"Putting the Pieces Together: Practical Project Management in a Litigation Support Environment"

Whether traditional project management principles should be applied in a litigation support environment, and if so, what are the potential benefits, has received considerable attention recently.  Most people have little difficulty understanding the application of traditional project management in the context of a complex undertaking like building a skyscraper or the space shuttle. How project management principles apply in a litigation support setting is often much less obvious.

The first challenge is to identify the aspects of project management that correspond most closely to how people work in the legal business. The second (and perhaps larger) challenge is to convince the leaders of law firms, corporate legal departments and government that integrating project management principles in the litigation support arena will be beneficial to their organizations.

In theory, this shouldn't be a difficult case to make, since the legal industry, the work of lawyers in general, and the work of litigation support professionals in particular, are all well-suited to project management.  Indeed, most legal services, from the moment an attorney is engaged to the resolution of the dispute or closing of the deal are, in essence, projects. There may be many discrete tasks along the way – filing motions, drafting briefs, conducting discovery, trials – but these, too, are projects (or sub-projects, if you will).

The fact is, much of the work of lawyers and litigation support professionals is project management – they just don't think about it in that way. And with corporations searching for ways to reduce their legal spending, implementing project management becomes even more practical, because when you approach a case with the discipline and strategy of project management, the result will be increased value and better work product.  At the same time, project management provides at least one answer to fixed fee and alternative fee arrangements because, properly implemented, project management principles bring a measure of efficiency, consciousness of costs and a focus on quality that has not always existed in the legal environment.

This two-part article examines how traditional project management principles apply to the work of litigation and practice support professionals within law firms or legal departments, and how project management can benefit law firms and corporate and government legal department decision-makers.


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