Book Review-Legal Project Management: Control Costs, Meet Schedules, Manage Risks, & Maintain Sanity

First it was marketing, then it was business development and now it is legal project management (LPM). While project management is not a new concept, it is new to the legal industry. Clients are pressing law firms to embrace LPM because of their budget concerns and the unpredictable nature of complex legal work, especially litigation. LPM provides a framework for directing attorney skills and strengths while also meeting client demands for cost control, certainty, deadlines, and a shared understanding of project objectives. Steven Levy's "Legal Project Management" takes traditional project management methodologies and tailors them for "accidental legal project managers".

Levy's LPM framework includes four stages: initiation - scope and desired outcome; planning - tasks, resources, budgets and schedules; execution - project deliverables and client communications; and delivery and evaluation - project completion, client feedback, and compiling lessons learned. While sometimes the stages are separate and distinct, Levy admits that they often flow together. The advantages of using a system like this include delivering greater value to clients through improved process controls and strengthened client communications, and focusing on true client needs while increasing profitability (by reducing write-offs, write-downs, risks and surprises).   

The most successfully managed projects contribute their success not only to LPM but also to strong project managers who care both about their teams and prioritize their customers/clients. These projects also have clear 'done' statements that describe what successful outcomes look like; they give projects direction and a shared understanding of when projects are complete.

"Legal Project Management" teaches a systematic approach to streamline project legal efforts and tasks. In today's legal market, with clients pressing their outside legal counsel for efficiency and value billing/alternative fees, LPM provides a support structure for law firms to respond to client demands. It can be used as a tool to add value to client projects by offering improved client service, successful outcomes, and (hopefully) less overworked team members.

Helena Meg Lawrence, MBA, PMP is a Marketing Project Manager at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP

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