While law firms around the world are increasingly embracing legal project management, firms in Africa are lagging. Not only does that make them less competitive, it could also curb their ability to win cross-border work where clients or other firms are already handling legal matters using project management techniques.
“Practising lawyers from small firms right through to large firms, particularly in South Africa, are very unaware of the developments around legal project management and how it may affect their business in the not too distant future,” commented Nicolene Schoeman-Louw, founder and managing director of Cape Town-based SchoemanLaw.
To help change that, SchoemanLaw is teaming up with Africa Legal to provide an introductory course on legal project management for people working in private practice or in corporate legal departments. The course is based on the International Institute of Legal Project Management’s (IILPM) framework.
The free introductory course is split into three modules, which will give attendees a basic understanding of the principles of legal project management, how it can be used to better manage legal matters, and how to apply this in practice.
“We’ve seen the adoption of project management as a methodology in other industries in order to organise themselves or to execute their work, and legal project management has really taken well-founded principles from the project management space and adapted it to the execution of legal matters, whether those be litigious in nature or non-litigious,” said Schoeman-Louw. “Any legal matter can be seen as a project and you can use the various methodologies of legal project management to fit it into a legal context.”
One of the key benefits of adopting legal project management as a practice management tool is that it helps firms better predict costs.
“It can help lawyers develop skills around costing models in a more efficient manner so that they don’t thumbsuck their expected costs and end up having either long drawn-out issues over fees, or work against a loss because of poor forecasting,” Schoeman-Louw explained. “Clients are seeking more flexibility in the costing component – the billable hour just isn’t competitive in today’s marketplace.”
The legal industry has also traditionally been weak at being deadline-driven, which means clients are often in the dark when it comes to timelines around service delivery. This is another way legal project management can help improve the client’s experience.
“Clients feel they don’t get feedback and they don’t know what stage lawyers are at in a matter,” Schoeman-Louw said. “They don’t know what the risks are, what the usual course looks like or what can interrupt the usual course. So it becomes a very unpredictable and volatile environment from a client perspective.”
Schoeman-Louw founded SchoemanLaw 15 years ago specifically to provide legal services to entrepreneurs. Having originally attended a course on legal project management to support her growing practice, she quickly became qualified as a legal project practitioner and soon started assisting with training before taking over the licence to run the course herself.
Once attendees have completed the introductory course, they have the option of enrolling on the Applied Legal Project Management course SchoemanLaw offers, which is accredited by the IILPM. At the end of that course, attendees are certified either as a legal project associate or a legal project practitioner.
“That certification can open many more doors from a career development point of view for an individual practitioner, and it could also make you more competitive as a law firm if more than one of your lawyers are certified through the Institute,” she explained.
For more information on the introductory course or on how to enrol click here.
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