Why is there a global trend towards Legal Project Management?
The Legal Project Management discipline is now becoming globally recognised by the legal profession. Law firms started to manage their complex legal matters more aggressively as a means of keeping down costs and responding to client demands for fixed price legal work. It was quickly realised by law firms that taking a project management approach helped improve their systems and processes, as well as its focus on productive relationships, and effective communications.
Every 'Legal Matter' is a project, and every lawyer is in fact a project manager. The change is simply the formality of how projects are planned and executed, to enable a consistent law firm-wide approach.
Legal work has specific outcomes, and should largely follow a defined cost and schedule base, with the flexibility to adapt (change) when certain conditions are met. This follows the principles of project management practice.
This allows for fixed prices with the ability to increase the chargeable fees where a client is not meeting their required obligations, or where the legal matter changes its scope or status (e.g., where an arbitration activity is confirmed to be heading to court).
In the November 2016 edition of The Law Society of WA's 'Brief' magazine, the College of Law noted, 'The introduction of fixed fees, outsourcing of legal work, intelligent systems and the internationalisation of Australian legal practice are beginning to impact on the legal market and how lawyers practice, and the skills lawyers will need in the future'.
It is not a complete change to the legal practice, it is a refinement that allows lawyers, practice managers and para-legals to work with more clear roles and tasks, with a focus on quality, time and budget.
Law firms are moving toward a market demand for fixed priced legal work, which requires a Legal Project Management approach. The Law Council of Australia set up a Future of the Law Committee who acknowledged that, “…some key disruptive technologies will likely include…project management and workflow systems” (June 2016).
As lawyers effectively are already project managers, other project-trained professionals are being involved in legal service delivery, to take care of the process and thereby reducing the law firm's overall costs of its project team, while allowing the lawyers to focus on the legal issues at hand. This reflects high performing teams at a lower overall cost to the firm, without compromising client outcomes.
A sustainable law firm has a values-driven culture, achieves high performance through recognising the power of its people, and has processes that guide good behaviour that enables positive client experiences. Clients are asking for fixed prices so they can engage without the fear of a blown budget. Become the law firm that client's rave about, that people want to work for, and receive a lot of referral and repeat business.