As July begins, the dog days of summer are here. The oppressive heat means things sometimes slow down a bit. No better time than to review ways to improve your productivity. I’ll be highlighting websites and tools from around the web. Plus a couple items from Associate’s Mind as well.
What is Legal Project Management?
Throughout any lengthy course of action or matter, it helps to have a general road map to guide your actions. Something by which to measure your progress and make sure you have not fallen by the wayside in an areas. It’s a given in the greater business world, but the legal field had been slow to adopt project management. Part of the problem is that many people cannot even agree what “legal project management” means. Briefly it might be described as “a pledge by all stakeholders to try to handle legal matters consistently and cost-effectively, without forgetting that law is really about using legal judgment to address the unique characteristics of the matters they’re working on.”
Legal Project Management Info offers a more in-depth definition (entire post is worth your time):
So, is “legal project management” merely another word for “case management”; just a fancy–and unnecessary–neologism? I don’t think so. Case management as practiced by most attorneys does not follow a standard framework. Most firms do not document, much less promulgate, best practices that would be recognized by project managers following any of the popular project management standards. The project management community is focused on standards and best practices whereas the legal community is, at best, ambivalent about developing standards and best practices in legal work that clients could use to compare and measure legal services. Clients need to reject the tired argument that the uniqueness of each legal matter makes standardization and estimates impractical–project management standards are specifically designed to address unique endeavors. Why is a legal case any more unique than, say, a software development project? Why are attorneys given so much more leeway with scope creep than software engineers?
As a result, there has been a surge of legal project management resources that have sprung up online in the past year. Here is a brief list of resources to provide a jumping off point for looking into legal project management:
Overload and Overkill
Full-scale implementation of formal legal project management might not fit your needs. Perhaps you are at a smaller firm or dealing with smaller matters. Or it’s that it is all just too much and you don’t have the time learn about Six Sigma, GANTT Charts, Taguchi Loss Functions, etc. And that’s okay. Project management really boils down to one simple idea: Reduce Variance.
More than likely in your practice there are going to be certain matters that are routine or repeatable. Let’s take handling documents received pursuant to a discovery request. What is actually involved? How many parties actually lay hands on the documents? Who reviews? Who summarizes? Reports to the client? Compares to other records? Do they comply with the request? Do they need to be produced to another party? Who handles the invoice? Do they need to be filed into a document management system? Bates numbered? Even a routine activity like receiving documents can give rise to problems if not managed properly.
Set aside the time to review workflow procedures that you find yourself repeating often. Examine them. Take them apart. What works well? What doesn’t? It can often help to create a simple checklist to make sure that every part of the process is being handled properly. From this you can develop set procedures on how certain activities should be handled every time. This will insure that no work (or billable time) falls by the wayside. It should also help improve your efficiency and free up some wasted time.
Be sure to check in everyday this week for more productivity tips. And please consider subscribing to Associate’s Mind for guaranteed updates on continued tips, research, news, reviews, and other professional development information. You can also choose to receive updates via Facebook or Twitter if you prefer.