This series of posts is a slightly
extended version of an article that appeared in the July 2011 issue of Managing
Partner magazine. To download a PDF of the published version of my article,
Problems like the ones described
last week could be reduced or eliminated by focusing on the eight key issues in
legal project management described in my book, The Legal Project Management Quick
It all starts with clearly defining
the scope of the work at the outset - what is included in the budget and what
is not. Planning and managing the budget is important as the project
proceeds, as is negotiating a change of scope when issues first become
apparent, rather than waiting until the end of a matter and just sending a
However, legal project
management requires fundamental changes in the ways lawyers do
business. Change is difficult for anyone, and it is especially
challenging for lawyers who have developed strong habits over several
decades. As Richard Susskind noted in his widely quoted book The End of Lawyers?,
"It is not easy to convince a group of millionaires...that their business model
is wrong."  But the environment is changing and lawyers must adapt.
Firms are now experimenting with a
variety of techniques to introduce project management. The key word in
that sentence is "experimenting." Lawyers would prefer to act based on
solid precedents, models that have been proven their worth over decades.
But legal project management is a brand new field, and those who wait decades
to apply it do so at their own risk.
When lawyers begin considering what
to do, they often start the discussion with the approaches that have been most
widely publicized, such as Seyfarth Shaw's use of Six Sigma and Lean.
According to Seyfarth's web page: "With more than 100 projects
executed [we have] applied SeyfarthLean in every practice
throughout the firm to deliver quality and efficiency that also delivered
client cost savings ranging from 15-50%."
While the results have been
impressive, Lean is not the best place for most firms to start because it is
such an expensive way to go. According to an April 2010 American Lawyer article,
"Seyfarth has spent over $3 million to date administering and training
workers...and budgets $200,000 - $500,000 annually for such costs." 
Similarly, Eversheds has been widely recognized for the success it has achieved
through massive project management training programs and software
systems. But they have spent even more: over £10 million, according to Eversheds' web page.
This series will conclude next week.
Read more on the Legal Business
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us through our corporate
 Susskind, Richard, The End of
Lawyers?, (Oxford University Press, 2009), 280.
 Levine, D.M., "Leap of Faith." American
Lawyer, 1 April 2010