Lawyers plan, execute matters against scope, have deadlines, manage budgets, manage teams, manage stakeholders, remove obstacles, ensure efficient communication between clients and internal groups, and review the matter at the end to determine lessons learned before closing cases.
These are all project management tasks performed by lawyers on a daily bases. Nevertheless, a project that is titled a legal matter is still a project.
Although Lawyers perform project management tasks, it does not make them accomplished Project Managers. Lawyers are subject matter experts. They specialize in a specific type of law, e.g. labour, criminal, corporate, property etc. Lawyers perceive any other work to be a distraction to their business. Lawyers also manage case files by doing the proverbial deep dive looking for the small letter of the law that will give them an upper hand in the legal case. They seldom look at the big picture to understand the external risk factors or have an appreciation for keeping all the stakeholders and clients informed about process and cost.
Hire a dedicated Project Manager to work side-by-side with a lawyer! The Project Manager can focus on the processes associated with a legal case or matter. The lawyer is unhindered to focus on the legal work only. No distractions. Project Managers are natural leaders that enjoy working at the process level, and lawyers are book smart savvy academics that work with theory and stay at the policy level.
- There are various benefits linked with hiring a dedicated PM, including;
Being Cost Effective – By assigning PMs to run legal processes, the legal firm is releasing lawyers to do other core legal work. Clients benefit because they are charged the lower PM rate as opposed to the higher lawyer rate for non-legal work. Lawyers are unrestricted to increase billing hours for core legal work.
- Separation of Duties – since PMs are not schooled lawyers, there is a clear distinction between duties. The lawyer does the legal work, and the PM does the planning, and process work.
- Leadership Skills – The law firm attains another leader in an organization that is a divided between lawyers and administrative staff. Legal cases are managed as projects with clear expectations, dates, and cost.
- Client Satisfaction Leads to Repeat Business – Clients are managed as stakeholders and are informed promptly about budgets and timeline changes. Project management is after all 90% communication. The Project Manager monitors the case, communicate more readily with the client and make sure expectations are clear and don’t suffer from too much legal jargon.
- Help with Technology – Lawyers live in a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data are growing exponentially. AI has already assisted lawyers to work more efficiently, providing legal research through automated hunts of case law and statutes, proofreading, error correction, finding missing information, document formatting and correcting inconsistent linguistic use. Data mining, pattern recognition, and matching can be applied for many purposes, including digital forensics, fraud and insider trading investigations. With the assistance of a technical savvy PM, it helps the lawyer process information that at a manual level would be unworkable. With DNA matching, historic cold case crimes can be resolved, not to mention the impact of present-day techniques of validating evidence.
- Certified Professional – In addition to the PMP certification, the PM working at a legal firm, can obtain the Legal Project Professional™ (LPP) certification that recognizes a person with practitioner expertise about Legal Project Management and can lead legal matters as a legal Project Manager.
- The Competitors are Hiring PMs – Large Legal firms are hiring PMs. A Washington DC firm, Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, which focuses primarily on corporate and business law, recently brought on Ms. Deanna Burke, PMP as its first COO. Deanna has over 15 years of experience in IT project management, primarily in the aviation industry, where she led initiatives such as implementing air traffic management solutions.
Hiring PMs to work with Lawyers is a win-win for Law firms. Lawyers are free to do legal work, and PMs has a new industry to influence and optimize the industry.
Go out there, my fellow colleagues. Opportunity knocks for you to sell your capabilities! It will be nice indeed to be on the same side of a Lawyer
Written in collaboration between Jim Carlson and a Consultant Program Principle