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April 03, 2019

LPM steps in the lifecycle of a legal project (Part 1 of 3)

By Fred Kinch, Gary Richards, Jim Hassett, and Tim Batdorf

In this three-part blog series, we summarize the most important LPM issues to consider when planning a new matter. Unless your firm has established formal LPM guidelines, feel free to decide which sections to focus on for each matter and which can be ignored. Note that while some of these may at first sound like more work, they quickly add value to the client. They represent a win-win given that the lawyer can bill most or all of these activities, but at the end of the day the client will pay less because of the increased efficiency.

  • Talk to the client to determine objectives for the matter:
    • What problem does the client want to solve?
    • Are several outcomes acceptable?
    • What deadlines matter to the client?
    • Are there strict budget limits?
    • Who is the ultimate decision maker?
    • How does the client define success?
    • How will you know when you are done?
  • Draft statement of matter objectives and a clear statement of work (scope) and share with client, along with exclusions and assumptions:
    • Avoid listing so many assumptions that the client will consider working with another firm that is easier to do business with
    • Matter objectives should be stated as results/outcomes desired, not steps to be taken to reach the objectives
    • Was the SMART model (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Timed) used for the statement of matter objectives?
  • Develop a matter plan and budget. The level of detail required will depend on the size of the matter and your relationship with the client. Remember that what you consider a rough estimate may be treated as a fixed price by some clients, and act accordingly.
    • For large or important matters, check your matter plan and budget with key team members
    • Should large matters and phases be subdivided into smaller discrete tasks and subtasks?
    • Which tasks are on the critical path? That is, which tasks must be completed before others can start and which must be completed on time to avoid delay of the overall schedule?
    • What deadlines will best align the client’s needs with the firm’s interests?
    • Estimate the hours needed for each task and prepare the budget, preferably with the input of the individual who will do the work
    • Establish and confirm the method that will be used to obtain actual cost information routinely and periodically during the matter
    • Establish milestones and other appropriate methods of measuring matter progress
    • Review any special fee arrangements with firm management
  • Review the following as needed and get the client to sign off before beginning work to gain agreement/alignment:
    • Matter objectives
    • Client expectations
    • Scope
    • Deliverables
    • Schedule
    • Fees
    • Exclusions and assumptions
    • Change order process
    • Engagement letter (with SOW attachment, if appropriate)

Reproduced with permission from the Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, Fifth Edition (© LegalBizDev, 2019).

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