What is LPM and what does it mean for in-house teams?
There has been a rise in references to Legal Project Management (“LPM”) but do many understand what that phrase actually means in practise? This week Halebury’s David Cole – ex Deputy Group General Counsel at Atos SE – discusses what LPM means and how it has moved from being just management speak into essential management strategy.
LPM may mean different things to different people but we define it as applying management principles and management consultancy principles to the provision of legal services.
Legal services, especially within an in-house legal team, is not just about delivery of legal advice, but about delivering it efficiently and cost-effectively and effective legal advice is when it is in line with the business’s aims and objectives. It is also about ensuring that the in-house legal team is an effective function and for that to be the case, the function has to be properly supported, structured, managed and motivated. LPM is just that; how to support, structure, manage and motivate a legal function.
How do you get your legal team in to that state? Where do you begin? I have set below an example of an LPM project I have been involved in, to highlight key steps.
How do you start the process?
First you need to take a step back and take a critical look the legal operation; identifying legal, operational and business goals.
This “legal transformation programme” (another phrase for LPM) was for a large global organisation and the aim was to turn what was effectively a loose federation of national legal functions derived mainly from a long series of acquisitions into a cohesive ‘global legal, compliance and contract law department’. Essentially the objective was: a) for the global lawyers to work together as a team; b) to address the needs of an increasingly global business operating against a backdrop of reducing margins and increasing pressure on costs; and c) ultimately, for the lawyers to be recognised as ‘trusted partners to the business’.
Where do you start? It’s more than just the sum of the parts.
To achieve this, the overall transformation plan consisted of a series of individual initiatives. It is important to identify the initiative, which must have its own objectives and own team. It is of course essential that each initiative is interlinked and feeds into the global LPM programme.
Who should be involved? Not just the usual suspects.
In the LPM project I refer above, each team organised itself and, with only limited exceptions, had to choose its own chairperson to liaise with the steering committee. Often the chairperson was a relatively junior lawyer or someone who was not from one of the large national legal departments in say, the UK.
We believed it was essential to hear from all levels and not just the ‘usual suspects’, but it also provided the junior team an opportunity to demonstrate their management skills in a way that was visible to senior management. It is of course important that participation in an initiative is encouraged but voluntary. Inevitably there were some individuals who did not wish to participate at all and, through regular progress reporting, it was apparent that some individuals who had volunteered were more enthusiastic than others!
Specific example of an initiative – ‘Standardization Programme’
Most legal functions have a rolling program to create templates and precedents that can be used to save time and effort and create consistency within the group. In this case, as the group was largely created through a series acquisitions, there were just too many templates and precedents.
We wanted to sell more goods and services to existing customers globally. As many people know, selling to an existing customer is often easier than selling to a completely new customer. We wanted to avoid the situation whereby a customer could say, ”you sold me X last year using ABC contract and now you are trying to sell me X this year using a completely different contract. Why the difference?”
Planning, execution and review must be applied to each individual initiative as well as the overall programme. Each initiative requires effective communication and, although each initiative had individual value, in some cases relatively minimal value, collectively they transformed the legal function across the group into an efficient and cost-effective global legal, compliance and contract law department capable of addressing the changing needs of the business.
David Cole is a experienced lawyer/former Deputy Group General Counsel with a wealth of legal project management experience, combined with leading major procurement, outsourcing and transaction work. As a Halebury LPM lawyer, he partners with clients to transform in-house legal teams.
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