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At the sharp end – Legal Project Management distinguished and in context.

In my last post I caused confusion to some by referring to Product Management in addition to Legal Project Management. I will now try to clarify, by putting Product Management and Legal Project Management in context of law firm strategic modelling and service delivery.

It is important to appreciate that, from a Product Management perspective, the words ‘product’ and ‘service’ are interchangeable.  The emphasis is on the ‘management’ of the thing you sell, whether it be a product or service.  Product Management is most commonly associated with the creation of technology based products and associated services, such as computer software applications and related installation or customisation services.  I stand by my assertion that the discipline of Product Management need not be confined to high technology products, and that law firm strategists would do well to adopt some Product Management techniques when formulating their strategy (see below).   Product Management is market focused.  It can help strategic thinkers zoom-in on how good a fit their product and services are to market needs.

Legal Project Management offers techniques and methods to assist with the effective delivery of legal services, helping lawyers improve client and matter service delivery.  Arguably it is less concerned with serving ‘the market’ and more with serving individuals.  But this is where the boundaries between the two disciplines of Product and Project Management can begin to blur.  A collection of individuals can make up a market.  If Legal Project Management helps lawyers to deliver legal services effectively and consistently to all their clients, then it has helped lawyers service their market properly.

I think it fair to say that Product Management techniques are particularly helpful when defining target markets and how, ideally, the offering should be shaped to fit the perceived needs of those markets while Legal Project Management can offer practical help at the sharp end, to make sure the legal services defined are in fact delivered effectively, within budget and to the clients’ satisfaction.  So how can legal service organisations make use of Product Management and Legal Project Management?

Immediately below is my diagrammatic representation of Professor Stephen Mayson’s law firm strategy model, as summarised in one of his papers at the Legal Services Institute.  (I have blogged about this model before, and you may be interested to read the earlier post). This diagrammatic is not an exact representation of the Mayson strategic model in detail, but it does show the four core elements of law firm strategy (value creation, resourcing, investment philosophy and value capture) and the main factors strategic thinkers need to consider in order to maximize value for the law firm and its clients.


The Mayson Law Firm Strategic Model
Diagrammatic Representation of the Mayson Law Firm Strategic Model


Next I highlight where Product Management techniques can be usefully applied by law firm strategists working with this model.  Defining markets, market positioning, establishing market credibility and articulating the firm’s value proposition are all classic product management tasks.  There are a number of well-known techniques, frameworks and methodologies available which help product managers accomplish these tasks.


Product Management in Law firms
Product Management in context of a law firm strategic model


Next I identify where I think Legal Project Management sits in the law firm strategic model.  In essence Legal Project Management is about deploying all of a firm’s resources in such a way that client service delivery is done most effectively, bearing in mind the constraints of resources, scope and schedule.  Put this way, Legal Project Management appears very dry and unexciting, perhaps appearing the poor relation to Product Management  – but this is far from the case.  As noted earlier, Legal Project Management is at the sharp end.  It is where strategic aims meet the reality of service delivery.  Effective delivery of legal services helps retain clients, win new ones and advance credibility in the market place.  Legal Project Management techniques can be used  – indeed they are required – to help manage a variety of pricing practices which are designed to maximise revenue in any given set of circumstances.  From a commercial perspective what’s unexciting about that?


Legal Project Management in context of a law firm strategic model.


I highlight below how law firms can leverage the most benefit from Legal Project Management.  Applying some Legal Project Management techniques in isolation will undoubtedly help with individual client engagements, but law firms should aim for more than this.  Constant review and improvement of all resources which can contribute to effective project delivery should result in long term benefits to law firms and their clients alike.


Leveraging benefit from Legal Project Management - feedback loop and continuous improvement.
Leveraging benefit from Legal Project Management – feedback loop and continuous improvement.


The disciplines of Product and (Legal) Project Management should be viewed as being complementary.  Market identification, segmentation and design of the offering may all be for naught if accompanied by poor delivery. Equally, gearing-up for really effective delivery of legal services may be a waste of time and resources if the offering is simply not going to be attractive to the target market in the first place.  Professional Services organisations are in a more fortunate position than hardware product manufacturers, as the delivery stage offers an opportunity to refine and shape the initial offering to meet the needs of particular clients. Needless to say, applying Legal Project Management techniques should assist with this.

It is also good practice to feed results from the delivery stage back into future product and service design, as illustrated in the following diagram.

Feedback loop from delivery to project management activities.
Feedback loop from delivery to project management activities.

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