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Prince2 for Lawyers

Prince2 is the leading standard project methodology and one of its key principles is that of tailoring the methodology to suit different project environments.

In this post I will explain what Prince2 is and its applicability to lawyers and law firms.  I will then outline the most common approaches to tailoring Prince2.


What is Prince2?

Prince2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured project management method.  Its origins lie in a UK Government project methodology for managing large IT projects.  It has now moved on so that it is applied by a wide range of organisations (commercial and non-commercial) in many sectors to many different kinds of projects.

One way of looking at Prince2 is that it provides a framework for ensuring that sound project management practices are applied, so increasing the likelihood that project objectives are achieved.  The Prince2 framework can be adapted as required to support different projects effectively.

The Prince2 methodology is made up of ‘Principles’, ‘Themes’ and ‘Processes’.  These in turn are supported by more detailed activities along with detailed specifications for standard project documentation.


Prince2 Principles

Seven principle act as the core foundation of the Prince2 methodology.   These are:

  1. Continued business justification for the project at hand
  2. Learn from experience, especially from previous projects
  3. Define project roles and responsibilities
  4. Manage projects by stages
  5. Manage by exception
  6. Focus on products and
  7. Tailor Prince2 to the project environment.


Relevance of Prince2 to lawyers

It is relatively easy to see how Prince2 can be applied and adapted to law firm support projects.  Legal IT projects and business development projects of all kinds are obvious candidates for applying Prince2.  Hardly surprising given its origins and subsequent development.

Envisaging how Prince2 can be applied to legal matters is more problematic.  As is well known, lawyers readily accept that project management methodologies should be applied to their firm’s big ticket IT projects for example, but not so much to their own client matters.  (Although this view is of course steadily changing).

There is a particular difficulty here with the perception of Prince2.  One criticism often made about it is that the methodology is very detailed and overly bureaucratic when applied fully.  This in turn means it can be quite time consuming and labour intensive to apply, which makes it inappropriate for most legal matters.

There is undoubtedly some truth in these criticisms but they miss the important point of tailoring Prince2 properly for different projects.  As with any methodology or process, applying Prince2 blindly and by rote to all projects is not productive.  Tailoring Prince2 appropriately is the key to its successful use.


Tailoring Prince2 by incorporating specialist delivery methods

Prince2 allows for detailed life cycle models to be incorporated within it.  The detailed life cycle models can set out how, exactly, the project deliverables are to be produced and how the delivery process can be managed.  This means that specialist, domain specific (in our case, legal) delivery methods and techniques can be plugged into the Prince2 framework as appropriate.

The specialist project life cycle model that is referred to most of often in this regard is Agile.  I personally find this interesting, not least because I have previously written in some detail about how Agile techniques can be used to deliver legal services.

Other models, techniques and processes can also be plugged in as required.  This means that checklists and workflows used by lawyers to help deliver legal advice can be inserted within the Prince2 framework without breaking the methodology in practice.


Tailoring Prince2 by adapting the framework

The principles listed above must always be applied when using Prince2, even when adapting the method.  When seeking to adapt Prince2, the focus must turn to adapting the Prince2 Themes. These are:

  1. Business Case
  2. Organisation
  3. Quality
  4. Plans
  5. Risk
  6. Change and
  7. Progress.

But how to know which Theme to adapt and the extent of any adaptation on particular projects?


Create a Project Matrix

Most project professionals will not simply try to adapt Prince2 on the hoof.  They will assess the risk and complexity of projects and then determine how the methodology (and more specifically the Themes) may be adapted and applied to particular projects.

To help with this a project matrix or scorecard will be devised.  The matrix will consist of standard project criteria and associated criteria assessment (scoring).  So for example project criteria might consist of: estimated project costs, human resources, other resources and time required to complete the project.  These will each then be assessed and scored individually.  Scores will then be aggregated to arrive at an overall assessment of the project.

The usual approach is to consider how the full rigour of Prince2 may be lessened.  In other words, start by assuming that Prince2 should be applied in full and with complete rigour and then, in light of overall project assessment, consider how the methodology (with particular reference to the Themes) may be applied with a lighter touch.


A Prince2 cook book?

Of course adapting Prince2 is always going to be more art than science.  It is simply not possible to provide something akin to a detailed recipe book for how Prince2 should be cooked for every occasion.

Ultimately, tailoring Prince2 successfully is reflective of project management skills and experience.  These will be provided by individual project managers supported by, in more mature project environments, the project management office (PMO).

If you would like to find out more about the Prince2 methodology and consider how it might be tailored for your projects, please contact me.

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