Want help impressing your in-house legal department? View your litigation services from a business perspective. The same cost controls used by legal procurement will help your firm approach litigation projects with a business mentality and the bottom line in mind. In this two part series we will introduce you to two of the top cost controls used by your clients: legal project management and pre-matter scoping.
When law departments talk, law firms and legal service providers should listen. More and more in-house counsels want outside counsel to have a “business alignment”. That means that law firms need to look at the legal services that they provide, such as litigation, from a business perspective by controlling costs. To determine what cost controls law firms should use, one option for them is to adopt the cost controls their clients are using.
How are clients controlling costs?
Buying Legal Counsel (login required), an international trade organization that works with professional buyers of legal services, recently released its 2018 Buying Legal Services Survey. According to the survey, law firm clients have been using legal procurers to lower costs using business methods utilized in other industries, such as construction, manufacturing, and engineering: legal project management, pre-matter scoping, invoice auditing, and eAuctions.
Together, these cost controls have saved companies 14.6 percent on legal spending, which amounts to $13 million in savings on average for Fortune 100 companies. And while that might seem like bad news for those who provide litigation services, law firms can adopt these same practices to deliver higher quality services to clients without harming their bottom line.
Clients want legal project management
In 2018, only 25 percent of legal procurers said that they used legal project management (LPM) to reduce legal spending, but 50 percent stated that they planned to use it in the future. In another survey, at least 13.5 percent of legal procurers want law firms to provide legal project management as part of their services. Logically, legal service providers who use to manage litigation services are likely to be of greater value to potential clients and therefore, more likely to be retained as counsel.
What is legal project management?
LPM has been a concept tossed around by attorneys for nearly ten years, but because the legal industry has been slow to adopt it, LPM is still lacks a solid definition. In fact, because of its slow adoption, LPM is still considered an innovative practice for managing legal spending, especially in less predictable areas such as litigation.
The best definition of legal project management that we found comes from a few LPM leaders. According to Susan Lambreth and David Rueff, authors of The Power of Legal Project Management, LPM “involves defining, planning, budgeting, executing, and evaluating a legal matter.” It also entails having a clear communication plan and post project review. For more information, we recommend you read Pam Woldow’s blog called At the Intersection, which discusses legal project management in depth.
What are the benefits of legal project management?
LPM can help clarify the scope and cost of litigation, and manage the services provided according to the client’s expectations by measuring progress and actual versus budgeted time and expense as the project moves forward. It also involves implementing processes and technology to manage litigation projects. Depending on the experience of the legal service provider, attorneys assigned to a case can act as project managers or they can retain a legal project manager.
Resources to improve your legal project management
There are several learning opportunities and legal products available to litigation teams that want to improve their LPM. Trade organizations such as the ABA’s Law Practice Division Legal Project Management Interest Group, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), the Association of Corporate Counsel Legal Operations, Legal Marketing Association’s P3 Conference, the True Value Partnering Institute, and the LawVision Group LPM offer memberships, resources, and conferences geared towards helping law firms improve their LPM skills.
Several LPM products are also available for purchase. Most of the legal project management products we found were used to automate tracking of time, billing, and document filing, and to update a team on projects in progress or completed. None of the products we researched online were specifically focused on litigation, although most of the products are adaptable to whatever project your team is working on. Furthermore, none of the products directly help litigators set an accurate budget, determine which processes can be outsourced or automated at a lower cost, or identify and manage risks in their litigation projects.
In summary, purchasing a legal project management product won’t make your litigation practice a pro at LPM. It will take training, compilation of data points to understand where improvements can be made, and integration of other products or outside legal services to plan budgets, measure progress, and improve litigation processes. For those interested, some examples of legal project management software include the following: accelo, exterro, and HighQ.
In Part Two of this series we will discuss pre-matter scoping as a cost control option for your litigation practice.
About Trial by Tech
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Attorneypreneur, writer, technologist. Nerdy for legaltech, politics, crypto, cybersecurity, innovation. Presently in-house at Williams & Brown. Former adviser at Baylor Law, and founder of two technology and legal consulting companies. @JoshuaWeaverEsq