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Combined tools for real transformation

Leaders in all types of professional service organisations are intrigued by the potential for genuine transformation in the way they deliver client work. Chris Bull takes a look at how harnessing the power of Legal Project Management (LPM) and Legal Process Improvement (LPI) can transform the efficiency, consistency and profitability of professional work.

In the legal sector, many law firms seeking to respond positively to rising client calls for alternative fee arrangements and pricing transparency have looked to apply project management tools to the matters they run. The last few years has seen the emergence of a distinct Legal Project Management (LPM) discipline that takes well-established project management best practices and applies them to managing legal matters. The lessons from this experience and from some pioneering law firms’ use of process improvement methodologies have relevance for all types of professional services firm.

The emergence of Legal Project Management (LPM)

Large law firms and the larger in-house legal departments have been the most avid adopters of LPM programmes. In most cases these programmes have been focused on the basics of applying project management practice to the conduct of legal matters and on practical, real-world training of lawyers or dedicated legal project managers.

LPM programmes have more recently begun to be adopted by firms outside the US, with interest growing in the UK market and one of the largest Australian firms, Mallesons (now Mallesons King and Wood), having implemented a major LPM initiative. The focus of this piece is not Project Management per se and therefore this is not the place to explore in detail LPM and how it works. There are a variety of reference sources for those who are not well acquainted with LPM. Particularly recommended is the excellent blogsite At The Intersection maintained by Edge International expert, Pamela Woldow (

Although LPM has been adopted in its own right as a change programme in many places, LPM is also a natural - and well-tailored for lawyers - gateway to bigger institutional and long-term transformation in firm’s process performance. Transformation naturally requires a systematic approach to process improvement to be in place. Transformation is not something that LPM by itself, as currently configured, will deliver.

It may be premature for most organisations in the legal market to apply the combined power of both LPM and process improvement tools together.

But there are pockets of success and businesses covered in the case study section of the 2012 book The Legal Process Improvement Toolkit (the work done across both LPM and LPI by Seyfarth Shaw and by Novus Law are the outstanding examples of this) that are showing us the way.

Download the attached PDF for how project management plus process improvement can unleash transformative potential.