Competency models can help individuals develop their career and help organisations resource properly.
A good legal project management competency model should be an essential tool for you if you are a:
- Legal Project Management Team Leader
- Legal Project Manager (and I include in this term people who act as legal project managers, even though they may not have the official tittle)
- Aspiring Legal Project Manager.
The International Institute of Legal Project Management (IILPM) first developed its Legal Project Management Competency Framework in 2017.
Recently, IILPM Accredited Trainers and Fellows (Todd Hutchison, Aileen Leventon, Ignaz Fusgen, David Rueff and I) have been working on version two of the framework, which we now refer to as a the IILPM Legal Project Management Competency Model.
Our work has been driven by renewed market need.
Our aim is to create a competency model, and an associated set of tools, which will help everyone develop their legal project management knowledge, skills and practical effectiveness.
The field of legal project management has developed since 2017. Some illustrative features of the current legal project management sector are:
- Legal project management is no longer perceived as being purely about legal matter management. Established legal project managers in larger law firms often refer to themselves as being part of a larger legal operations team (this was explained very well by Abilash Unny of Ashursts and Jon Elam of CMS during my recent Alumni meet-up).
- Following on from the above, many established legal project managers now spend a good deal of their time working on process improvement projects and related legal I.T projects alongside other colleagues in legal operations.
- Legal project managers also often work alongside Business Development colleagues, helping to win new work by helping put proposals together and taking part in pitches and presentations.
- The so called ‘soft skills’ are increasingly important. Communications is the most obvious soft skill but I also think that other skills, such as resilience, are important. Personally I class resilience as a skill because it is something that can be learned, developed and practiced.
- Legal project managers are no longer found solely in law firms. Over the last few years there has clearly been an increase in the number of legal operations staff employed within in-house legal teams.
We have tried to factor-in these developments, and others, whilst creating our new competency model.
Points Of Entry
The IILPM has trained hundreds of legal project managers in over 45 countries during the past four years.
For example, I have trained people as legal project managers who are (and in many cases continue to be)
- Legal Project Managers
- Practising lawyers in both private practice and -in-house legal teams
- Professional Support Lawyers
- Costs Lawyers
- People working in a range of support services in law firms such as I.T and Business Development
- Consultants providing services to the legal services industry and
- Professional project managers looking to transition into the legal services industry.
You will have noticed that I said many of my graduates continue to hold the official tittle they held when they first took my course. As I pointed out at the start of this article, many people act as, and apply the skills of, legal project managers even though they themselves do not hold the title of Legal Project Manager.
Our new competency model acknowledges the varied points of entry into legal project management.
If people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences enter the field of legal project management, there will obviously be some differences between them in the skills, knowledge and experience they bring to the role of legal project manager.
Variety is great and we are not suggesting that all legal project managers should be identical, like peas in a pod.
Nevertheless, we are suggesting that there should be some recognised core competencies of legal project managers.
We also contend that these competencies should be continuously developed by people wanting to further their career in legal project management.
Competency Model Core Knowledge Areas
The IILPM’s LPM Competency Model is founded on five broad areas of knowledge we expect legal project managers need to know something about.
These five knowledge areas are:
- Legal Project Lifecycle – The approach, methods and techniques of defining, planning, delivering, and closing legal matters and other projects;
- People Dynamics – The soft skills required to engage key stakeholders and manage legal projects;
- Legal Operations – the policies, processes, information management and the associated supporting technologies of the business of law.
- The legal industry ecosystem – industry knowledge concerning the roles of legal professionals, buyers and consumers involved in legal services.
- The practice of law – the legislative and procedural rules along with ethical responsibilities relating to the practice of law.
The Legal Project Lifecycle remains at the centre of the legal project manager role, but we believe that legal project managers need to know about the other four areas listed too if they are to be truly effective.
Questions and Assessment
So how best to assess competency in each of the knowledge areas?
The most obvious approach is to put questions to people about their experience and skills in each knowledge area and then assess them based on their answers.
We have created the questions and answers. People will be able to select what they believe is the most appropriate answer for them from a pre-selected list of potential answers.
We think the answers people provide place them in one of five levels of practice capability in each knowledge area.
These levels are:
Knowledge Area Gap Analysis
Our intention is to provide a set of tools and resources which will help people on their professional development journey.
The first such resource will be the gap analysis report.
Once we understand where people currently are on the road to accomplishment in each of the knowledge areas then we can perform a gap analysis for each of the 5 knowledge areas.
The gap analysis will give an indication about how much further down the road people must travel to become fully accomplished.
Once people have their initial gap analysis report, then what?
Further Professional Development
It is anticipated that some people will want more than the initial knowledge area gap analysis to help them with their career development.
To help these people we are also working on
- Creating a more detailed behavioural profile tool
- Generating resources to help create personalised professional development plans
- Developing our coaching and mentoring practices to help people attain their professional goals. (I have mentored legal project managers and already offer up to 3 hours free post-course coaching for my legal project management certification graduates).
The beta version of the new IILPM LPM Competency Model is almost complete. Over the coming months we will be looking to pilot test it with a select number of individuals and organisations.
We have some resources in place for the further professional development referred to above, but we still have work to do in this area.
The IILPM itself is changing and evolving as we engage with our graduates and others across the globe. The IILPM is committed to helping everyone working in the field of legal project management and legal operations develop their competence and their careers.
Legal project management has come a long way since I started my training and consultancy practice in 2012. The exciting thing is there is still a lot of development work still to be done as the growth of legal project management and legal operations continues.