Ever had a client ask about “LPM”? Yep, LPM. Stands for legal project management and its something that firms are increasingly embracing as clients begin asking about it and as new systems are implemented to ensure firms respond to client demands and still make good money from them. Philip Austin of Nixon Peabody writes:
For a law firm, nothing triggers a Eureka moment faster than when an established client threatens to seek other counsel. So when clients began asking firms — with a figurative nod towards the door — to find a more efficient way to do their legal work, firms started innovating. What they’ve come up with is legal project management — where effectively using technology, people, and processes promises to lower costs, while boosting (or at least maintaining) firm profitability.
Of course, as firms get serious about legal project management they’re finding that there is no magic bullet. Indeed, implementing LPM wisely is a project in itself. There are a host of questions to be addressed, from what technologies to embrace and how best to use those tools, to how to make LPM palatable to lawyers who are used to doing things their own way, thank you very much.
Not that firms have much choice. These days, prospective clients routinely ask about LPM capabilities in their requests for proposals. “They’ll ask firms to address what they are doing to drive efficiency and increase [cost] predictability, they want to know what specific things you’ve put in place [to accomplish those goals],” says Boston-based Philip Austin, chief sales officer at Nixon Peabody, which launched its LPM program two years ago.
Factor in, too, the rise in alternative fee arrangements, which typically do away with, or cap, billable hours, making a 40-hour task that takes 60 hours the firm’s problem, not the client’s.
LPM doesn’t just help firms land these engagements, but helps them execute the projects effectively, from initial strategy sessions through discovery and trial. “We can still make the same profits we did in the old days,” says Philadelphia’s Anthony Licata, chief financial officer at Dechert, which now counts on AFAs for a quarter of its business. “But you have to have the commitment and discipline in place to make project management work. You can roll out all the systems you want, but if you don’t have [that kind of] support, it’s meaningless.”