Managing a legal matter, whether it's a transaction or a dispute, can be equally as important as executing the actual legal work. Attention to both management and execution will help to ensure that client needs and expectations are met in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner. However, recent surveys indicate corporate/in-house counsel are dissatisfied with their outside counsel. Some of the reasons underlying their dissatisfaction (e.g., high fees/costs, lack of responsiveness, and poor communications) suggest that management of legal matters is either done ineffectively or worse; it is not done at all. These business world clients are addressing their dissatisfaction by, among other things, requiring detailed task-based scopes of work, budgets, and schedules, and more frequent and effective communications from their legal service providers.
Managing a legal matter is fundamentally no different from managing a construction project or a pharmaceutical research and development program. The focus of management activities are directed to planning, executing, controlling, monitoring and closing a required scope of work within a specified time period and within a given budget.
Project management of legal matters is concerned with monitoring the work, rather than executing the work. Effective and efficient management of legal matters involves business skills and tools that are different from the legal skills and tools used by the legal professionals who perform the work. This article discusses some practical considerations, and techniques and tools for developing and managing the scope of work, schedule, budget and communications for legal matters.
1. The surveys referred to by the author include:
a. How Clients Hire, Fire and Spend: Landing the World's Best Clients. The BTI Consulting Group. March 2006.
b. The Survey of Client Service Performance for Law Firms. The BTI Consulting Group. 2006.
c. 17th Annual Survey of General Counsel. InsideCounsel. July 2006
d. Altman Weil Law Department Metrics Benchmarking Survey. Altman Weil/LexisNexis. September 2006
e. Third Annual Litigation Trends Survey Findings. Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP. October 2006
f. Sixth Annual Managing Outside Counsel Survey. Association of Corporate Counsel/Serengeti. October 2006
g. Fifth Annual Managing Outside Counsel Survey. Association of Corporate Counsel/Serengeti. October 2005