- Professional managers are becoming more prevalent within legal practices and in-house legal teams.
- It is critical that lawyers understand how managerial approaches relate to their professional obligations.
- This paper analyses the extent to which Legal Project Management can support as well as challenge legal professional values and rules of conduct.
Managerial concepts and practices – and indeed professional managers – are becoming more prevalent within legal practices and in-house legal teams. It is critical that lawyers understand how managerial approaches relate to their professional obligations. This article reviews Legal Project Management (‘LPM’) as one such emergent area of ‘managerial’ practice, and investigates the way in which LPM both supports and challenges legal professional values and conduct rules.
LPM applies project management approaches to improve the delivery of legal services1. According to LPM, every legal matter or case is a separate ‘project’, that is, ‘a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result’2. LPM is sometimes referred to as ‘matter management’ or ‘case management’. Examples of LPM include legal teams engaging in:
- up-front strategic planning about legal and non-legal considerations relevant to delivering the client’s objectives in a matter (or later, a case);
- planning the tasks required to deliver a matter, and then documenting, tracking and reporting upon the delivery of these planned tasks;
- using historical data about completed tasks (such as scope, duration, costs, resources and risks) to help estimate these same parameters for future tasks;
- approaches to enhance the communication and delegation between team members; and
- methods to help continuously improve the effective and efficient delivery of legal matters.
The proposed benefits of LPM are in assisting the ‘successful’ delivery of legal services – noting that ‘success’ is defined subjectively according to each person or entity involved in a matter. From the legal team’s perspective, these benefits generally relate to minimising surprises (through improved planning and risk management, for example) and maximising ‘return on effort’ (such as improved estimating, resources utilisation and budget management, and reduced re-work through better communication)3.