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IILPM conference 2022 – falling in love with legal project management

On day two of the IILPM (International Institute of Legal Project Management) conference 2022, Luis Angel Prendes, Global Director of Legal Affairs and Digital Transformation at Telefonica (Spain) maintained that developing and applying legal project management was like ‘falling in love’.

Luis spoke eloquently about the passion, drive – and persistence – required to implement legal project management (LPM) in such a way as to benefit the sponsoring business.  One of the stand-out speakers of the conference, Luis was talking as part of a panel about how to build successful LPM practices for in-house teams.

I think the same can be said for developing LPM in private practice law firms too.  People should love what they are doing and feel energised by positive results they achieve and progress they make.  During the conference we heard a lot about this, from both private practice law firms and in-house counsel’s point of view.

The purpose of this post is to provide you with a flavour of the online conference and note some highlights which resonated with me.  This is not a detailed account of the conference, as the conference covered far too much for that.

 

The IILPM conference 12 & 13 May 2022

The conference was held online on 12 and 13 May 2022 and was free to attend.  Attendees logged in from all over the world.

Broadly, day one of the conference was focused on legal project management and private practice law firms, while the focus of day two was on legal project management and in-house teams.

Unfortunately, I can’t possibly reference every conference speaker and contributor in this blog post, but if you are curious to find out more about the event, please download the 7-page agenda here.

 

Law Firm Best Practices in LPM

This discussion began with a distinguished panel and was then continued with break-out rooms covering LPM developments in Latin America, USA & Canada, Africa & Middle East, Europe and Australia, New Zealand and Asia (APAC).

The first and most obvious point make is that legal project management is now a truly global discipline with law firms and in-house teams all over the world applying LPM practices as part of their day-to-day legal service delivery.

Summarising the LPM development points covered during the discussions, the advice to law firms is that they should:

  1. Take time to understand client demands and then apply the right LPM skills, tools and processes to meet those demands
  2. Start LPM development by taking small steps at first (indeed, taking any steps regards legal project management and legal process improvement helps break through barriers and overcome inertia).
  3. Make sure that LPM initiatives are supported by senior partners / senior management, who are prepared to remain committed and engaged throughout LPM development.  Having this support significantly increases the likelihood of success when rolling out LPM.
  4. Appreciate that LPM is more than about simply cost containment. Yes, managing matter costs is important, but LPM can help with so much more than this, including the often-intangible increases in client satisfaction.
  5. Technology can be a great enabler, but experience also shows its best to spend time getting the right people, skills and processes in place first before moving on to deploying technology to further develop and scale up LPM.

 

Challenges when trying to sustain LPM

Law firms which are very well established in the field of LPM still face challenges with their LPM practice.  Even at firms with a relatively high degree of legal project management maturity, LPM deployment is not universal, applied with equal rigour across all practice areas and offices.

Clearly some law firms and in-house teams have better developed LPM infrastructure than others, with well-established supporting tools and processes.  However more advanced LPM infrastructure is not the sole pre-requisite for LPM success.

Often the continued development of LPM is reflective of the soft skills deployed by legal project managers and those acting as legal project managers.  Collaborating with clients, law firm colleagues and other law firms all require excellent communication skills and a high degree of emotional intelligence.  Collaboration and communication were, it seemed to me, two recurring themes running throughout the conference.

In jurisdictions and practice areas where LPM is most developed, it appears there are not enough legal project managers to meet demand.  Although technology can help here with scaling up by, for example, distributing LPM artifacts such as checklists and templates, fundamentally legal project management is a ‘people service’.

 

Independent legal project managers

Good legal project managers oil the wheels of legal service delivery.  They do this by being excellent communicators and helping make sure the right operational decisions are taken during matter delivery.

I hosted the European break-out room, facilitating contributions from Lola Conde, Corporate Legal Director, Santander (Spain), Kevin O’Sullivan, Director of Legal Project Management at Baker McKenzie, Victoria Harris, Global Head of Legal Project Management and Resourcing at DLA Piper (U.K) and Emma Nigogosian, Senior Legal Project Manager, Burges Salmon (U..K).  Among the many topics discussed, we talked about the emergence of independent, or freelance, legal project managers.

I have written about this before and I would like to point out that it was not me who raised it during the breakout room discussions!  If memory serves me correctly it was raised by Mark Friston, Barrister and Fellow of the IILPM.

Break-out room panellists agreed that they are seeing more independent legal project managers on the market and that this trend it likely to grow.  It is difficult, if not impossible to say how fast the growth will be, but its clear that in the U.K. at least the emergence of independent legal project managers has started to trend.

 

Developing Legal Project Managers

Another recurring theme of the conference was the continued development of legal project managers.

With this in mind, we were delighted to report on progress with v2.0 of the IILPM’s LPM Competency Model.

Software development work has started on the IILPM’s LPM competency self-assessment tool.  The online assessment tool captures experience, as well as knowledge and skills.  The tool has a variety of paths through it, as the questions asked of users will vary in response to the previous answers they have submitted.

This is how we envisage the tool working:

  1. A user completes the IILPM’s LPM competency survey online
  2. After completing the survey, the user receives a summary report from the competency self-assessment tool
  3. After receiving a summary report, the user will have a further option to have a one-on-one consultation with an IILPM accredited training provider (ATP), providing deeper insight to the self-assessment findings
  4. Thereafter consultation can result in a customised Professional Development Plan devised by the IILPM ATP.

By ‘user’ we mean either someone in the role of legal project manager, acting as a legal project manager (without the job title) or a prospective legal project manager.

There is still a lot of software development work to be done before we move on to the end-user beta testing phase.  During the conference quite a few attendees volunteered to be beta testers of the tool.

 

Recognising innovation in legal project management

At conference close it was also announced that the IILPM is to run a competition for two awards aimed a celebrating success and innovation in the field of legal project management.

One award is open to in-house legal teams and the other is open to private practice law firms.  The IILPM will soon publish its organisational LPM maturity model, and the award criteria will reflect this.

Nominations for the awards will open in July with the winners announced at another online event in November 2022.

 

Summary

These are just some of the highlights from the inaugural IILPM conference about LPM.  Inevitably, the highlights selected reflect my interests and it is reasonable to assume that others would highlight different things, which are of most interest to them.

The conference showed that that LPM is in rude health around the globe.  LPM is practised, and being continuously developed, in many, if not most, jurisdictions.

I hope to see readers of this article at the online awards ceremony later this year and, of course, at the second IILPM LPM conference in 2023!

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