The growing field of Legal Project Management (LPM) can be a somewhat contentious subject. Not everyone understands what LPM is or why it’s necessary. What does a legal project manager do, or, more importantly, how can they improve your law firm?
The nickel description? An LPM is an efficiency expert who streamlines a whole operation from top to bottom. They cut out wasteful practices, wasteful expenses… waste in general. And they provide a number of valuable insights into how legal teams are performing; strengths and weaknesses, their best and worst practices, and more.
As a general rule, the larger your project is, the most important project management becomes. There are some who might say the very act of hiring someone to improve efficiency is, in and of itself, inefficient. But the application really makes the difference here. To understand whether or not your practice should bring one aboard, it helps to know the fine details what a legal project manager actually does.
What Does a Legal Project Manager Do, Anyway?
It’s unfair to sum up an LPM’s job in just one sentence, as we did earlier. There’s a lot involved in the work they do, after all. So let’s revisit that question.
The first steps of an LPM typically involve scoping, evaluation, discovery, and analysis. They’ll collect a variety of data regarding the project, the team, past performances, and more.
The LPM will organize meetings with staff, and figure out precisely what the objectives of the project are and how those objectives can be fulfilled. And they’ll ensure all of the staff and stakeholders are on board with those objectives, too.
With mountains of data in tow, the legal project manager will plot out a strategy to implement an efficiency program and improve your legal services. They will then communicate how that plan will go into action and why that needs to happen.
The scope of the legal project manager’s research and planning includes…
- The financial budget
- Resource management
- Time budgeting
- Change control
- And oversight into team communications.
A good LPM will also find cost-saving and time-saving measures that can be implemented in most, if not all, of those categories.
What Skills Does a Legal Project Manager Need?
Project management certainly isn’t exclusive to legal work. You’ll find managers in just about every field there is, from retail to construction to medicine to education.
As such, there are some basic, universal project management skills an LPM needs to have. Knowledge of and experience in matters of efficiency, team management, task management tools, budget management, research, and strong analytical skills are mission-critical for any legal project manager.
The ability to fluently communicate, adapt on the fly, and think with a tactical and frugal mindset are vital. Knowledge of legal workflow systems and other software applications helps, too. And experience with project management tools is also a must, given their adaptability and simple integration into any industry.
Not everyone in the field of legal project management has a background in law, and that’s okay. Any experienced project manager should be able to step into a law office and clean up an operation without absolute context, just as a freelance writer can do their homework and become just enough of an expert in a field to get the job done. But legal experience does help, of course. Legal project management is a growing profession, which has also given rise to a number of LPM certification programs. If you’re serious about hiring a dedicated LMP, then look for a candidate who has gone through a training program—or even holds a degree in LPM from a university.
Does Your Firm Need a Legal Project Manager?
Legal project management works best on larger projects. It’s suited well for bigger corporate projects than smaller, brief ones.
Smaller and mid-sized projects typically won’t need a legal project manager. Those projects can often be handled by using the right project management software, since hiring a legal project manager or going through a third party firm would cost more than it’d save. But there are quite a few variables here, too.
It really boils down to the firm’s practices, the project’s scope, and the resources required to see it through to completion. And lets not forget the client’s expectations. If you can’t hit the client’s targets, this all becomes moot.
Legal project management isn’t universally applicable to every firm or every project. And sometimes, it makes more sense to upgrade to better software than onboard a whole new staff member.