What is Legal Project Management (“LPM”)?
Legal Project Management (“LPM”) is the use of project management principles and practices to plan, manage and control legal cases or transactions. Legal Project Management applies to the means and methods of performing legal processes and functions, and not to the performance or drafting of substantive legal work itself (e.g., legal advocacy, legal counsel and advice, or legal document drafting). At Lex Projex™ we’re convinced that LPM is the fastest growing, new legal-related discipline to emerge in this decade – even likely surpassing the meteoric rise of Electronic Evidence Discovery of Electronically Stored Information (“EED-ESI”) as a new and distinct, “stand alone” legal-related specialty area.
An Independent, Outsourced, Legal PMO - A New Kind of LPO
A Project Management Office (“PMO”) is typically a department or group within an organization that supports, handles or coordinates its project activities and responsibilities. A PMO is often responsible for developing an organization’s standardized or templatized project plans for its commonly recurring projects. It also often develops and maintains an organization’s related uniform business processes, methods and systems to assure compliance with the organization’s business objectives, its operating policies and procedures, and the quality of its projects.
LPM Enables Alternative Fee Arrangements (“AFAs”) in Legal Matters
LPM was borne of the necessity of controlling “out of control” legal costs and expenses in the “Post-Great Recession” era from and after 2008, when corporate America and their in-house legal departments have had to do “more with less.” Led by the Association of Corporate Counsel’s “ACC Value Challenge,” corporate America is increasingly demanding that their outside law firms abandon the entrenched, historic, "cost-plus," "billable hour" economic pricing model in favor of "Alternative Fee Arrangements" (“AFAs”) and other “value billing” approaches (e.g., non-hourly pricing arrangements such as "fixed fee," "contingency," or "hybrid" fee arrangements). Since it’s now a "buyer’s market" for business legal services, outside law firms that fail to embrace LPM as a means to achieve and implement profitable AFAs run the serious risk of becoming irrelevant and obsolete in the changing legal marketplace.
Corporate America’s demands for AFAs in complex commercial litigation and transaction matters have effectively shifted the "risk of loss" from poor "case management" to outside law firms, who historically passed those risks on to their clients via the "billable hour" pricing model (e.g., “Something unexpected came up in your matter. Sorry, you’ll just have to pay us more now to fix it…”). Now corporate America is saying “I pay my outside counsel to anticipate the risks inherent to this kind of legal matter. You include it in your budget. If you didn’t think of it when you did the budget then YOU pay for it. Maybe you’ll be more careful next time…” When outside lawyers and law firms, unaccustomed to the risks of AFAs, started to accept such engagements they quickly realized that unless they ran their legal matters like professional projects they would be unprofitable. Thus, since about 2008 the emerging field (and “Boom”) of Legal Project Management (“LPM”) was born.
What’s more, recent surveys of in-house corporate counsel confirm that corporate legal departments are increasingly requiring their outside law firms to have or use LPM as a condition of their engagement (or approval as “panel counsel”) by such companies. These companies often require a detailed explanation of an outside law firm’s own LPM capabilities in their Requests for Proposal (“RFPs”) for legal services, the absence of which could result in a law firm losing work from such companies.
The Dearth of "Real" Legal Project Managers to Respond to the Growing Demand for LPM
While there is a myriad of trained project managers on the market today, few of them have ever worked in a law firm or legal department or on a legal matter. Being a good project manager in, say, the construction or aerospace industry doesn’t mean that a project manager can “jump right in” and start managing a complex litigation or mergers and acquisitions matter. Conversely, just because some attorneys or paralegals have handled lots of litigation or transaction matters doesn’t mean that they are competent or skilled project managers for such matters because “project management” is an entirely new and different profession that requires its own separate training and experience.
When it comes to finding "real" legal project managers, corporate legal departments, law firms and legal vendors are faced with a classic “build or buy” dilemma: “Do we hire a ‘real, experienced’ project manager and then train him or her to become a ‘real’ legal professional or do we take a ‘real, experienced’ lawyer or paralegal and then train and educate him or her to become a ‘real’ project manager?” (And if that person is a lawyer, would he or she consider it demeaning to their own "lawyer" status to "stoop" to become a "legal project manager"?)
At Lex Projex™ we opted for the latter approach – we take experienced lawyers and paralegals and train and educate them (or require them to become trained and educated in accredited schools and programs elsewhere) to become ‘real’ legal project managers. We do this because we believe that project management (as difficult a profession as it may be to learn) is easier to learn than the legal system and the practice of law. Moreover, our lawyer-project managers are proud to become “legal project managers” because we believe that LPM is a fast-emerging, stand-alone, legal-related specialty in its own right.
Many law firms claim that they have a legal project management capability (usually to get work from a corporate client that requires it), but in truth and substance lack a real LPM capability. Many will point to “certified” project managers on their staff, but often such “legal project managers” are new to the legal industry or have never worked on a legal matter before being hired by the law firm or legal department. What’s more, such “certified” project managers on an outside law firm’s staff often do little to really change the law firm’s culture or way of doing business. By contrast, Lex Projex™ legal project managers are experienced lawyers and paralegals (often still in practice) who are also trained as project managers. We aren’t just "window dressing" to appeal to shoppers of legal services, we are “the real thing” when it comes to LPM.