is one in which an in-house counsel may often need to get involved. Modern companies follow modern practices and new disciplines ushered in by electronic information and document creation technologies have changed the legal landscape. Previously armies of associates were required by large law firms to cope with the requirements of document discovery; today it is done by e-discovery systems. Previously, briefs were handled totally by lawyers with individual responsibilities; today legal work involves team work, cross-discipline teamwork, and sometimes the involvement of specialized management personnel to get the work done.
Why an in-house attorney needs to know about legal project management
Modern legal project management is thus something an in-house attorney cannot do without, because in today’s corporate world,
require to define the value of their departments by putting legal work in the context of business. The requirement to demonstrate value also brings in the necessity to use metrics understood by the business. Transparency is more essential than trust in a corporate environment and proper management of legal projects in a structured predictable manner is needed to deliver efficiency, predictability and consistent delivery of services. Without that, a business is no more ready to accept the in-house arrangement; it would rather hire an external law firm for all work.
What is a ‘legal project’ in modern business terms?
In the corporate world, every temporary endeavor to deliver a certain result is seen as a project. So, a legal case would be visualized in corporate terms as a project. It should have a definite beginning and a predictable definite end. It has to be measured and assessed whether objectives have been reached or objectives cannot be met. It has to be decided whether a project should continue or be abandoned. And much depends upon how, in the books of business the results add up to show the efficiency of in-house counsel. Every temporary effort with a beginning, an end, and a predictable outcome is a project including but not limited to simple things like an SEC filing. An
needs to view and handle legal work from the perspectives of a business and that cannot be done without legal project management strategies.
Every project has the following phases or characteristics: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, control and closure. Just having document management or matter management software in place and knowing how to use it does not satisfy the requirements of
legal project management
. It also includes the vital components of planning, budgeting, and communication.
Key responsibilities of a legal project manager
The role of a
legal project manger
The planning to define the scope of the effort
Resource coordination including human, financial and other components
Creating clearly defined channels and modes of communication
Identifying the interdependencies between tasks and operational workflow
Managing and monitoring the work according to defined plan
Acting as liaison to connect problems with solutions
Balancing the several components of a project including people, costs, scope, time, risks, quality and delivery to meet plan requirements and objectives
If you don’t want to manage it yourself, find a manager
It is not always necessary for in-house counsel to be in the chair of a project manager; however as the person ultimately accountable, it falls upon the chief authority to find the person suitable to manage the project. In case of big projects it is desirable that people with more training in business management practices are put in charge of legal management of projects while the in-house attorneys provide knowledge and other support in respect to law and legal efforts. Usually, in big companies good people to handle legal project management can be found in other departments like Six Sigma Programs, Quality Control Systems or even the IT department. The in-house counsel needs to be in general supervision and in control of stakeholder communication of the project and leave other aspects of day to day management that does not involve substantive legal knowledge to the legal project manager.