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Legal Project Management: A Simple Framework To Follow

Legal Project Management: A Simple Framework To Follow

Legal Project Management: A Simple Framework To FollowRachel Cottam
Head of Content

Trying to cut costs while increasing volume? It might be time to try legal project management. 

What is legal project management?

In every industry, project managers help to systemize processes and improve workflow efficiency. Legal project management (LPM) helps legal teams increase efficiency by proactively defining project scope, milestones, and high-level goals. Through planning, budgeting, allocation, and risk management, this framework can bring clarity and focus to both in-house teams and law firms.

Dedicated project managers typically oversee this function for medium and large organizations, while smaller departments may assign these responsibilities to a key stakeholder—such as a legal operations professional or contract manager. 

Why does LPM matter?

Every team wants deals done fast—and legal often gets the blame when there’s a hold up. Does the phrase “legal black hole” ring a bell? 

While a company-wide contract management system can streamline operations across every department, better project management can help your legal department speed up contracting.

LPM doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Instead, you can view your LPM strategy as a way of building an alliance with other departments and keeping everyone up to speed. 

What are the 5 steps of legal project management?

LPM systemizes projects from beginning to end through a set of predetermined steps: Intake, Planning, Execution, Control, and Close. 

1. Intake: Defining Project Scope, Goals, and Expectations

Legal project management's popularity hinges on eliminating fuzzy thinking and setting clear expectations around costs and deliverables. While the realities of legal processes mean there will often be unforeseen costs or road bumps, creating clear expectations can reduce unpleasant surprises and project creep down the road.

The purpose of intake is to align on project expectations. Together with your stakeholders, lay out a high-level end goal. Then, support your legal team in establishing a series of milestones. As you're setting up the goals for the project, you’ll start to define its scope—such as which legal services are covered under the project's umbrella and which aren't.

In-house teams should implement effective ticketing systems to streamline workflows and increase visibility into project statuses. 

2. Plan: Mapping Out Project Phases, Tasks, and Timelines

Now that you've established high-level goals, project milestones, exclusions, and inclusions, you can delve into the minutiae of your project by creating a timeline in which to carry out precise phases and tasks.

Prior projects can serve as a guide, informing the steps which are always followed. You can also use statuses in your contract management system to inform typical workflows for legal department. 

Don't expect to get every little detail right. Even under the best circumstances, it will be impossible to forecast every possibility. Rather, create a roadmap that identifies the essential tasks which must be completed for the project to succeed.

3. Execute: Providing Resources and Facilitating Team Collaboration

This is where the rubber meets the road. With your project plan in hand and your team briefed, it's time to execute. 

As the project manager for your legal team, it's your job to provide them with the resources they need to accomplish their tasks quickly and efficiently. At this stage, you may introduce your team to legal project management tools and solutions. 

For example, we built Lexion with AI extraction so you can cut down on manual processes. It also allows for enhanced team collaboration with shareable redlining and editing functions.

Whatever tools you use, legal project managers are responsible for facilitating collaboration, directing resource allocation, and keeping everyone informed. 

4. Control: Monitoring Progress and Resolving Bottlenecks

As the project progresses, your responsibilities as project manager will shift from planning to oversight. Stay on top of your milestones, and only adjust the timeline if needed. This might include checking in regularly with team members and tracking headway against the project roadmap.

Your team will encounter bottlenecks; this is normal. However, it’s your job to help the team resolve the issue quickly and move to the next phase. To invite collaboration, you may conduct needed research, communicate with stakeholders, or seek out additional tools. 

5. Close: Reviewing Project Reports and Outcomes

The project may be complete, but it's not behind you yet. Before you move on to your next challenge, it's important to sit down and look over this project's reports and outcomes. This meeting is sometimes called a post-mortem

Key questions to ask at this stage include:

  • Were all of the project expectations met?
  • If predetermined project goals were not met, why?
  • Did certain tasks take longer than expected?
  • Were there processes or procedures that could be improved upon in the future?
  • Were all relevant stakeholders satisfied with the project's outcome?

The review period is critical to improve performance and keep your legal team focused on continual improvement. Post-mortems can also help you identify individual team members' strengths and weaknesses, which could prove useful when delegating tasks for future projects.

With the right technology, LPM will help you scale

LPM is all about planning and executing projects that have a lot of moving parts and players. If you can get it right, project management will become your superpower instead of a time suck. 

While legal teams can sometimes be hesitant introducing new technology, there are several LPM solutions that will help you service your company and prove your value. The best tools are easy to use and create visibility across departments. 

That’s why we built Lexion with legal project management in mind. From our sophisticated workflow system to e-signing solutions, we’re creating a single source of truth for your entire team. 

Regardless of what tech you choose, implementing the five steps of LPM will help your team do more with less. 

Learn how to level up your legal team with department-wide goals in our recent webinar


Do you need a law degree to do legal project management?

While a background in law or experience as a paralegal can help you understand the needs of your legal team and best support their projects, it’s not necessary. A strong knowledge of project management principles and processes will make you successful as a legal project manager. 

What does a paralegal project manager do? 

While legal and paralegal project manager roles often overlap, the tasks of the paralegal team are more likely to include preparing various legal documents, court proceedings, and data organization. 


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