possible changes.
It's easier to communicate assumptions upfront than to justify them during billing. Clients shouldn't be expected to understand the potential for changes and how they could affect their matter. All members of the team should understand the scope of an estimate. Estimates are almost impossible to communicate well.
Keep in mind the KISS Principle
Complex matters can become quite large. LPM shouldn't be complicated, no matter how complex the matter. LPM works best when there is a clearly defined structure that achieves predetermined goals while anticipating and managing risk. Your project plan may seem too complex. You should use the tools, processes, and templates that help you get the job done, as well as those that add value.
Blandine, Director Practice Services, Head EMEA Legal Project Management EMEA Norton Rose Fulbright, says, "Keep it really simple and just do it...Don’t overengineer." It's the best for clients and best for business.
Jason Pyrz, Assistant Director of Legal Project Management at Mayer Brown, stated that lawyers should "not force anything." This is the advice I give to everyone, project managers included. Pryz suggests that you may have tools, charts, or graphs at your disposal. You must assign an administrative task to your project before you can add it. It doesn't mean that you must use something just because it exists. Make sense of it.
You can plan for success. It all comes down to the process. Keep in mind the KISS principle. These are the wise words of our speakers. Many lawyers use project management to manage their work. Structured LPM methods are more beneficial.
LPM allows you to:
- Develop and identify risk management plans
- Your approach should be able to meet the client’s expectations.
- Make progress and status visible
- Early detection is key.
- To ensure prompt delivery of legal services, monitor progress
We hope you found this series helpful. We appreciate your time. You can watch replays of the Summit here if you were unable to attend. It's a smart idea to plan ahead so you can attend the Summit in 2022. While you wait, you can also take an LPM course. You can access a free 90-minute LPM course via MyLawCLE today or later, as it's recorded. Use our access code LawVision21 to get free access