Lawyers and project managers: Differing mindsets, an opportunity for excellence
In our experience, the phrase ‘project management’ can sound alien to many lawyers. Our Project Management team work with teams of lawyers every day, and for some the phrase conjures up images of rigid and overly structured processes that are worlds apart from the creativity and open-mindedness demanded by legal practice. It’s time to challenge this perception, however. Incorporating project management principles can significantly enhance effectiveness and efficiency in handling legal matters. That’s why in-house teams should consider learning more about them and embracing project management in their daily work.
First, shift your mindset
As someone leading a legal team, you operate in a world where precision, precedent, and meticulous research are the order of the day. You need to find the legal needle in the haystack and ensure your business is protected from any risks looming on the horizon. In contrast, project managers are the masters of adaptability, thriving in an environment of shifting circumstances and changing stakeholder needs.
These two mindsets aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they can be complementary. Rather than viewing project management as a rigid structure imposed upon the legal process, think of it as a tool to bring order and structure to all those non-legal aspects of what you do.
Try using project management techniques where they’ll really make a difference
One of the significant advantages of project management is its ability to provide a structured framework for managing timeframes, budgets, cost controls and reporting. If you try integrating project management techniques into one of these areas, you can free up valuable time and mental energy for the more interesting, strategic and ‘thinking’ work your team likes doing.
At Walker Morris, we harness our Project Management team to seamlessly integrate processes into our legal matters. That means focusing on measuring and improving three key KPIs: time, cost, and quality. While only lawyers can be truly responsible for the quality of work, project management methods can help ensure that time and costs align with expectations, allowing our lawyers to deliver the high quality that our clients demand.
Remember not to try and apply project management wholesale to every legal matter, however, as there’s a real danger that it would lead to inefficiency. Selectively use the right techniques in the right place. Implement a structured project plan that considers phases, milestones, and regular stakeholder communication. Flexibility is key to accommodating unforeseen situations.
Explore the tools that are out there
We have today a plethora of tools at our disposal, from workflow automation to collaborative platforms like HighQ. There’s lots of tools out there that bring real time information together into one place, so you can track key project elements – such as spend against budget, progress against milestone etc. – more easily. Technology can systemise parts of your project, helping you to create workflows and playbooks. In short: you need a great team, but you don’t need humans for everything.
Work with your law firm to integrate project management
We always advise to never dismiss project management as too rigid or overly structured for the work of in-house teams. In our experience of working with clients to create tools together to support more efficient delivery, it’s clear that incorporating project management can be a real game-changer.
So, if you want to streamline your approach and make it more organised, more efficient and more accountable, speak to your law firms and harness the power of project management.
“If you try integrating project management techniques into one of these areas, you can free up valuable time and mental energy for the more interesting, strategic and ‘thinking’ work your team likes doing.”