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Legal Project Management Skills for Contract Lawyers

This post was contributed by Antony Smith of Legal Project Management Ltd

 

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Project Management in City Law Firms

I am sure that many contract lawyers working in the City of London have come across the notion of Legal Project Management (LPM) and indeed have probably worked alongside legal project managers.
Most of the large City law firms now employ legal project managers. The most common model for developing law firm legal project management capability is to embed legal project managers within legal service delivery teams.

Legal project managers are usually tasked with:

1. Improving communications and organisation within the team
2. Taking operational responsibility for effective communications with clients and
3. Developing legal project management further within the firm by undertaking activities such as ad hoc training of co-workers and creating standardised approaches for common matter types.

Solicitors Professional Development

The Solicitors Regulation Authority requires solicitors to record and develop their own individual professional competence. It is clear from Section D of the SRA’s Solicitors Competence Statement that it expects all solicitors to have baseline competence in project management skills. Hence relying entirely on embedded legal project managers may not be enough to demonstrate competence to practice as a solicitor.

It should also be noted that project management skills are required of team members and not just the team leaders. Being able to contribute effectively to a legal service delivery team is a skill which is – or should be – highly valued.

To help solicitors assess and develop their own project management competence, I have created a self-assessment and development plan which you can download for free (and no registration required) from here: http://legalprojectmanagement.co.uk/lpm-competence-free-self-assessment-and-development-plan/

How Project Management Can Help Contract Lawyers

Done properly, project management should provide you with a framework, information and tools to help you contribute most effectively to the legal project team.

Let’s illustrate these points by looking at project communications as an example.
Project manager’s will invariably do a stakeholder analysis and, based on that, create a stakeholder communication plan.

A stakeholder analysis is done by creating a simple grid, listing project stakeholders (i.e. everyone with an interest in, or affected by, the project) and then listing things such as:

• the nature of each stakeholder’s interest in the project
• their attitude towards the project
• their level of influence within the project
• what the project needs from each stakeholder to be successful
• what stakeholders need to contribute effectively to the project.

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Once the above is done, it should then be possible to work out each stakeholder’s project objectives and then devise a communications plan for them. A communications plan will cover things such as frequency of communications (regularity is key here), format of communications and their content.

Having a good stakeholder communication plan, and keeping to it, is just one tool use to help achieve successful project outcomes for lawyers and their clients.

Thinking about it, we probably all do a quick informal stakeholder analysis in our heads when trying to work out how best to communicate with a work colleague. Project management helps surface these kinds of things and helps introduce a little more rigour.

Your Legal Project Management Skills

Project management is not taught to lawyers during the academic or professional stages of their training. Most lawyers try to pick up and apply ‘common sense’ project management skills during their work in practice. Some will take their interest further and enrol on a project management course.

Generalist project management training and certification (of which the best known is Prince II) is often found to be not particularly well suited to help teams and individuals develop their legal project management capability. Legal team personnel who attend such courses tend to find the gap between project management theory and real-world demand for better matter management skills just too wide to bridge.

To help plug this gap the International Institute of Legal Project Management (IILPM) has come into being (see: http://www.iilpm.com). The IILPM has been created to promote the global development of legal project management, including the creation and curation of methods, standards and certifications in legal project management.

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Legal Management Training and Certification

The IILPM has done a lot of work around competency based training and certification for everyone involved in legal service delivery. In addition to looking at competence standards in project management and law, the IILPM conducted a survey where thought leaders in legal project management from 9 countries took part.

The survey showed the need for legal project management training for both legal project team members and team leaders. As a result, the IILPM has created training pathways leading towards two legal project management certifications, known as the Legal Project AssociateTM (LPA) and Legal Project PractitionerTM (LPP).

The LPA is aimed at legal service team members and may be awarded to candidates who have attended two days (14 hours) training provided by IILPM Authorised Training Providers (ATPs).

The LPP is aimed at those who lead legal teams and / or are responsible for the operational delivery of legal services. LPP certification may be awarded to practising lawyers or other professionals (most obviously legal project managers) who have worked in a legal service environment for at least one year and who have attended three days (21 hours) training provided by an IILPM ATP.

Currently ATP’s can be found in Australia, Spain, USA and the U.K. To find out more, please visit my website at: www.legalprojectmanagement.co.uk.

 

Antony-Smith3Antony is a non-practising solicitor with post-graduate level qualifications in law, project management and computing. He is the founder of Legal Project Management Limited (www.legalprojectmanagement.co.uk), which provides legal project management training and consultancy services to the legal services industry. A practising project manager, familiar with the challenges and opportunities presented by project management, Antony’s training tends to be workshop based and reflective of the continued pressure on lawyers to ‘do more with less’.
Antony is a member of the Association for Project Management (MAPM) and the Project Management Institute (PMI). He is Prince II qualified (Practitioner level), a Legal Project Practitioner (LPP) and a founder member of the International Institute for Legal Project Management (IILPM) where he sits on its Global Advisory Council.

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