General Counsel have been expected to manage the legal function (both inside and outside counsel) for over 25 years. Pressure to control legal spending and staffing has accelerated since 2008. Cost management of external legal services is here to stay.
Two organizations have developed approaches to help in-house lawyers and legal operations managers address accelerating costs that impact the corporate bottom line:
- In 2009, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) launched its Value Challenge, which sought to promote conversations between buyers and sellers of legal services to reconnect the skyrocketing costs to the perceived value of the work.
- By 2015, a critical mass of operations professionals serving legal departments came together to form a new organization, Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, or CLOC. ACC has followed suit with a legal operations interest group.
Legal Project Management (LPM) has been touted as a means of more tightly and thoughtfully managing matters. It is the adaptation of the well-established project management discipline to legal work and the unique personalities of lawyers and the culture and standards of the legal profession. Over the past ten years, leading law firms have begun to improve their budgeting and matter-management skills through LPM and process-improvement techniques.
With some exceptions, corporate legal departments have lagged in their adoption of project management practices. When presented with LPM concepts by law firms, many legal operations professionals and in-house lawyers have not been able to maximize the benefits of LPM for work that is handled exclusively in-house, nor for better collaboration with law firms. And even when a company’s RFPs for legal work have solicited information about LPM, and in some cases even prescribed its use, there is still a great deal of opportunity for improvement.
ACC has provided resources and training programs relating to LPM for many years. A CLOC Initiative that focuses on LPM as a practical way to further augment the value of a legal department was launched in 2017, and is now a significant area of interest for CLOC members.
The CLOC Initiative focuses on the following situations:
- managing business clients’ expectations regarding the work lawyers should and do perform;
- handling projects relating to legal operations;
- participating in corporate projects in which the legal department plays a supporting role (such as new product development); and
- managing external service providers, ranging from law firms to e-discovery vendors.
The initiative created a practical Legal Project Management (LPM) Guide, based on a framework that breaks projects into four stages:
- Execution; and
Each stage has activities, results, and success criteria, as well as roles and responsibilities. An LPM program or pilot can be developed from the Initiative’s business case and action plan that outlines the why, what, how, and who of LPM.
Participants in the CLOC Initiative involved over 30 volunteers from law firm, CLOC member companies and volunteers like me. A five-part webinar series has had hundreds of participants, and LPM will be well-represented at the CLOC Institute in the US in May.
If your client is interested in Legal Project Management, shouldn’t you be too?
Edge Principal Aileen Leventon is a graduate of Columbia Business School and Cornell Law School. Prior to joining Edge International, she led QLex Consulting Inc., was a partner in the legal management consulting practices at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Blaqwell Inc., and practiced law in New York City. She advises on value creation, beneficial economic results, efficiency, client satisfaction and risk management with a focus on effecting change organically and successfully.