Legal Project Management


Project management has long been used by different businesses to earn more profits through efficiency and predictability. How law firm can protect profits with the use of project management and their client can benefit from improvement in predictability of budgets and schedules in fix fee arrangement as well as in billable hour matter. This is an emerging field for project management.
Even I have worked as lawyer in law firm and I understand the difficulty of applying such tools in in legal field where almost each case, client, opponents and their clients are different.
But when I worked as a in-house legal officer, corporate client demands and expects definite answers and timeline from lawyers and they hate unpredictability specially when legal matter is critical for business future and there I understood the importance of systematic and disciplinary approach. for legal matters , It is always assumed as time taking process and final lawyer’s bill as surprised.  in this article, Author has mentioned very interesting thing that the “Lawyers are accidental Project Manager” as every legal engagement is a project with a fixed goal and limited duration but lawyers rarely embrace their role as a project manager and most lawyers embrace their responsibility to get a good legal result for their client but that is where interest ends. the process is a necessary evil to achieving substantial results. achievement will feel far less if it is not completed timely.

Nine steps can be followed to solve common problems problems by legal project management
1.Set objectives and Define scope
2.Identify and scheduled activities- Break the matter down in smaller task, that can be better budgeted ,scheduled, staffed and managed.
3.Assign task and manage the team
4.Budget guesstimating-Estimating and controlling cost with careful tracking,constant communication and early adjustment on task level
5.Alternative plans before problem occurs.
6. Managing and maintaining quality
7. Manage client communication- it is important to understand clients expectations and meet those objectives.As the project progresses circumstances change so need to report progress to them member and stakeholders.
8. Time-line,possibly in the form of Gant chart, which identifies projected timing of the task and interdependence among the task.
9.Negotiate change orders and be careful with scope-creep.

There is ERM Legal solution legal industry focused project- management Applications serves as a work space for matter and project managers during the scoping, planning budgeting and execution phase of the matter.

These skills are specially very much in demand therefore now days there is Law-MBA hybrid course offered and there are various position in fortune 500 companies as Legal Project Manager

As per one of the referred article “A recent American Lawyer Media Legal Intelligence survey found that firms that use legal project management report more productive client relationships, improved communication, greater cost predictability, and other benefits.”

There is lot of potential to use, develop PM tools to improve efficiency of the legal matter and disputes


Estimating Estimates


While learning about Project Management, I felt most interesting and difficult task is to make project estimation. Being a corporate finance student I looked this task from financial decision-making point of view, it is critical know good estimate then how would we accept or reject project by looking at positive NPV.When I went deep into my research, I found companies (specially IT) often overrun 200% of their prior estimate. Obvious question is why such a wide gap? And then what is point of spending time to estimate project (as estimating Project time is itself a big task)

If we look at different tools to estimate cost in the project Management,

Analogous Estimating- The cost of the project is estimated by comparing with similar project previously completed.

Parametric Estimating-First we need to analyzed project requirements and multiply it with historical information.

Three- point Estimating – also called as Three Peart estimates

Most likely cost

Pessimistic cost

Optimistic cost

and making estimates by taking averages of these three.This technique is reducing the biases, risk and uncertainties in estimating assumptions.

Bottom-up Estimating-The cost of each single activity is determines in detail at the bottom level and roils up to calculate the project cost.

Projects typically involve many dynamic aspects and yet projects are often constrained by finite conditions. These opposing forces make it very challenging to identify great accuracy the resources required and can result in budget and schedule collisions. when it comes IT projects/ R&D projects, where we have multiples unknown and no historical data and no possibility to go into details.

and when project have huge cost overrun, there arises a risk of to kill the project, stop and delay due to lack of budget of Harvard business review article suggested that to minimize the risk of having your next technical project go awry, stop estimating and start budgeting so to apply this new approach we need robust tools:

Identify decisions– it is critical to know what decision you are trying to make.

Should we start this project or kill it? Hire people or outsourced? Allocate budget this quarter? Start marketing this feature?

Strategic decision-making is important before we move to next step.

Match Precision to decision – Here we need to match tools to the job,Estimation is a good tool to apply here.

Budget – focus should paid on getting details information on how is this going to cost? May be we get value which we cannot afford or sometimes too low budget may be created with little less information.

Ranges and confidence levels: We must assign confidence levels to each topic; first we can prioritize the topics and identify which topics are “required” vs. “nice to have” Ballpark Budgeting tool can be used for this process.

Even I estimated short time to write this article but I overrun with the time as I have started with various unknowns so next time I am planning to use budgeting tools to estimate time and resources of next project.