With an ever-increasing focus on efficiency and cost-effectiveness, in-house legal needs need to be well-versed in effective legal project management. Here's how.
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Legal project management is a critical skill for almost all members of an in-house legal team. With an ever-increasing focus on efficiency and cost-effectiveness, it's essential to have a solid understanding of project management principles and how they apply to legal in a business context.
But what skills are needed for legal project management? And what are the best practices that successful legal project managers use to ensure success? In this blog, we dive into these questions and more, exploring the top five best practices for effective legal project management.
We'll also share insights from an interview with a Legal Project Management Administrator, giving you a real-world perspective on what it takes to excel in this crucial role. If you want to start with the foundations, check out our blog on what legal project management is here.
In this article, we will cover the following:
- Why it’s important for in-house legal professionals to develop legal project management skills
- What skills are needed for effective legal project management?
- 5 best practices for legal project management
- A real-world insight into legal project management
- How can Newton help with legal project management?
Why it’s important for in-house legal professionals to develop legal project management skills
Legal project management (LPM) is the application of project management principles and techniques to legal projects. The concept has gained significant traction in recent years, particularly in the corporate legal world, where in-house legal teams are being asked to do more with fewer resources.
LPM aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of legal work by breaking it down into manageable, clearly defined tasks and assigning responsibilities and deadlines to each task.
By doing so, legal professionals can better manage their workload, reduce the risk of missed deadlines, and ensure that all stakeholders are kept informed and updated on the progress of the project.
Building legal project management skills is essential for in-house legal professionals to be able to navigate the complexities of the legal landscape and provide high-quality legal services to their companies. The benefits of developing these skills extend beyond just increased efficiency; it also helps legal professionals to better understand the business context in which their work is being done and to align their efforts with broader organizational goals.
In-house legal teams that are adept at legal project management are better equipped to manage competing priorities, deliver projects on time and within budget, and provide value-added legal services to their organizations. They are also better positioned to communicate effectively with their internal clients, understand their needs and objectives, and provide strategic advice and support that can help drive the desired business outcomes.
In short, legal project management skills are critical for in-house legal professionals who want to excel in their roles and contribute meaningfully to their organizations. Developing these skills requires a combination of training, practice, and the use of tools and technologies that can help streamline legal work processes and make it more manageable and predictable.
What skills are needed for effective legal project management?
Effective legal project management requires a unique set of skills that combine legal knowledge and project management expertise. There are five key skills that are required to execute effective LPM in an in-house environment.
1. Legal expertise
Obviously, in-house legal teams need a strong understanding of the law and legal procedures to effectively manage legal matters. This includes knowledge of relevant regulations, case law, and legal precedents. Legal expertise also includes the ability to analyze legal issues, identify potential risks, and develop strategies for mitigating these risks.
2. Project management skills
To effectively manage legal matters, in-house legal teams need to develop project management skills, such as planning, scheduling, budgeting, and risk management. This includes identifying project goals, defining scope, allocating resources, and tracking progress towards milestones.
3. Communication skills
Project managers spend between 70-90% of their time on communications.
Effective communication is critical for successful LPM. In-house legal teams need to be able to communicate clearly with internal clients, outside counsel, and other stakeholders to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This includes listening actively, asking questions and providing regular updates on project status.
4. Analytical skills
In-house legal teams need to be able to analyze data and information to identify trends, patterns, and potential issues. This includes the ability to synthesize complex information, identify key insights, and make informed decisions based on this information.
5. Leadership skills
Effective LPM requires strong leadership skills, including the ability to inspire and motivate team members, set clear goals, and hold team members accountable for meeting project objectives. Leadership also includes the ability to make difficult decisions, manage conflicts, and build strong relationships with internal clients and other stakeholders - a quality that is becoming increasingly important as the business landscape continues to present challenges in the face of a harsh economic climate.
By investing in these skills, in-house legal teams can improve their effectiveness, reduce costs, and better meet the needs of their organizations.
5 best practices for legal project management
There are several best practices that can help improve legal project management. Here are the top five.
Develop a project management plan
Developing a project management plan includes setting clear project objectives, defining project scope, identifying key milestones, allocating resources, and establishing a project timeline. By having a plan in place, in-house legal teams can better manage legal matters and stay on track.
