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Project Management? It Starts With Effective Budgeting

A decade ago, the concept of project management in law firms was virtually unheard of. Cases were accepted and handled in the same time honoured, traditional way. You charged by the clock, and everything took as long as it took.

Over the past ten years, however, the landscape has changed. And while many firms still cling to the old ways, the more savvy amongst the legal community have smelt the coffee and realised client attitudes have changed.

The average person or business is no longer happy to accept the lottery of guessing how big their legal bill might be at the end of a case. They want to know what they are paying for. Not only that, they want to be able to budget for it well in advance. They want – whisper it – to see a clear breakdown of what they will be charged and why before they decide who to employ.

More than any other reason, this is why legal project management has emerged as a key trend in the profession. Clients want predictability. They want to feel in control of the process. More to the point, they want transparency in costs, and they want to be able to hold their counsel to account for what they deliver.

How to budget for a case

Hold on a minute, I hear the legal panels cry. How can I be expected to predict the course of a complex litigation case? How can I honestly tell my corporate client that their takeover deal will completed within timeframe X for a cost of Y, when I know full well it is like determining a piece of string?

These are challenges that the wider business world has grappled with for decades, as project management has become a mainstream means of improving efficiency and improving financial outcomes. However much lawyers may want to resist it, forecasting is all about adopting a scientific approach, fixing parameters around the ‘what ifs?’ and then planning to minimise variations.

Even for the most complex of cases, experienced legal professionals have precedent to draw on. From this, they can forecast:

● A likely expected timeframe

● Resources required, e.g. the size of the legal team

● Potential risks, e.g. what might make the case run on longer than expected

● A breakdown of anticipated additional costs.

The good news for legal teams is that they don’t even have to do all of this hard work themselves. Project Management software for the legal industry comes pre-loaded with case history data. You input the details of a new case, and based on this information, it will set out the parameters you need to create a realistic budget.

The really clever thing is that over time, it will adapt costs to your practice. So the more cases you input on the project management platform, the more of your data it uses to forecast costs in the future. After a year or two, you are generating price codes based on your team and your practice.

So no more finger-in-the-air guesswork. Adopting best practices from project management will help you budget accurately and effectively, and give clients the reassurances they need before hiring you.