There are many tools and templates in traditional project management to help businesses plan, frame, budget, and report with great precision. Companies swear by it. So when you apply these tools to the LPM, you get magic, right? Not exactly.
LPM is a great tool. It can help you manage a project competently while meeting your clients’ demands for greater accountability. He lifts the veil of secrecy so clients can be sure the job is being done in the most efficient way possible. It puts an end to the sticker shock that can often occur once the work is finished.
But it’s a lot messier than the traditional project management found in world-class companies. I know that won’t stop you, though. Who enters the legal profession because it’s easy?
No quick fix
When it comes to technology projects, project management could be the silver bullet. It certainly seemed to be when I was working on a massive forensic investigation with programmers in Switzerland. Their process was as rigid as I have ever seen. Tasks were unobtrusive, granular, and methodical, or, at least, they seemed that way to me. They faithfully followed the plan, documenting everything scientifically. It works for forensics and programmers because they are, after all, science.
But the law, as lawyers constantly tell us, is different. There is no miracle solution. Therefore, for lawyers, LPM is not a magic wand. There are aspects of the law firm’s culture and the very nature of the work that make project management unique.
Legal project managers are not gods. And technology can’t really fix bad processes. Also, law firms are not as structured as other types of businesses. Many aspects of a business are unpredictable.
Even still, LPM is a process that companies use successfully. And while legal project managers aren’t gods, many of them have a superpower: they can bring order out of chaos. That’s the beauty of LPM.
In some companies, even a few years after the deployment of LPM, there is still a bit of confusion. This happens for several reasons. First, LPM may not be widely adopted in an enterprise. Usually this is by design. Many companies deploy LPM in some areas and not in others. This happens for different reasons – for example, need, customer request, interest, etc.
Second, avocados are notorious for jumping into the deep end. With a high degree of urgency, they prefer to start immediately, working hard to get the job done. Being busy is not necessarily synonymous with efficiency. Planning is a big part of project management. It highlights a successful result.
Technology can also be an issue. It’s tempting to deploy the latest technology solutions without fully defining the requirements or understanding how to optimize the workflow.
But the great thing about LPM is that it can bring order out of chaos and handle the madness at any stage of the game you find yourself in. You just have to trust the process. Lawyers can still do their job as lawyers, only now it’s organized and efficient. A well-designed LPM process requires minimal changes in how lawyers apply their legal insight. But it makes a measurable difference in keeping customers happy and increasing business profitability.
Make change less difficult
While you’d like the LPM process to go smoothly every time, real and lasting change in a business takes time and patience. It is an iterative process. Some teams can use LPM seamlessly from start to finish. Others may lure the project manager in the middle of the process. It works both ways.
But it is about change. So here are some tips from the Change Management Handbook to help you make sure LPM runs smoothly.
- Evaluate your processes and workflows to make sure they’re working. If you are deploying new technology, make sure it meets your needs. You have good processes when surprises and redundancies are minimized and communication and visibility are maximized. The legal project manager needs to know where resources are allocated and the progress of the work at all times.
- Plan your projects. Include a legal project manager during the planning process. This will save time and avoid corrections along the way regarding resources, scope, budgets, etc. Changing is easier when the train is still on the track. But if you haven’t done the initial planning, better do it mid-project than fly by the seat of your pants.
- Do the activities that promote change. Make sure LPM supports how lawyers do the most critical work. Solve the main problems and publish your successes. Regularly and loudly praise the people who make LPM work.
- Be methodical and patient. Change takes time. Demonstrate a stubborn determination to persevere. If you follow the methodology, the benefits will come. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t customize your approach and modify the templates and tools to better suit your practice group and the challenges ahead.
At the limit
Now that you’re actually doing it, now what? It can’t hurt to cross your fingers and pray. But know that while LPM can be messy, it’s worth it in the end. As mentioned, you’ll get better results if you do some upfront planning and hire a legal project manager early on. But even if you don’t, you’ll experience LPM’s transformative power when it’s halfway deployed. It’s about using the techniques that are effective for your practice group and the waters you navigate.