Three reasons why project management skills must be on your agenda

By Kim Tasso

It’s no secret that the legal profession continues to go through a time of profound change. No matter how much we fight it, or pretend it’s not happening, it’s clear that only those firms who are flexible and agile enough to make timely changes to their infrastructure, systems, processes and behaviour will succeed.

Lawyers are generally pretty good at working out what needs to be done despite the challenges of achieving consensus in a partnership. But where things often fall down is in execution – implementing the agreed changes.

Whether in big law or a medium sized firm, project management must be on your agenda – here’s why: 

  1. Change management – it is often not handled very well, partly because of leadership and resource issues but often because firms lack the ability to tackle such change programmes with the appropriate vigour found in professional project management processes. It was interesting to learn recently that some of the Magic Circle firms have dedicated change management teams that are full of professionally qualified project managers. 
  2. Large scale legal matters – when you have a team of over 50 lawyers embarking on a complex multijurisdictional transaction that is likely to last many months, you will need smart project management to ensure that everything goes to plan. In some respects, it’s a surprise that lawyers don’t have project management as one of their required core competencies. 
  3. Pricing – it’s important that legal projects are planned out well in advance if the pricing is to be properly calculated to maximise profitability and client satisfaction. How can you confidently quote a fixed fee unless you have considered all aspects of the work and possible variations, considered the risks, mapped out the required resources and detailed what needs to happen and when at each step of the way?

Where to go for support?

It’s interesting that project management became part of the professional marketing examinations of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) back in 2009.

Your business development and marketing folk are used to managing large projects – whether these are new web developments, major events, substantial tenders or detailed campaigns. Your IT and technology teams will also be adept at managing large projects for the development, rolling out and training of new systems. Your premises and facilities folk will be project management pros if they have managed office refurbishments or relocations.

So the people in your support teams might be a good place to start if you are getting to grips with project management for the first time.

Your five stage plan

To illustrate what’s involved, here’s an outline of a five stage iterative project management process.  [table id=1 /]

Some recommended books on project management

Filed Under: Practice of Law

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