Legal project management: 7 ways legal ops can level up

Lauren Lee | June 11, 2020 | Articles

A legal team’s most valuable currency is time. At every company in every industry, legal teams look for ways to maximize this precious resource. Too often, tasks like document, matter, and invoice management take far too many hours when teams can make a deeper impact focusing on complex legal matters.

But legal project management (LPM) can help teams cut down on these tedious tasks and reclaim more of their time. As its name implies, LPM refers to using project management principles—think project planning, risk management, and formal measurement—through a legal lens. This approach helps teams reduce time spent on operational issues and deliver legal services more efficiently, among many other benefits.

LPM software can help implement these principles, which in turn can streamline processes and position your teams to work more efficiently. Here, we’ll unpack seven ways you can leverage LPM principles and corresponding software to simplify your operations.

1. Greater Visibility into Legal Spend and Better Budget Control

Accurate budgeting is a key concern for legal departments. According to a 2019 ACC benchmarking report, legal departments overspent by 11% on average in 2018. By understanding where they typically allocate their resources, legal departments can better set and adhere to their budgets—saving time and cutting costs in the process.

A defined legal project management system can help legal teams overcome some of these common issues surrounding legal spend and budget control. By using legal project management software that supports spend management, teams can gain total visibility over their expenses. In turn, they can improve resource allocation and control budgets with greater precision.

For example, by leveraging SimpleLegal’s e-Billing tool, Instacart infused organization into its formerly complicated invoicing process. The company used the solution to create an invoice repository that gave the company visibility into department expenditures. This newfound transparency empowered Instacart to shave 10% off its legal budget.

2. More Effective Outside Counsel Management

One of the legal department’s key tasks is effectively managing outside counsel. Legal project management tools provide transparency and insights into spending, which help teams better understand and control resources dedicated to external firms.

According to the ACC report, an average of 47.1% of legal department spend goes to outside counsel. Historically, tracking those expenditures and managing accruals was a complex, time-consuming process. LPM tools can simplify outside counsel management by:

  • Automating accruals collection
  • Easily identifying which firms are billing for which tasks
  • Generating reports that delineate fee agreements and discounts with various firms
  • Identifying firms that may be under-performing or billing inappropriately

The same LPM tools that offer more oversight of department spend can also cut down on the time your in-house team needs for tedious logistical and managerial tasks. When they don’t have to navigate outdated systems and manual processes, legal pros can focus on high-impact tasks that require their expertise. This, too, can drive down outside counsel costs and reduce the company’s legal budget.

3. More Robust Reporting

To analyze their effectiveness and efficiency, legal teams generate multiple reports for use within and beyond their department. Legal project management tools can provide more robust reporting solutions that save time and offer more granular insights into your department’s operations.

With LPM solutions like SimpleLegal, legal ops teams can easily generate reports that help them justify the department’s spend to finance—and impress their boss in the process. Better reporting allows legal ops teams to support their general counsels (GCs) by:

  • Providing GCs with a detailed analysis of relevant matters
  • Making it easier for GCs to implement data-driven policies company-wide
  • Helping GCs gain a more complete view of legal spend

Without the right tools, generating these reports can be time-consuming. LPM solutions make a formerly unwieldy process as easy as the click of a button. For example, by leveraging SimpleLegal’s advanced reporting capabilities, Instacart’s legal team was able to create reports for its executive team in two to three clicks—a process that had previously taken two to three hours.

4. Improved Cross-Department Communication

Legal teams often find themselves working in a silo, distanced from other departments within the same company. Legal project management tools provide more oversight into projects that span teams, making it easier to communicate and collaborate effectively with colleagues from departments across the organization.

For example, SimpleLegal’s Legal Requests tool makes it simple for multiple departments to request legal work via a simple form. A user-friendly tool like this encourages inter-departmental collaboration and simplifies previously complicated processes (like filling out a stack of paperwork for a simple legal review).

Moreover, implementing legal project management processes is a forcing function to institute regular meetings and status updates with various stakeholders within the company. This automatically increases dialogue with other key departments, helping legal departments escape the silo.

5. More Consistent Document Management

Documents are a legal team’s lifeblood—which is why effective document management is crucial. Legal project management tools like SimpleLegal’s Document Management feature can help teams organize, update, and share their documents quickly and easily. Such a solution has multiple benefits, including:

  • Saving time and reducing errors by standardizing a team’s approach to document creation
  • Allowing teams to create agile form documents, which are key to consistency and efficiency
  • Enabling teams to easily track changes in documents via robust versioning capabilities

Effective document management results in more consistent contracting practices, helping lawyers draft better documents more quickly.

6. Timelier Project Delivery

Too often, underestimating timelines can break budgets. Legal project management tools help legal teams stay on-time and on-track. When they use LPM tools, legal teams can:

  • Gain access to historical data, which can help them more accurately predict the time needed to complete certain projects or matters
  • Leverage LPM tools like SimpleLegal’s e-Billing solution and matter management tools to cut down on time lost to inefficient, highly manual processes

Applying an effective LPM system streamlines tasks at all stages of a given matter, saving precious hours and ensuring the matter’s timely completion.

7. Better Relationships and Stakeholder Satisfaction

Legal project management creates levels of transparency that allow all stakeholders to evaluate how legal matters are handled, from an operational as well as a legal standpoint. And it doesn’t hurt that LPM tools that create efficiencies, enhance communication, and lower legal spend make everyone happy.

With LPM tools that track e-billing and spend management, teams such as accounting and finance can analyze the cost of various projects or determine how much time outside counsel spends on specific matters. These insights can help pros across the company work together to make more informed, collaborative decisions on future projects.

Finally, by leveraging LPM’s time-saving benefits, legal teams can delight internal and external stakeholders by delivering projects on-time and on-budget. This can increase stakeholder satisfaction and improve relationships across the board.

Legal Project Management Can Empower Your Team

Legal project management is a growing discipline with myriad benefits. Effective LPM will create distance between the top teams and inefficient ones.

Empower your team with a legal project management system and legal project management software that help distinguish your team within your company.