There is more pressure on General Counsel today to demonstrate that certain management controls are in place.
Lately, there has been a lot of talk amongst General Counsel about legal project management. General Counsel have always seen the value of project management as a core element of matter delivery, however, they have only lately been able to focus on this as a major element of their delivery strategy.
Until recently, they have been more focused on getting basic visibility into spend, getting their outside counsel guidelines in shape and distributed and exploring the use of alternative fee arrangements. In response to this, one company, Elevate Services has created Cael Project to improve relationships with in-house counsel.
Pratik Patel, VP of Business Solutions at Elevate recently sat down with Inside Counsel to discuss the growing importance of legal project management in today’s law firms and corporations and how Cael Project can help.
These days, it is just not acceptable anymore for a General Counsel to say, “I don’t have basic management principles within my department, but I won that matter for us.” According to Patel, there is more pressure on them today more than ever to demonstrate that certain management controls are in place, in addition to providing expert legal advice and favorable outcomes to their clients.
“As these items become more consistent in their daily operations, the use and presence of project management internally and externally becomes more important as well,” he explained. “Especially as more GCs turn to AFAs, the value of legal bill review diminishes and the value of project management on matters significantly rises. For these reasons and more, General Counsel have turned their attention to this and some have even made it a core requirement of their OC selection strategy.”
It is key for a General Counsel to demonstrate to the business that the law department, their staff and their partners have project management principles in place, per Patel. Some best practices include: Intake - a method for receiving legal work, classifying it and assigning it to the appropriate party; Plan – a method for collaborating with the legal team on scope, timing, resources, challenges and strategy; Execute – a method for monitoring the matter, flagging risks and managing scope and expectations to ensure a successful outcome and; Review – a method for evaluating the outcome, what worked, what didn’t and what pieces should be reused.
“The primary challenge is that lawyers perceive project management to be complex. It doesn’t need to be and really shouldn’t be a large burden on lawyers,” said Patel. “In fact, by simple application, it can actually make their lives better! Project management can make difficult conversations easier and help raise risks earlier to prevent chaos that usually ensues. 90 percent of legal project management success is based on ensuring that lawyers communicate status and share information regularly in a consistent and structured form.”
Another big challenge around project management in law departments is that legal teams didn’t understand it or what was being asked of them. So, a team of over 20 industry professionals, led by Connie Brenton from NetApp, Patrick Ellis from General Motors and Pratik Patel from Elevate Services, worked to create an executive summary of project management in law departments to educate legal leadership teams of what legal project management is, what the benefits are and how they can get started. The CLOC LPM Initiative team also created a playbook that includes a simple checklist for each matter stage and templates s that can be used and configured by legal teams to easily apply project management in their delivery.
One of the company’s major developments for the market is Cael Project, a software solution designed to provide law departments and their firms a collaborative online platform for simple planning, monitoring and review of legal matters. In 2017, they also launched a managed service offering to deliver trained legal project managers onto legal teams who need it for matters or for a portfolio matters.
Now, Cael Project provides lawyers with a method for project managing matters. It can assist both sides collaborate on a matter plan, enabling users to easily develop phases, estimates, assumptions and scope. During the life of the matter, Cael Project provides a simple matter status dashboard, including budget to actuals, overall progress and a summary of challenges. Further, the dashboard allows both sides to easily communicate or comment on material updates to ensure proper guidance is provided. And, it allows legal teams to store and clone previous work so that future matters can be easily planned.
Patel explained, “It enables more proactive management of the matter in a light touch way and promotes communication based on simple updates to financials, progress or risk indicators. It speaks to counsel the way they like to see things and gives them just enough information, not overwhelming them with details. It enables lawyers on both sides to easily know where a matter is at any given point in time.”