Legal Project Management 2024: Where Are We Now?

Updated January 25, 2024
12 min read
Legal Project Management 2024: Where Are We Now?

Today, even a decade since its initiation, Legal Project Management (LPM) is still an emerging discipline. It notably uses project management techniques and customizes them to oversee legal matters. LPM is utilized in providing legal services rather than in the substantive legal work itself. It is gaining popularity, especially in modern legal practices where alternative fee arrangements are standard or improving efficiency and enhancing client service is a primary objective.

The Necessity of LPM

In-house counsel and outside legal teams are already applying LPM principles, and it's quickly becoming an essential skill set. To stay competitive, lawyers must understand these basic principles and be capable of integrating them into their practice operations.

Moreover, we need professional LPM specialists who can collaborate with legal teams to implement intricate systems. As the saying goes, "With LPM, you can deliver on time and within the budget and manage variations effectively. It's a game-changer here to stay, so it's time to get on board or be left behind!"

The Impacts of LPM on Lawyers and Law Firms

Over the years, we've observed the growth of LPM and its widespread benefits. These benefits can be categorized into two major groups — individual lawyers and law firms.

  • For Individual Lawyers

      • Improved focus and efficiency: Lawyers can deliver more consistent and quality work.
      • Reduced stress: Lawyers can better manage their workload by having a well-structured plan and timeline.
      • Increased job satisfaction: Lawyers can derive greater satisfaction from their work by effectively handling their tasks.
  • For Law Firms

      • Reduced write-offs: By planning, firms can cut unnecessary spending and reduce write-offs.
      • Supported alternative billing methods: LPM enables firms to adopt more flexible and client-friendly billing methods.
      • Improved profitability: Profit margins can be improved with reduced redundancies and enhanced efficiencies.
      • Increased efficiency: Streamlined processes leading to reduced time wastage.
      • Enhanced client retention: The improved service delivery fosters better client relationships, boosting client retention rates.

These benefits underline LPM's transformative power, creating a compelling case for its integration into the legal ecosystem. It fosters an environment conducive to growth and efficiency and redefines the relationship between lawyers and their clients, underpinning a more collaborative and transparent partnership.

Challenges and Recommendations

However, challenges remain. The shift towards fully embracing LPM requires significant changes that span various aspects of the legal profession:

  1. Behavioral change: The most profound challenge lies in achieving a comprehensive shift in behavior among current practitioners accustomed to traditional practices.

  2. Inclusion in tertiary education: LPM competencies must be included at the basic tertiary education level. With this foundation, practitioners can integrate these principles into their work.

  3. Mandatory LPM courses: Universities and law schools must incorporate LPM, Legal Process Improvement, and Legal Operations courses as mandatory units within law degree and postgraduate programs.

  4. Practical training: The significance of practical training must be maintained despite academic study. Valuable exposure to these concepts will allow lawyers to fully understand and implement these principles effectively.

  5. Meeting stakeholder expectations: Ultimately, these changes are about improving legal services delivery, satisfying clients' expectations, and satisfying key stakeholders' needs.

Addressing these challenges and implementing strategic transformation plans is daunting, requiring significant commitment and perseverance. However, the rewards — serving clients more efficiently, elevating legal practice, and driving innovation — are worth the effort and mark an essential step towards modern law practice.

Looking Ahead: The Future of LPM

So, what's next? Law schools and post-graduate certificate programs MUST incorporate courses on Legal Process Improvement and LPM. Legal teams and firms of all levels need to understand these disciplines' transformative potential. Creating a successful change program requires a top-down approach, comprehensive training, on-the-job coaching, reinforcement, and rewarding new behaviors.

As we move forward into a new era of legal practice, learning and embracing innovative ways of working, such as LPM, is no longer optional. It is a must for the evolution and sustainability of the legal profession.

Article by
Therese Linton
The BASALT Group

Therese Linton is a global Legal Project Management and Process Improvement leader. She wrote the book on Legal Project Management, published by LexisNexis in 2014. She also created The Positive Lawyer ® program, which combines online learning and coaching to transform legal mindsets and ways of working. Over the last decade, she has worked with thousands of lawyers to develop their capabilities and expand their skills in legal transformation and personal productivity.