Legal project management, commonly referred to as LPM, is a process lawyers and law firms use to streamline their activities and make their practices more efficient. There is no single definition of legal project management, as the phrase describes more of a practice philosophy than something tangible to implement. The goal of any project management program is to create more efficient ways for lawyers to deliver legal services. This usually involves reducing costs, managing risk, and improving client communications for not just one case, but for all cases. It is commonly built around best practices and rubrics for measuring the consistency of quality service.
Law firms have long implemented case management, which is similar to legal project management — but project management is broader and more structurally-focused. While case management practices target how individual cases are handled, project management targets a firm’s overarching business plan. Like case management, project management promotes efficiency, but goes farther than just the case level.
The goal of legal project management is to set benchmarks and best practices that will apply to each and every transaction a firm’s lawyers enter into. Legal project management training usually encourages partners and senior law firm members to look at their firm’s overarching goals, and to chart out their biggest outputs of energy. They are then prompted to objectively assess what their lawyers are doing, how they are furthering the firm’s goals, and how they could improve.
Legal project management does not endorse a single fix or new strategy implementation. On the contrary, it is designed to give lawyers a flexible model for assessing and constantly adapting their practice methodology. In many ways, legal project management is law practice management. It does not require lawyers to do anything new. It simply challenges them to do what they do better, and in accordance with principles that will allow them to continue getting better as time goes by.
A key area targeted in most project management programs is fees and billing. One of the biggest criticisms law firms face is that their billing schemes are inconsistent, hard to understand, and costly to the client. Many legal project management programs encourage the creation and use of billing best practices. Some plans advocate the use of alternative fee arrangements and fixed billing in order to both lower overhead and promote transparency with clients.
As much as legal project management is about making law firms more efficient, it is also about pleasing and retaining clients. Law firms are client-oriented businesses that depend on a satisfied clientele and successful cases. Selecting and retaining the right kinds of clients to make the business profitable is often an underlying goal of project management, and depending on the firm, can be just as important as bottom-line numbers.