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How Legal Project Management Drives Efficiency

Legal project management is a structured approach to handling large matters that leverages project management techniques to encourage tight communication, deliver work on time, and adhere to the budget.

Even routine legal matters can involve multiple lawyers, dozens of deadlines, and hundreds of pages of documents. Scale that to massive propositions, like a business merger or bet-the-company litigation, and the potential variables and risks skyrocket.

Legal project management simplifies these processes so your in-house team can maximize their efficiency.

What Is Legal Project Management?

Legal project management is an initiative in-house legal teams use to define a matter’s scope clearly, assign tasks and responsibilities, track progress, and evaluate outcomes.

Project management emerged from the manufacturing world, but it applies equally well to the legal industry.

This isn’t a new concept for legal departments, but legal professionals often conflate legal project management with matter management. While both are concerned with effectively resolving matters, legal management uses a more formalized approach than matter management. It uses tried and tested task management and project management techniques  to better control time, costs, and resources.

Why Should In-House Teams Adopt Legal Project Management?

Legal project management leads to fewer surprises as a matter progresses because legal professionals proactively and transparently track milestones, assess dependencies, and manage costs and risks.

Adopting legal project management helps in-house legal teams manage who needs to be involved with a matter. Everyone on the team knows their task assignment, who is accountable for overseeing each task, who to consult before making decisions, and who to inform in the aftermath.

This formal structure encourages better communication with outside legal counsel and other stakeholders. Matters are more likely to wrap up on time and on budget because everyone knows their role, how it fits into the overall plan, and the timeline.

Legal project management ultimately brings structure and predictability to a famously unstructured and unpredictable industry. Planning the work up front and ironing out some of legal work’s ad hoc nature also helps ease workloads for notoriously overworked in-house teams.

Ferring Pharmaceuticals' Curt McDaniel discusses the importance of having a member of the legal team who can address issues from an operational perspective.

At the end of each matter, legal project management establishes time to review what went well and what went awry. This work helps generate learnings that you can apply to improve the conduct of future matters.

What Is the Role of a Legal Project Manager on an In-House Legal Team?

The instructing attorney is responsible for matter strategy, risk management, and legal issues, but the legal project manager has responsibility for project management and budgeting of legal services. The LPM can be an attorney, a paralegal, a legal assistant, or an administrator. Whoever you choose, it’s best if that person is a project management professional or has some formal project management skills and training.

For large matters, outside counsel increasingly staff matters with LPMs who manage projects from the law firm side. Even when this is the case, your team should designate an in-house LPM to coordinate internal activities alongside the multiple outside counsel you may have working on the same matter.

No matter who’s on the project, an LPM’s biggest responsibilities are project planning, budgeting, and post-matter evaluation.

Project Planning

An LPM will start by defining the scope of the project. They need to understand the business requirements related to the matter, including the company’s objectives, expectations, and anticipated risks.

For example, does success look like total victory, no matter the costs? Depending on the nature of the matter, those costs may be both monetary and reputational. So, success may mean settling without garnering media attention or disrupting business.

Next, an LPM will create a legal project management plan that outlines stakeholders, project milestones, deliverables, timelines, available resources, dependencies, the need for outside counsel, and any metrics against which you’ll assess vendors.

They’ll also establish a communication plan to keep stakeholders updated on the matter.

Budgeting

With a project plan in hand, it’s time to create a budget. Managing the budget is an essential component of legal project management. LPMs must determine how long it will take to complete each task in the project plan. They should consult your legal spend management tool to find historical comparisons of similar work done by this and other vendors.

They’ll also need to assess what level of seniority each task requires. For example, partners at the external law firm may draw up the legal strategy at the beginning. Down the road, they should delegate tasks like discovery and filing pleadings to associates.

To generate an accurate estimate, work with your outside counsel. They should provide suggestions for efficient resourcing and time management. They may also have ideas about alternative fee arrangements to help control costs. Remember to budget for the internal time it will take to manage the matter as well.

The LPM should regularly assess legal spend compared to the budget throughout the matter to make sure it’s on track. They’ll also need to encourage the lead in-house attorney to thoroughly review invoices to ensure work is done as instructed and complies with your company’s outside counsel guidelines (OCG).

Legal project management is not successful unless this is done efficiently. A legal e-billing system like Brightflag is the best way to do it all. Brightflag uses AI automation to read the line items of an invoice and compare them against your OCGs. Line items that violate those guidelines are automatically returned to the law firm for revision.

Brightflag also highlights areas of legal spend in your dashboard that you should look at more closely. For example, it might see a law firm billing an inordinate amount of time toward internal meetings and flag it for your review.

Review And Evaluation

At the end of the matter, it’s time to evaluate success. Some things to consider include whether your legal spend aligned with the budget and how your outside counsel performed based on your expectations. For example, how often did their invoices match your guidelines? Did they communicate clearly and frequently throughout the matter?

Your team members should identify lessons learned, and prepare a final report with their findings. This report will help you find process improvements for future matters.

Transforming Legal Project Management with Brightflag

A crucial part of legal project management is ensuring matters are done cost-effectively and within budget.

Enterprise legal management tools like Brightflag play a critical role in helping your legal operations team set budgets using historical data, track spend-to-budget on your matters, and find opportunities for savings during invoice review.

By leveraging AI-powered legal spend management, matter management, and reporting tools, Brightflag helps legal departments optimize workflows, gain critical insights, and devise proactive strategies aligning with their organization’s goals.

Whether you want to manage legal matters more effectively, streamline administrative legal processes, or gain deeper insights into your legal spend, learn more about Brightflag’s legal management tools today.

Sinead Kenny

Director, Customer Insights at Brightflag

Sinead holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Accounting from the University of Limerick, and previously worked as a Solicitor with Matheson LLP.