Law Firms Lag On Project Management, Report Says – Law360 (subscription)

Law360, New York (August 16, 2017, 3:24 PM EDT) —
As law firms strive to be more efficient and provide value to clients, many are struggling to make the necessary technological and process changes to further that goal, according to a report published Wednesday.

Only 15 percent of law firms have a legal project management model that is well-defined, with dedicated technology to support the process and strong leadership, according to the results of a survey published in legal software provider Exterro’s 2017 Law Firm Benchmarking Report.

“The results show 66 percent of firms are focused on being more efficient, but only a small group of opportunistic practices are actually executing on this focus, leading to new business opportunities,” the report said.

The survey’s respondents included 126 people with a variety of law firm job titles, from managing partner to associate to information technology manager, in all 50 states. Forty-five percent of respondents were from small law firms while approximately one-third were from midsize firms, and nearly a quarter were from large law firms.

A majority of respondents described their legal processes as “ad hoc,” an experimental, ever-changing process, with no management and no budget, or “defined,” where management is aware of the process but doesn’t enforce it, and only part-time resources are allocated to it.

Partners are still considered the primary project manager, up 16 percent from 2016, which the report says is a “huge red flag.”

“Best practices dictate assigning a formal project manager to coordinate tasks, ensure deadlines are met, create reporting, etc., so that attorneys can focus more on case strategy,” the report said.

Another problem area, according to the report, is in the project management tools law firms use, many of which are “manual” and “ad hoc.” Fifty-three percent of law firms use spreadsheets, and 62 percent use email as their primary tools for project management, which Exterro says can “create a lack of visibility into project statuses and miscommunications between team members.”

Despite the current lag in project management prowess, law firms appear to be making it a priority for the future, the report found.

According to 51 percent of respondents to the survey, compared to five years ago, their law firm is “much more focused” on legal project management principles and technology. And 37 percent of respondents said they expect their annual technology spending to increase next year by as much as 25 percent to 30 percent, focusing specifically on legal project management software to help them become more efficient.

“With 33 percent of law firms currently allocating 1 percent or more of their external spend budget on legal project management solutions, the trend we are seeing is that firms continue to invest more in technology,” the report said.

–Editing by Christine Chun.

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