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Legal Project Manager Roles

The demand for legal project managers shows no sign of slowing down.  Over the past few years the growth in legal project management positions has been exceptional.

Generally, legal project manager salaries at large city law firms are in excess of those paid to professional project managers working for organisations in other industries.

Legal project managers work hard for their money.  Having sound project management skills alone is often not enough to secure a legal project manager role.  Candidates must also demonstrate knowledge of the legal services industry and convince that they can get things done in law firms – not always as easy as it sounds.

In fact the title ‘Legal Project Manager’ masks several different roles within law firms.

Snapshot of legal project management positions advertised

Some legal project managers are embedded within legal service delivery teams, and they work along side their practitioner colleagues helping to deliver legal services.  Often this kind of legal project manager is a former solicitor, costs lawyer or professional support lawyer.

Other legal project managers are different, with legal project managers being asked to run change projects which directly impact on legal service delivery efforts.  These change projects could be, for example, process mapping and improvement, client communication or software assessment and implementation initiatives.  Often these legal project managers have a project management background in professional services (not necessarily law firms).

Many legal project managers are asked to fulfill both these kinds of roles, with other duties thrown in as well.

I know of graduates from my courses who have advanced their careers by breaking into the legal services industry or moving to a better position at another law firm to practice as legal project managers.

Adding legal project management skills to your existing role

Senior Associate

In private practice law firms Senior Associates are often de facto team delivery team leaders, the people who are responsible for ensuring the legal work gets done to sufficient quality and communicating the true value of that work to clients on a day-to-day basis.

Even in law firms which have legal project managers, there are never enough legal project managers to go around.  Furthermore, most law firms can’t afford to employ dedicated legal project managers.

This means that most of the tasks which I regard as legal project management tasks fall to Senior Associates: matter scoping, client communications and team management are key competencies required of Senior Associates.

All the above – and more – are covered by good legal project management techniques, tools and practices.  Rather than have Senior Associates try to develop and apply these skills ad-hoc, legal project management provides a framework and tool-kit for Senior Associates to help them get their job done efficiently and effectively.

Professional Support Lawyer (PSL)

The role of Professional Support Lawyer (PSL) is changing.  PSLs are no longer tasked with only conducting legal research and providing technical advice for their front-line colleagues.

Developing ‘best practice’ material has always been part of PSLs remit.  Increasingly, PSLs are also being asked to drive more formal change initiatives with the aim of improving legal service delivery.  The change instruments can be of various kinds, such as process improvements and / or helping to select and embed new software applications in legal service delivery teams.

Making change happen effectively requires good project management skills, which is why I see an increasing number of PSLs on my legal project management courses.

In-House Lawyer

The legal service environments in-house lawyers work in are, generally, much less well resourced than private practice.  This means that in-house lawyers must squeeze as much as they can from the resources they have.  Hence project planning is crucially important, but this only works if in-house lawyers are engaged by the business early enough.

One aspect of legal project management which particularly appeals to in-house lawyers is that it allows them to create and promote a ‘process of engagement’ with the business.  Showing the business that the in-house team has a structured way of doing things helps set expectations and promotes earlier engagement, so that in-house teams spend less time fire-fighting and more time advising the business at a much earlier stage of the business development life-cycle.

The other aspect of legal project management which especially appeals to in-house teams is help with more effective collaboration with their external legal advisors.  The number one complaint of in-house lawyers with regards their external legal advisors is that they (still!) provide legal advice with is overly technical and not commercial enough.  Legal project management can help with this too and during my course I explain how in-house and external lawyers can collaborate together more effectively.

Costs Lawyer

Costs lawyers have the baseline skills to be excellent legal project managers.  They are experts in estimating duration and costs of typical tasks and activities undertaken in dispute resolution.

The primary benefit of project management skills for costs lawyers I find is in the area of communications – both with the legal team and client.

Project managers spend between 70% – 90% engaged in communications of various kinds.  The ultimate purpose of all this communication is to facilitate effective collaboration.

‘Structured collaboration’ is a theme running throughout project management and I think this is where costs lawyers most benefit from legal project management training.

Internationally recognised training and certification

The International Institute of Legal Project Management  (IILPM) has trained and certified legal service professionals as legal project managers in over 40 countries.  The IILPM is growing and it is now internationally recognised as providing industry standard accreditation in legal project management.

During the training course you will:

  • Be taken through key project management concepts, all placed within the context of legal service delivery
  • Acquire IILPM templates so you can start to apply LPM with confidence immediately after training
  • Have an opportunity to practice legal project management in a ‘safe space’. The course features workshops and exercises, all of which are facilitated by me (Antony Smith)
  • Assess and start to develop your team leadership skills
  • Learn how to support process improvement and innovation projects within the firm
  • Hear from previous graduates from the course who are applying lessons learned from the course now in their firm / in-house legal department.

After the course you will receive electronic and hard copy certification from the IILPM and be able to use the IILPM logo on your business card, email footer and web page biography etc.

You will also be able to take up to three hours free 1:1 sessions via skype or telephone with me, where you can raise any LPM implementation issues of concern to you.  Few things are worse than spending time and money on a training course only to put aside the training documentation and not apply the course back at work.  I really do try and help you avoid this.

Many large commercial entities (especially those in the banking and financial services sector) now insist their law firms appoint legal project managers and apply legal project management techniques to their matters.  Many such clients are very keen on working collaboratively with their law firms and they believe having legal project managers in place is a necessary condition for successful collaboration.

Having certified legal project managers in you firm / legal department will help convince current and potential clients that you are serious about doing their legal work efficiently, cost effectively and collaboratively.

Still need to convince your manager?

It seems likely that, regardless of the organisation you work in, you are going to have to apply for approval and funding to attend one of my legal project management training courses.

With this in mind, I thought it would help to provide you with some notes which you can use for your application.

Please click on the image adjacent to download a plain MS Word file.  This has some text and bullet-points you may like to cut and paste into your course request. Its only a small thing, but I hope it makes your life a little easier.

Good luck with the application.

Would you like any further information about my legal project management training courses?

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