Legal Project Management: A New Role for Law Librarians?

I had the pleasure last week of presenting at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries / /L’Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit on the topic “Legal Project Management: Is There a Role for Law Librarians?”

My co-speaker was Andrew Terrett, the National Director of Knowledge Management at BLG who provided a great, pragmatic overview of project management in law firms.

Although in my paper I also provided a brief overview of legal project management and what various law firms were doing about it, the focus of my talk was instead on the third part of my paper on whether there was a role for law librarians in project management (this being a conference whose attendees were largely law librarians).

A copy of my paper, entitled “Project Management in Law Firms: A New Role for Librarians?” is available here, and includes a bibliography on legal project management resources (20 pages, PDF).

The first theme of my talk was that legal project management is definitely here to stay so we should all be embracing it as a new way of practicing law.

The second theme was that legal project management presents great opportunities to law librarians to leverage their expertise and expand their services.

Those people who know me well will know that I strongly believe in the connection between law librarianship and legal knowledge management (and I in fact don’t distinguish between the two activities since I think they are so closely entwined). Therefore, to the extent that there are overlaps between legal knowledge management and legal project management, there are, I think, a number of roles for law librarians to play.

I identified 8 roles for law librarians:

#1: Education and current awareness: To the extent that legal project management may still be quite new to some firms, there is an opportunity for law librarians to acquire materials on the topic and educate those within the firm through current awareness and monitoring what others in the industry are doing.

#2: RFPs / bidding process: An important element in legal project management for law firms is bidding on work through the RFP process. In many firms, there are opportunities for the RFP process to be improved and there are opportunities here for law librarians to work with their Marketing Department counterparts and firm management on organizing and standardizing their RFP documentation.

#3: Checklists: Law librarians are natural keepers and organizers of checklists, an important tool in large deals or lawsuits to tracking the steps that need to be taken (when discussing checklists, I like to mention the great work done by the Law Society of British Columbia in making a number of practice checklists available online). When combined with Role # 4 below, librarians can augment checklists by providing easy access to documents required at each step of the matter.

#4: Research / Precedents: To be more efficient and effective on large deals or lawsuits, law librarians are well poised to “imbed” research and precedents within the various resources needed on a particular deal or lawsuit. Of the 8 roles identified, this is perhaps the most obvious role (or at least the one most closely associated with what law librarians do).

#5: Evaluating and using Project Management Software: Many law librarians are likely the most experienced “searchers” within their firms and often have good expertise in evaluating software, including project management software. And although project management isn’t only about technology, software tools can play an important role (if you have not yet had your daily dose of being overwhelmed with too much information, check out the over 120 titles listed in the Wikipedia entry for project management software titles).

#6: e-Discovery Support: Canadian law firms are starting to get more experience with e-discovery with the increased adoption of new rules of civil procedure on handling large volumes of electronic discovery. Due to the large volume of materials, e-discovery is ripe to being project-managed. While in many situations it may be litigation law clerks or paralegals who will involved in the day-to-day “hands on” of e-discovery under the supervision of the resonsible litigation lawyer, many Knowledge Management departments in law firms help support e-discovery, whether it be evaluating e-discovery software, developing and organizing e-discovery precedents or simply monitoring e-discovery developments and best practices.

#7: Post-deal Reviews: An important element of project management is following up after the project is completed to see how the team did and how things can be improved next time. In many situations, both the lawyers and the client are too busy to deal with this or are otherwise already moving on to the next project. Depending on how your firm is structured, I think there is a role here for the Knowledge Management department to help with the post-deal review process.

#8: Internal Administrative Projects: Although much of legal project management correctly focuses on meeting client needs, realize that firms will also benefit from applying project management to their own internal projects and processes. In many situations, law librarians are well-suited to be involved on these internal projects, which could include such things as evaluating and implementing a new document management system or integrating library catalogues in a merged firm.
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I welcome comments.

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Note 1: When I prepared my paper (available at the link above), the following book published by the Ark Group had not yet been announced. I told attendees I would provide a link to that paper in this post, so here is the link:

– Barbara J Boake and Rick A Kathuria, Project Management for Lawyers (London: Ark Group, 2011)

Note 2: I also saw this morning that Jim Hassett has announced the launch of his new Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.

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Comments

  1. Ted, thanks for sharing your paper. You session was an excellent.