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Legal Project Management has finally made its way into German in-house legal departments

A brief summary of recent observations and surveys

For a long time, in-house legal counsels and attorneys in Germany have suspiciously eyed Legal Project Management (LPM) but the most recent Juve-Inhouse-Survey (JUVE 02/20) and observations from the BUJ-Inhouse Lawyers Conference 2020 confirm a significant change of mindset.

Project Management at the top of the priorities list

52.3% of all respondents surveyed state a “high priority” towards optimisation of workflows and project management, while 5.9% even consider those tasks to be “already completed”.

Strictly speaking, the lower ranked aspects of “analysis/optimisation of integration with company-wide processes“, “optimisation of communication with business“ and “knowledge management/internal communication“ also address core elements of LPM, such as communication, proactive matter management and continuous process improvement.

The “high priority“ attached to LPM is further underpinned by remarkable case studies such as the one of ING DiBa.

Exhibit 1: Top 5 “High Priorities” of legal departments in Germany

 

Dr. Rasmus Furth, company lawyer and Head Legal Operations ING DiBa, illustrated in his workshop on the BUJ-In-house Lawyers Conference how legal departments in alignment with other business departments can transition to Agile project management and successfully implement e.g. Standups, Kanban Boards and an Obeya Room in a legal context.

In line with the new openness towards LPM, the willingness to engage project lawyers from external service providers seems to have increased. 20% of all respondents have already employed project lawyers, while 17% “rather lean” towards such

Current and future briefing criteria reflect the critical relevance of LPM

The trend becomes even more obvious with respect to external legal service providers. Whereas the experience of external legal advisors does play the most important role (4.5 on a scale of 1 (irrelevant) to 5 (decisive)), “project management in matters” follows in second place (2.9) just trailing “information on relevant legal developments“ (3.5) amongst “Additional Services”.

In the future, inhouse lawyers particularly look for “more versatile pricing and billing models” (3.3 on a scale of 1 (unnecessary) to 5 (absolutely necessary)) closely followed by “better project management” (3.2).

Christina Sontheim-Leven, Chief Legal & Compliance Officer at Postcon Deutschland B.V. & Co KG, commented in the recent edition of legal journal „unternehmensjurist“ (“More efficiency in the legal department”, edition 1/2020, p.32 – 35, translated from German): „I know that many lawyers on both sides still close their eyes and hope that „it will go away again”, but digital transformation won’t spare our profession and will require new skills. Asking lawyers to apply methods based on Legal Project Management and leverage Legal Technology will most likely become the new standard in a few years. Those Ignoring this trend today and not preparing for it, operate at the risk of losing touch with an ever-changing working place."

Conclusion

Although LPM has gained a well-deserved slot on many legal departments‘ priority lists, practical examples in the German legal market show the ongoing need for more information with respect to conceptualisation, entrenchment and implementation of LPM programmes.

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