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Legal Project Management As A Product

Four steps for creating a legal project management product

Legal project management skills, methods and tools are all connected.  So why not present them as a coherent and cogent whole?  As a product offering.

Thinking of Legal Project Management (LPM) as a product helps sharpen focus about what legal project management is and how it can best meet the needs of its end-users.

In this article I will explain why legal service organizations should develop legal project management products and show how to make a start with product development.


How can legal project management be a product?

Legal Project Management (LPM) is a service, delivered by skilled project managers.

So can LPM really be thought of as a product?

Yes it can, if looked through the lens of marketing.

As Wikipedia notes:

In marketing, a product is an object, or system, or service made available for consumer use as of the consumer demand; it is anything that can be offered to a market to satisfy the desire or need of a customer….A service is also regarded as a type of product.

Anything which is offered to a market for consumption can be thought of as a product.

Product Management is the discipline concerned with product conception, development, and marketing.

Wikipedia again:

Product management is the business process of planning, developing, launching, and managing a product or service.  It includes the entire lifecycle of a product, from ideation to development to go to market.  Product managers are responsible for ensuring that a product meets the needs of its target market and contributes to the business strategy, while managing a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle.

The key point to note from the quote above is that a product must ‘meet the needs of its target market’ if it is to be successful.


Product development and product-based planning distinguished

Before going further, I would like to prevent a source of confusion arising when referring to developing legal project management products.

‘Product based planning’ is a useful concept found in project management.  It refers to thinking of project deliverables as products.  Each deliverable (product) can be decomposed into its constituent parts, and represented in a tool called the Product Breakdown Structure (PBS).

A good PBS provides a great lead-in for creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).  A WBS is used to identify and record resources best placed to create each product component.

To avoid doubt: I am not referring to the concept of product-based planning in this article.

I am using the term ‘product’ in the way it is commonly understood by marketeers, as explained in the quote from Wikipedia above.


Why develop a legal project management product?

Following a basic product development process should help get you thinking about how legal project management can solve real-world problems and how it can be best ‘consumed’ by its end-users.

After going through the product development process, legal project management teams should have an offering which is fit for purpose and is valued by clients and colleagues.

Ultimately, the main reason for following a product development process is to make sure you have a product which can be marketed and sold with confidence.

There will always be a need to ‘sell’ legal project management.  Product development can help enormously with the sales effort.

Plenty of lawyers believe that legal project management is not for them or their practice area.  While I think they are wrong, I accept they do need convincing.  LPM product development can help convince colleagues about the relevance of LPM to their practice.

More importantly, LPM product development also helps sell LPM to law firm clients.  When pitching for new work every law firm says they have great people, systems, and processes in place for effective matter management.  How do you differentiate your legal project management offering from your competitors?

Product differentiation is one of the key parts of product development.  Giving thought to product differentiation in advance helps immensely when the time comes to pitch for new work or convince existing clients they should continue to stay with your firm.


Four steps for creating a legal project management product

  1. Identify your potential product users
  2. Understand the problems those users are currently facing
  3. Design a product which solves user problems so well, users will pay for the product solution
  4. Leverage your organization’s distinctive competence to help develop, market, and sell your product.


1. Identify your product users

As indicated above there are two broad classes of consumers of legal project management products.

The first and most obvious is the firm’s clients.

Unless you are in a niche law firm dealing with a narrow range of clients, it’s unrealistic to develop a single legal project management product designed to serve all your firm’s clients.  This is because, when it comes to the detail, different clients will have different needs.

For example, a legal project management product designed to meet the needs of clients in the construction sector who regularly require dispute resolution advice is likely to be different, in detail, to that which meets the needs of clients in the Pensions or Banking sectors.

As a starting point therefore, you will need to put your firms’ clients into different market segments.  Then I’d suggest focusing on one market segment at a time and develop a legal project management product to meet the needs of each segment.

The second class of customer for your legal project management product will be the legal teams servicing each market sector.  This should include everyone from the core legal team of partners, associates, and paralegals to wider team members such as outside counsel and expert witnesses.


2. Understand the problems your users are facing

The best way of finding out the problems your potential users are facing is to ask them.

The purpose of your questioning is to discover the most common operational problems faced when delivering or receiving legal services.

Colleagues and clients often welcome the opportunity to have some input to help improve legal service delivery; they welcome discussing ways of improving things.

After considering answers to your questions, you will probably need to dig deeper to understand the problems in detail and craft workable solutions.  Ideally you also want to clarify and confirm your understanding with data.

Let’s assume for the moment that both clients and colleagues say that communication can be problematic during matter delivery.  Why is that?  Is content the problem? Or it is the frequency of communication?  Or is it the mode of communication?  Or perhaps, where documents are concerned, it is presentation?  The point is you will need to focus and properly understand the root cause of the communication problem.



3. Solve user problems…

You will then need to create product solutions to the problems you have identified and verified.

Still assuming that you have identified communications as a common problem, as part of your product design you will almost certainly create new legal project management processes, procedures and tools which help clarify communications during the matter management process.


…and ensure users will pay for your product solution.

You will then also need to make sure that your users will pay for the solutions you have incorporated into your legal project management product.

Nowadays it is common for law firms to charge and bill for time spent on matters by legal project managers.  Hence getting clients to pay for the legal project management solution should not be too much of an issue, especially when the benefits of applying legal project management are clear to see.

Once you have a legal project management product, I don’t think clients should be expected to pay for legal project managers time as such.  I think both sides should think in terms of a fixed fee for the legal project management service /product (but I appreciate that charging structures will vary from firm to firm).

Arguably practicing lawyers ‘pay’ for legal project management by accepting the fact that less of their time will be billed on individual matters which either have legal project managers assigned to them or make use of LPM support tools.

Legal project managers have better project management skills than most practicing lawyers and they tend to be charged out at a lower charge-out rate than practicing lawyers.  So, using billable hours as the baseline approach, it makes perfect sense for legal project managers rather than practicing lawyers to bill for legal project management tasks.


4. Leverage your firm’s distinctive competence

Lets assume you are working in a law firm which has an excellent reputation in construction litigation.  This is what you are best known for in the market.

The obvious thing to do is develop a legal project management product which harnesses your firm’s distinctive competence and standing in this market.

But how to go about this?

Pragmatic Marketing (a product management training organization) has a model called PRIME.

This model helps product developers think about the distinctive competence of the organization creating and selling a new product.

PRIME is an acronym which stands for:

  • Purpose
  • Reputation
  • Innovation
  • Methods
  • Expertise.

The model is used to generate questions and help with product development.  A sample set of questions is below:

Purpose: Are you passionate about the idea? Does the new product / service idea align with your organizations purpose? (Or your organizations ‘why’?)

Reputation: Would your clients expect you to deliver it?  Does it align for what you are best known for?

Innovation: Do you have new ideas and / or a unique perspective?  What have you improved beyond its original state?

Methods: Do you have systems and processes that validate your solution?  What systems and methods do you consistently leverage in your organisation to deliver new products / services?

Expertise: Do you have the know-how to deliver on your ideas?  How widespread is the experience of your team for the markets and types of products / services you want to pursue?

As you can see from this summary, using the PRIME model set of questions should help generate lots of ideas about your legal project management product development and how it can be made to best fit with your firms (or practice area) legal service offering.



Developing a legal project management product is time well spent by legal project management teams.

Going through the product development process, the teams will arrive at a deeper understanding of problems their target end-users are facing and how those problems can be overcome.

They will also promote themselves and their firm, confident knowing that their legal project management product solves real-world problems and helps differentiate them from their competitors.

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