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Legal Project Manager Roles: 5 Questions and Answers

Have you ever considered becoming a legal project manager?

Legal project managers are in demand. There is a lot of recruitment activity concerning legal project manager roles in the U.K right now.

I often talk to employers, recruitment specialists, legal project managers and prospective legal project managers.

So I thought it would be useful to answer 5 of the most common questions people ask me about legal project manager roles and recruitment.

I hope this short Q&A will provide a useful starting point for those of you considering becoming a legal project manager.

 

1. Who is recruiting?

Legal Project Manager recruitment is occurring in almost every part of the legal services industry:

  • Private Practice Law Firms
  • Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs)
  • Big Four Accountants
  • In-House Legal Teams
  • Legal software application providers whose solution also includes some legal project management services for their customers, whether they be law firms or in-house legal teams.

Local / Central Government legal departments are absent from this list, which I find surprising.  I have trained government legal service teams in legal project management, so I know this is an area of interest to them.  Currently there does not seem to be much Legal project management recruitment activity from local or central Government departments.

 

2. Where are the legal project manager roles located?

Most legal project manager vacancies are found at the larger law firms.  By ‘larger law firms’ I mean approximately the top 35 U.K. law firms ranked by revenue.  These firms tend to be headquartered in, or have a significant presence in, the City of London.

Not all the roles advertised are London based, including those advertised by large firms.  Most of the large London law firms now have offices in major cities in the U.K.  One consequence of this is that cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Bristol feature prominently as destinations in legal project manager job advertising.

Legal project manager roles and vacancies are not confined to the very largest law firms.  Smaller law firms are building up capability in this area too.  This is especially so where the smaller firms in question practice in a specialist niche area of law.

Generally, the smaller the firm the less likely it is to be City of London based.  Hence smaller sized law firms also promote geographical spread of opportunities.

Many roles, regardless of employer type, also accommodate home-based working to varying degrees.  For professionals in the legal services industry home working is here to stay.   The focus now is on finding the right balance between spending time working at home or the office.

 

3. How much does legal project manager roles pay?

Some broad salary indicators:

Senior Legal Project Manager (London):  £80,000 – £110,000 pa.

Legal Project Manager (London) £60,000 – £80,000 pa.

Legal Project Manager (Manchester) £50,00 – £65,000 pa.

 

4. What is the career path like?

We are witnessing the continued maturity of legal project management as a discipline.  Legal Project Managers are an established feature in the legal services industry.  Over the last few years there have been a number of initiatives designed to provide entry points to young people wanting to develop a career as legal project managers.  Hence we now see roles such as:

It is also increasingly common to see the larger law firms create legal operations groups.  The aim is to bring people with a range of skills and experience together so they can collaborate, and hopefully innovate, to help deliver enhanced legal services to the firm’s clients.

Legal Project Managers, Legal Process Improvement specialists and Legal Technologists can all be found in these groups.

Within these groups role development is illustrated by titles such as

In  this post I want to focus on legal project managers.  I will write a post about law firm legal operations, and legal process improvement specialists, soon.

 

5. What does each legal project manager role involve?

Before providing a quick thumbnail summary of the three legal project manager roles referred to above, and typical skills needed to perform those roles, a caveat: how each role is understood, and therefore performed, in detail varies from law firm to law firm.

Nevertheless, it is possible to paint a few broad brushstrokes which give a flavour of each role.

Legal Project Co-ordinator

As the title suggests this role is primarily about co-ordination and liaison between legal project management teams, the rest of the firm and its clients.  Another important aspect of this role is to support the legal project management team.

Typical support activity includes tasks such as

  • Creating and maintaining project documentation using MS Office and more specialist tools
  • Drafting project status reports (both for the client and delivery team)
  • Helping the delivery team monitor project status.

Project co-ordinators perform their role best when they understand the context in which they are operating.  This means knowing what typical project and matter cycles look like (they need not know matter detail) and how to work effectively within a team.

The IILPM’s Legal Project Associate (LPA) certification was designed with delivery team members like this in mind.

Junior Legal Project Manager

This role usually requires better developed inter-personal skills compared to the project co-ordinator role.  Part of the reason for this is that junior legal project managers are usually expected to work closely with, and support, legal project managers.  While doing this juniors may need to step up a short notice by, for example, presenting project status reports to clients if needed.

A lot of a junior legal project manager time is spent engaging with the wider stakeholder community and presenting feedback from that engagement to the lead legal project manager.  Junior legal project managers also spend a lot of their time doing deep-dive data analysis to help with project planning, monitoring, and reporting.

As with the legal project co-ordinator, the junior legal project managers need to be great delivery team members.

The Legal Project Associate (LPA) certification from the International Institute of Legal Project Management (IILPM) is a great starting point certification for junior legal project managers although those who already have some legal service industry experience may also be interested in becoming a certified Legal Project Practitioner (LPP).

Legal Project Manager

Legal Project Managers will typically have responsibility for creating comprehensive matter plans, working closely with lawyers to make sure those plans come to fruition.

Legal Project Managers soon become the main point contact for all operational issues for everyone – clients and legal teams alike.  They are expected to take operational decisions and be prepared to explain the reasoning behind those decisions to all key stakeholders.  They must become comfortable with leading legal matters from an operational viewpoint.

Legal Project Managers are also often expected to help prepare and help present proposals to current and prospective clients.  As noted above most of the larger law firms now offer legal project management services.

A few years ago, simply offering these services was a valuable differentiator from competitors.  Now the differentiator is how those services are delivered and by whom.  Legal project managers with great communication and sales skills are a fantastic resource to have when pitching for new client work.

The IILPM’s Legal Project Professional (LPP) was developed originally to primarily meet the needs of legal service team leaders, most obviously legal project managers.

Senior Legal Project Manager

Senior legal project managers are expected to create detailed matter plans, perhaps for several matters running concurrently.  Ideally senior legal project managers have excellent influencing skills, and feel comfortable working closely with senior stakeholders inside and outside the firm.

They should also be sensitive to the need for continuous improvement.  This means keeping current processes under review and seeking to enhance and automate them.  This work requires close liaison with process improvement specialists and / or legal technologists, depending on how well the firm is resourced.  The aim of all this is to embed improved processes into the work patterns of legal service delivery teams.

Senior legal project managers are often expected to act as mentors and advisors to more junior colleagues while also supporting the Head of Legal Project Management with the continued development of legal project management throughout the firm.

Although the discipline of LPM has matured a lot over the last few years, it is not universally applied by every law firm and legal service department on every matter.  There is still a lot of LPM development and evangelisation to be done.  This is often another important aspect of the senior legal project manager role.

Senior LPMs must also devote attention to their own personal career development.  I am bound to say that the IILPM’s Legal Project Practitioner is an excellent starting point here, and I have also helped senior legal project managers with 1:1 mentoring.

More questions…

Why is there so much recruitment activity now?  What developments are likely to affect the recruitment and development of legal project managers over the next few years?

I will answer these and other similar questions in a future post.

In the meantime, I hope you feel inspired to move into legal project management.  If so you might want to read one of my earlier blog posts about 5 questions for legal project manager interviews or 10 sought after skills for legal project managers.

If you have any further questions to ask about legal project management, please contact me.

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