Let’s assume for a moment that Legal Project Management (LPM) exists and we have an LPMer ready to go. Now let’s assume we have just acquired an Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA) matter on a fixed fee. So … we’re ready to go?
Hold on there scooter. Not so fast.
Although the LPMer is the right tool, we haven’t given them enough information about the work yet to turn them loose on it. Even with a defined scope (which is typically quite vague in the legal world), the LPMer needs a bit more information before deciding how to allocate resources on the matter.
What needs to be decided is the matter legal strategy within the context of the budget. By this I mean the lawyer and client need to sit down and talk about ‘how’ these limited resources should be allocated. For instance, in an employment case should more money be spent early in the case to discourage the plaintiff and push for a quick settlement? Or should the case be drawn out leaving resources for the end of the matter when the plaintiff is desperate for a settlement check? Each option will fit a different client and circumstance. The LPMer will not know how to allocate and focus limited resources without this knowledge in hand.
This need for strategy information further highlights the growing need for lawyers to talk to clients about fees – early and often. Recognizing that lawyers generally do not like to talk about fees, in this situation they may have a higher comfort level. This puts a fee discussion in the context of legal strategy – something they LOVE to talk about.
Perhaps firms and clients should start talking about this case and fee strategy as a precursor and primer for LPM. It could serve as a middle step, where people are more comfortable. And it will provide knowledge critical to the success of our first LPMers.
  • I'm not sure, Toby, that 1) budget and then 2) strategy is the right order — though in the real world it often works out that way.

    I think the first order of business is to define "Done" — what two or three things does the client need in order to consider the matter a success? Within the context of "Done" you might then think about value, or what such a conclusion is worth to the client. Now there's a richer context to at least sketch out the strategies that will get there. You may discover at this point that there is no strategy that gets the client the desired result at a value the client appreciates (a/k/a something-for-nothing syndrome).

    This scenario actually supports your conclusion perhaps better than the budget-strategy link: that client and firm must talk money and strategy — and goals and value — early and often.

    For many cases, you're juggling a number of variables and unknowns — costs, budget, value, strategies, and what success looks like, among others. This is the area in which LPM skills truly pay off. Of course, managing budget and schedule are good things, but in many ways they're the easier part of LPM.

    — Steven B. Levy, author of Legal Project Management: Control Costs, Meet Schedules, Manage Risks, and Maintain Sanity