Project management is becoming an essential skill for the modern day lawyer. With the pressures of meeting your billable hours, to preparing for court, attending client meetings whilst taking on new clients – you will undoubtedly feel inundated with the amount of work on your plate. As the average lawyer sees over 100 matters, project management is becoming an indispensable tool in the modern legal sphere, especially when more than one lawyer works on a case.
It is evident that project management skills have resounding benefits on yourself and your firm. Successful project management skills assist legal professionals to provide more reliable fee estimates, better matter management and in turn, will result in improved value to your clients and increased efficiency and profitability to your firm. This article aims to outline better project management tips for legal professionals who utilize this powerful tool to better manage their ever-growing plate of complex work.
1. Define your project or case objectives
Before you start a case or a large project, you must step back and flesh out the entire scope of it. Ensure you clearly understand the client’s goals, objectives and deliverables involved. It is crucial to understand the project’s goals from the client’s perspective as much as your own. Clearly outline the steps involved and prioritise each objective and goal.
2. Plan your approach and team involved
Preparation for your case or project is often the most essential step. How will you get where you want to go and what team members will be involved? Ensure you refer back to your list of purposes and objectives. You must also be clear on what success will look like and assess the feasibility of achieving these results. List all the work needed to be completed and understand the skills of your team that will be necessary. Make sure you prepare a reasonably achievable schedule and estimate the costs involved. Furthermore, make sure you assess and mitigate any risks associated with the project.
3. Get Started
Select who will be part of your team and communicate with them individually the project or case scope and objectives. It is essential that your team understands what your client wants as much as you do. Ensure all parties are comfortable and clear on the purpose of the case and the direction you want it to head in. Make sure they understand any strategic moves you want to play and that they don’t disclose information to the other side. Hold a kick off meeting and start your project together as a team.
4. Utilize Technology to be more efficient
With today’s technology, it is essential that you understand how to efficiently use your firm’s chosen project management software. Reap the benefits of such software by setting reminders, monitoring your objectives and billables in your project plan. Assembling progress reports and creating achievable timelines that are shared with the client are a great way of providing a transparent view of how the project is moving along.
5. Monitor the Progress
It is crucial that you carefully monitor your team’s performance and keep up to date with the status of their billables and expenses. Ensure they are executing their goals and that they are staying on track in terms of time. If needed, develop progress reports and make sure to be transparent with your client by keeping them informed.
6. Execute and Finalise
Direct your team towards to end objectives by encouraging them to wrap up the project when the end is near. Make sure that they communicate clearly with the client at this stage and that the client is happy with the way the project has been running. Hopefully you will reach a settlement that everyone is happy with!
7. Evaluate the Outcome
Most project managers and lawyers forget this step. It is extremely important to step back and evaluate the performance and results of the case and any lessons you have learnt. Note down any mishaps and be proud of your accomplishments. Communicate this to your team so you can be more efficient and effective next time round.