Capitalize on technology
Technology can be a valuable tool for improving LPM. There are many software programs available that can help with project management, communication, and collaboration. For example, project management tools like Asana, Trello, or Jira can help track progress and manage tasks, while communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams can help team members stay connected and informed. You will also want to explore legal technology tools to better manage your legal matters, such as Newton for your legal entity management.
Communication and collaboration are both important aspects of successful LPM. In-house legal teams should establish clear lines of communication with internal clients, outside counsel, and other stakeholders. This includes regular check-ins, progress updates, and feedback sessions. By fostering communication and collaboration, in-house legal teams can improve efficiency, reduce errors, and deliver better results.
Monitor progress and be agile
Monitoring progress and making adjustments as needed is essential. In-house legal teams should regularly track progress towards project milestones, evaluate project performance, and make adjustments as necessary. This includes identifying potential risks and developing contingency plans to mitigate those risks.
Measuring the success of LPM is important for continuous improvement. In-house legal teams should establish clear metrics for evaluating project performance, such as time-to-completion, budget, and stakeholder satisfaction. By measuring success, in-house legal teams can identify areas for improvement and implement changes to optimize LPM.
A real-world insight into legal project management
Understanding the theory behind LPM is critical, but how do these skills and best practices translate into a real business context? David Kearney is a Legal Project Management and Pricing Administrator at Dentons Cohen & Grigsby, and he has been kind enough to share his insights with us.
With a technology management background, David was introduced to the world of LPM when he was involved with the application of project management practices to legal teams.
To strengthen the argument for LPM, David shared a simple example.
“If you’re fighting a case with a $1,000,000 win and you’ve already spent $1,000,000, you know this doesn’t make sense. You're spending more to defend a case than you actually are going to win.
In this example, legal project management and understanding the scope of work is going to dictate how to tackle the case. We know that the client can only spend X amount on this particular matter and if we start running up hourly billing that exceeds that win, it may not be worth it to the client.
Employing legal project management means you will have an understanding of the scope prior to the project and, with this, you know how to best manage that project.”
Over the years, David has noted several key learnings. Here are a few.
Collaboration with your internal clients
David emphasized the importance of collaboration for effective LPM. He explained that when embedding LPM principles in a business, transparent and collaborative communication is key to achieving the right results. For legal professionals working in a business context, you will first need to identify the true goals that your clients want to achieve and then work closely with them to achieve these objectives.
They want good communication. They want alignment between their company and their outside counsel. They want transparency and, overall, they want collaboration.
A focus on predictability
Following the 2008-2009 crisis, the need to better control costs and increase predictability better became apparent. The current economic climate and business landscape has only reinforced this. During challenging times such as these, law firms are asked to reduce and better control costs - and, nowadays, this translates into an in-house legal context too. This need for predictability, as David explained, is something project management principles can significantly support with.
Internal clients generally know what outcomes they are expecting - but oftentimes these are not clearly communicated. It is the responsibility of the in-house legal team to challenge for clarity on desired goals as well as to use the business and legal intelligence that’s available internally to predict the direction and define the scope of projects. This is how LPM can be very impactful when it comes to predictability, helping to define a solid plan as far as pricing and the development of scope if concerned.
The importance of a robust tool
It’s likely that legal professionals working inside companies have a degree of exposure to business tools. From David’s experience, effective LPM relies on a simple but robust project management tool that includes status updates, communication, document sharing, and more. He emphasizes the importance of having a central location where you can go and get that information on a particular matter.
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In conclusion, legal project management is essential for in-house legal teams to manage their workload and deliver high-quality legal services to their organizations. By adopting best practices in legal project management, legal professionals can improve their efficiency and effectiveness, align their efforts with organizational goals, and provide strategic advice and support.
Legal project management is a critical skill set for in-house legal teams looking to provide high-quality legal services to their organizations. By developing these skills and best practices, legal professionals can become more effective in their roles and make a meaningful contribution to their company's success.
How can Newton help with legal project management?
Legal project management means ensuring the effective management of all legal matters. Newton delivers an easy and intuitive platform to manage and automate your legal entities' information, governance, and compliance. If your entity management processes are currently creating friction for your team (which they are for many), be sure to get in touch to explore how Newton can help you have everything you need to be in control of your entity portfolio.
About this article
Legal Project Management (2019). Who is best placed to act as legal project manager?
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