ILTA White Papers

Project Management

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one of several including: the one at which senior firm management drives and responds to the fundamental changes reshaping the legal profession; the table at which multi-disciplinary operational teams are created and their members assigned various degrees of responsibility and authority; or the table at which the firm plans and budgets strategic initiatives dependent on technology. This problem does not reflect any inherent disrespect of nonlegal professionals by lawyers. I think firms appreciate that their technology professionals are, because of their expertise, indispensable. The challenges of implementing LPM, however, may mean that while a firm’s resident experts are respected, they may not be respected for the things that will earn them those seats at the table. Other nonlegal experts in law firms, such as COOs, CFOs and CMOs, are seen as business experts and important contributors to the immediate economic well-being of their firms. Technology experts may be accorded less clout if they are regarded as “just technicians” who are expert in the details of information management but unsophisticated at understanding the strategic drivers of firm success. In other words, there may be a tendency to regard them as skilled implementers of technology support resources, rather than as technology experts who can help shape the firm’s future form and operations. If IT professionals are to earn greater respect and greater clout, they need to rebut these stereotypic judgments and help firms understand the value they can bring to strategic initiatives. THE CHANGING LEGAL LANDSCAPE Some legal technology experts may not understand why LPM has suddenly become such a hot trend and prominent issue. There may be others — perhaps experts certified in other forms of project management — who do not understand how LPM is different from the methods and systems they know so well. Businesses facing economic pressures are demanding that their in-house legal departments control rampant legal costs and drive greater efficiency into legal service delivery. In response, chief legal officers and general counsel are hammering law firms to develop detailed budgets for client work, to work consistently within those budgets, to plan and manage their work efficiently, and to minimize unpleasant surprises. One way to do this is by moving away from time-based billing (i.e., the billable hour) and toward value-based billing, which is pricing based on the deliverable and not the time spent delivering. This has popularized “alternative fee arrangements” (AFAs), such as fixed and flat fees that cap the amount a firm agrees to charge for a matter and preclude firms from passing their operational inefficiencies through to the client. Firms agreeing to AFAs understand that if they don’t deliver on their AFAs’ pricing promises, their clients will take their business elsewhere. The challenge for firms, of course, is not only that they must deliver services at the agreed-upon price, but that they must perform services in a way that is profitable for the firm. THE EMERGENCE OF LPM In response to the AFA trend, legal project management became the hot topic almost overnight, because it promised a rational, consistent, controlled and measurable Project Management 7

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