What is Legal Project Management?
All the way back in 2013 when I was working as a paralegal, the term legal project management (LPM) began to make waves in the US, and since then it’s slowly seeped its way into the wider legal world. Everyone’s heard of it, but few actually understand it.
Is it just a new buzzword for project management? Is it really going to stay relevant past 2023? If it’s so essential then how does a firm even adopt it?
The short answer to that first question is no.
I’ve watched LPM rightfully become its own being for the past ten years, and there are no signs of it stopping past 2023. It’s time for the mystique and the stigma around the term to end. LPM is essential, and armed with the right knowledge – and right tools – any law firm can reap the benefits that it brings.
So what is legal project management?
Susan Raridoth Lambreth, founder of the Legal Project Management Institute, defines LPM as a ‘process of defining the parameters of a matter upfront, planning the course of the matter at the outset with the facts you have at the time, managing the matter, and evaluating how the matter was handled upon completion.’1
Offering my own, slightly shorter definition, I always like to describe LPM as a framework that is built specifically for the legal industry to ensure that matters are handled as efficiently as possible. Particular emphasis is put on:
- The business and administration behind legal matters.
- The collaboration between legal and admin teams within a firm.
- The communication between firms and their clients.
And that’s it – LPM officially demystified.
How is LPM different from regular project management?
As mentioned, the main difference between LPM and regular project management is that LPM is exclusively for legal matters.
Therefore, there are aspects within an LPM plan that you would never find in a regular project management plan, such as how a matter is scoped and defined, or how the firm will communicate updates to clients.
LPM also factors in the fast-paced world of the legal industry by being less focused on documentation and rigid procedures. Instead, LPM takes a more holistic approach to matters, where partners have the flexibility to make decisions on the spot rather than having to defer to a project board.
At the heart of it, LPM seeks to satisfy clients by creating the best environment for legal teams to efficiently work in, whereas traditional project management is more focused on producing a single product or outcome through a paint–by–numbers approach.
Benefits in abundance
Hopefully just the description of LPM is enough to make it clear why it’s so beneficial to law firms, but in case you need any more reasons…
LPM is specifically designed to improve legal workflows – and only legal workflows.
- Communication methods between teams are clearly established so that everyone knows who to contact and how to contact them if issues arise.
- Tasks are properly delegated so that the right person is doing the right job, and work is not being duplicated.
- Every type of document is organised and managed in a way that allows both lawyers and their admin team to easily find what they need when they need it.
When LPM is done right, lawyers have fewer client contracts and billing receipts to sort out and more time to focus on the actual matter at hand. Meanwhile, legal support teams can better monitor budget and progress, so that matters stay in scope.
The key to client relationships is transparency and trust.
With a fully-fledged LPM framework, law firms keep a clear communication channel open between themselves and clients:
- Clear budgets are established before a matter is even worked on, so that prospective clients are shown honesty from the outset.
- Tasks are clearly defined so that lawyers can give more accurate progression updates to their clients throughout the matter.
- Because everyone is working more efficiently and lawyers have less of an admin burden to worry about, matters are more likely to be delivered on time.
All of the above gives the client a good experience from start to finish, and with good client experiences comes a better reputation for your law firm.
When a concrete LPM plan is in place, law firms can accurately and continuously monitor budgets so that their financial goals are met.
- Before a matter even starts, an internal budget is set with potential risks taken into account so there are no nasty surprises for either the firm or the client.
- You can properly coordinate the lawyers you want for certain billable hours, to maximise revenue.
- LPM encourages a post-project reflection, so you can be made aware of how to optimise costs for next time.
Law firm profitability is far easier when you have a framework from which raw data and objective observations can be drawn. With matters properly planned and monitored through LPM, this can be achieved with far more ease.
How to adopt LPM
So LPM sounds all well and good, but you’re probably thinking about how difficult it’s going to be to put this new way of working into your firm. Will we have to hire a legal project team? How long will it take to train our firm to adopt this new way of working?
These questions are justified, and yes, legal project managers can be instrumental in adopting LPM. However the mistake many law firms make is that they only hire legal project managers to get the job done. While great at what they do, legal project managers and the teams they support need to have the right tools to implement good LPM – you wouldn’t expect a barista to make a great cup of coffee without a proper coffee machine.
Lawyers need matter management softwares that are purpose-built for legal matters so that the benefits of LPM can be enjoyed.
Luckily such platforms exist, and as a minimum, they should:
- Be easy to use with minimal training needed for adoption.
- Present lawyers with a clear dashboard that can summarise the statuses of their matters at a glance.
- Link documents, tasks, and people to matters in a single place.
- Have integrations with other software so that teams can easily collaborate with external partners and clients.
Relying on outdated software like Excel spreadsheets and email threads is simply not enough to accommodate LPM – trust me I’ve been there. Your law firm deserves to use professional tech that makes legal matters seamless.
Make LPM easy with Lupl
I’m fortunate to have joined Lupl, who have built such a platform that has all the LPM must-haves of the above and even more:
- It puts everything from matter management to document archives, all in one place so that users don’t have to manually switch between platforms.
- Designed and built for lawyers by lawyers, with LPM central to the user experience.
- Supported in any browser, on any platform, so that your legal team can work on the devices you like.
- Secured with data encryption functionality, and SOC-2 certified.
Adopting LPM doesn’t have to be a pipe dream and it doesn’t have to be hard. Any law firm, no matter how big or small, can do it and should be doing it.
With the global legal technology market set to exceed $37 billion by 2026,2 law is only going to get more digital, and more competitive, so embracing LPM via technology is the best way for your firm to come out on top for the years ahead.
Book a demo with Lupl today and see how your firm can cut emails by 75%.