Why project management is becoming increasingly important to law firms

This week's post comes from the preface to my new book.  The preface starts by explaining how to use the book's tools and templates to improve profitability and client service, then transitions to the material below, explaining why project management is becoming a critical component of many firms' marketing. 

My interest in legal project management grew out of an alternative fees survey I conducted with AmLaw 100 chairmen, senior partners, and executives.  Many of these senior decision makers emphasized the need to adopt project management techniques from other professions.  As the CFO of a firm with more than 1,000 lawyers succinctly put it, "If we teach our people to manage, we can make more money."

Several survey participants said that project management could be especially helpful to lawyers who must suddenly learn how to deliver quality solutions within limited budgets.  For example, the chairman of a firm with more than 800 lawyers noted that:

In the world of construction, architects, engineers and contractors have been working on a fixed price basis for a long time. There is a body of learning about how to estimate, contract, define scope, manage changes, allocate risk, and how to manage fee disputes, delays, [and] changes in scope [that could] be adapted to the legal profession.

But exactly how should this rich and deep body of learning be adapted to meet the unique demands of the legal profession?  Professional project managers devote thousands of hours to being certified and/or to earning a master's degree in project management, but senior partners must find a way to apply key principles far more rapidly.

We believe that the long tradition of the billable hour has created an enormous amount of inefficiency and "low hanging fruit" - areas where lawyers can instantly reduce cost simply by focusing on proven best practices.  We also believe that the most useful tactics will vary from person to person and from practice to practice.  Therefore, we have developed our Quick Reference Guide to help partners find the best practices that will have the greatest impact for each individual practice. 

Since the field of legal project management is brand new and changing rapidly, our Guide will be revised from time to time to include additional templates and new information.

This is a time of both challenge and opportunity for law firms.  As the 2010 law firm Client Advisory from Hildebrandt Baker Robbins and Citi Private Bank put it:

Law firm leaders and managers must understand that the world has changed. The focus on growth and expansion that drove law firm strategic and management decisions for the decade preceding 2008 has been replaced with a different imperative - the necessity of focusing on efficiency in the delivery of legal services.

The innovative tools in the Guide can help you to gain an advantage in today's highly competitive marketplace by increasing efficiency and offering clients greater value.  All you have to do is use them.

To review the complete table of contents of the book, or to order a copy for $29.95, see our web page description of The Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide: Tools and Templates to Increase Efficiency