Legal Project Management Foundations

Rafael Eloy Montero Gosálbez

Lawyer, MBA, PMP

@RafaMontero

“Legal Project Management Foundations”.Originally published in spanish at the Legal Magazine FORJIB, Foro Jurídico Iberoamericano, num. 22, December, 2014. Pg. 36-37.  I.S.S.N.: 2255-2782.

Translated from the Spanish by the author, Rafael Eloy Montero Gosálbez, Lawyer, PMP.

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Project Management makes available to professionals a proven methodology and standards for the management of all types of projects. This is achieved by applying to projects the advances in process engineering which have been obtained by theorists of management, large industrial conglomerates and consulting firms.

The conceptual basis on which sits Project Management is Deming’s cycle (or continuous improvement), also known as PDCA, acronym of “Plan, Do, Check, Act”, and so on, which already indicates that the optimal development and management of projects takes place progressively and iteratively.

According to the definition of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the association that has given shape to the project management profession “project” is a “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result”1. Thus, “project” is every work, research or issue which has start and end dates -and therefore a life cycle-, has a budget, an expected result and need to manage resources.

Therefore, this methodology perfectly fits to the legal world, both in public or private practice, or researches; and deals each case in a previously structured and standardized way, facilitating an orderly and predesigned way of managing complex projects, and the creation of a own knowledge background.

We should not think, as can happen at first, that the implementation of Legal Project Management is only available to large firms that can create specific departments to support and implement the method. Instead of it, any entity that manages projects can deploy to a greater or lesser extent according to their actual needs, project management structures. The needs can be very different in each case, so that specific measures should also be established.

At first, it might seem that the adoption of Legal Project Management hinders management or slows the development of business, however it is not so, as it gives us a map and checkpoints for each case, which can be translated into real savings and improved management.

Project Management -in any sector- always has a basic structure with which the analysis is performed, first to our business and then to each case, once determined the intensity of implementation of the methodology.

The main purpose is to work with control over the purpose and limits of the project (scope), making clear what is included and what not in the work that we are going to develop, as well as its running time and cost. These issues are considered in a disaggregated basis for further study.

Thus, it is necessary to use a vision divided into five process groups and ten knowledge areas.

A structure that has five process groups is used: initiation, planning, execution, control and closing. That is, a structure in which each project goes through different phases is prepared; first, work to be done is decided, then all its development is planned, once planned it runs and is controlled and compared with the previous plan and is fixed if necessary; and finally the project is closed.

In initiation process, basis of the whole process, we set the key objectives of the case and analyze the most relevant risks and stakeholders with power to influence the results. We also value the costs and feasibility. We set also a responsible for coordination, the Project Director. At this time we will not yet begun to develop the object of the contracted work.

In planning process, we study the implications that the ten areas of knowledge have in the project objectives and also we establish, in an iterative and progressive way, all aspects required for the project.

When planning a project, not only costs and purpose are specified. As we first analyze risks and feasibility, we ensure only implement viable projects, so we do not allocate efforts to projects that can easily fail.

Along with this, when planning we break down and ascribe the necessary work, and we schedule them in a realistic way, even relatively pessimistic, as it must incorporate predictable delays. When the first whole version of the plan is done, you begin to do the job.

In the process of running, the work is performed and information is collected in order to analyze whether the work being done meets the established criteria.

In control process, work done is tested and analyzed, and continuous improvement boost, both for the project and the processes of our organization. The moment in which the work is performed not only serves to reach the stated goal, but also to improve our organization, learning from mistakes and forecasts, developing a knowledge base that will help us for future similar cases.

When we find at this process that we do not reach the original planning, we may develop actions to correct these deviations or modify our initial plan.

At the end of each project, work is delivered and then the project is formally closed and all lessons learned are collect and systematized, which improves the way we work in the medium term.

Those groups of processes build the project with reflections made in the context of what PMI call 10 areas of knowledge:

  • Three areas that define the project: scope, time and cost.
  • Three areas who act as insurers of fulfillment of the above: integration -which can be identified with coordination-, quality and risk.
  • And four areas acting as facilitators: procurement, communication, human resources and stakeholders.

It is important to deep in the concept of “stakeholder”. This group is composed by any person, entity or group with interest in project development, both for and against our position, even the client or its opposite, public authorities, professionals, family, neighbors or even civil society. It is essential to properly assess the relevance and power of each one of them and define strategies to maintain or attract stakeholders to our point of view.

But Legal Project Management does not stay at theoretical considerations, but also reaches the actual management of each project.

Thus, for any entity that uses Legal Project Management methods, practical applications could be:

  • Structuring a custom form or contract that clearly states the scope, risks, costs and forms of communication.
  • Development of a standard model of the Management Plan.
  • Creation of own models, procedural schemes and files from lessons learned, such as recurrent and strategies against known risks.
  • Development of quality management strategies or document management, adapted to new technologies and management systems.

Additional to these, applications in a professional office could be:

  • Clarify communication channels with customers.
  • Signature by the customer of an act of closing and return of documents.

In a public agency, complementary to the above could be:

  • Add to administrative files, minutes of start, with realistic data beyond the strict legal requirements: data regarding scope, cost, time, risk, stakeholders, risks, financing, etc.
  • Clarify communication channels with policy makers, opposition, citizens and specific stakeholders.
  • Development of eGovernment.

As a conclusion, it can be noted that Project Management in the legal sector is a tool for real improvement of management, already strongly established in the English speaking world, and beginning its implementation in Spain, so implement it will be an added value to all kind of business.

quote 1  PMBOK® Guide.

Rafael Eloy Montero Gosálbez

Lawyer, PMP.

 

 

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