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August 14, 2013

Scope changes in litigation

Stacy_BallinBy Stacy D. Ballin, Squire Sanders 


This post was adapted from a brief essay the author wrote when she completed our Certified Legal Project Manager® program. It was previously reproduced in the third edition of the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.

Too often in litigation, the “scope” of the project is generally understood between client and attorney as being the representation of the client in a litigation matter from beginning to end until either the case is won or a business solution is reached.

But within that scope there will be a variety of steps/tasks needed to achieve the end. If the client is not aware of all of the steps that will be necessary, issues will inevitably arise. It may not be scope creep because the initial scope was so broad, but it may be something that the client thinks it should not have to pay for or should not be performed.

Therefore, it is probably a good business practice to set forth a more detailed analysis of what is included as part of that scope, such as dispositive motions, depositions, experts, etc. This could be in the engagement letter or in the case management plan or in some other document that sets out the strategy of the case and how we are going to manage the litigation.

A simple scope management process could be that at the end of each quarter we send the client a detailed update of where we have been and where we need to go. This would explain how the steps/tasks are within the original scope of winning the case/achieving a business solution. As a practical matter, the type of extremely detailed work descriptions which project managers use in other professions will simply not work in a litigation matter where the scope is defined as “winning” or “reaching a business solution.”

Genuine scope creep is often occasioned by the judge or opposing counsel going off the reservation. There, the solution is early and effective communications with the client so that the client has “buy-in” that the scope creep is due to circumstances beyond our control.


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