For some time now the bigger law firms have positioned and prompted their use of legal project management (LPM) in the carriage of their client matters. Initially a little sceptical of the benefits of the application of LPM, most clients now demand some sort of project plan prior to the commencement of matters. Like other developments however, it’s use varies according to the type of matter, its complexity and the practice group doing the work.
Some may say that the use of LPM has come leaps and bounds in the past decade. My own view is far more sceptical.
Why? – well, in part, because I trained as a major projects/PFI lawyer in the mid-1990s and almost every office (in the days before open plan offices) had either a white board or chalk board with the deal plan set out on it (with critical project dates). Almost all the lawyers I knew in those days practised LPM, we just didn’t call it that.
That said and out the way, I want to introduce you to the LPM that will probably have a massive impact on how we resource legal matters going forward.
Legal Portfolio Management.
The ‘portfolio’ here relates to numerous rising trends.
It can mean ‘unbundling’ – where their is a split between what in-house lawyers and their private practice lawyers agree to do.
It can mean how private practice firms resource their matters – moving away from utilisation rates as a performance indicator – where one person doing 200% and another 50% is a matric of success – to one where ‘team’ means meeting the lows and highs of resourcing around the firm (although I will add this will likely need the use of practice or client managers taking charge of the issue rather than client relationship managers).
Importantly, and increasingly, it will mean ‘agile’ working. By ‘agile’ here I refer to the use of freelancers/contractors/locum (see Lawyers On Demand and Crowd and Co) to met capacity needs, to the use of in-house shared services (see Westpac and Telstra), to the use of teams comprising lawyers from different law firms.
Whatever else, it is my view that Legal Portfolio Management will have significantly more impact on the long term resourcing of legal matters than LPM has.
“Temporary and contract opportunities continue to arise as a result of new projects that existing teams do not have the capacity to undertake”.