In-house attorneys rarely have the luxury of focusing on one project at a time. On any given day, we juggle many projects, each involving different personnel, priorities and due dates. Despite our familiarity with deadlines and hectic schedules, in-house legal departments often lag behind other business units in adopting project-management techniques. It seems that few lawyers possess well-honed project-management skills. Yet in these cost- and resource-conscious times, project-management skills have become as vital for in-house legal teams as for other departments.
Skill No. 1: Know what is on your plate. Every law department needs a means to track all pending matters and deadlines. If your organization is large, a matter-management system can be invaluable to staying on top of open matters. These systems permit companies to organize contacts, documents, people, deadlines and data by project; control user access to the contents of each project; and generate alerts to keep those projects on schedule. If a matter-management system is not an option, there are numerous cost-effective ways to stay on top of an expanding to-do list: Identify at least one person who owns the tracking of all matters, deadlines and key stakeholders in a prominent place (e.g., a spreadsheet); establish a timeline for critical tasks; and monitor all deliverables and set calendar reminders to ensure timely progress.