Careful planning is the key
Legal Project Planning, just like the recent construction project we undertook to our house, takes careful planning that should be monitored and measured during every work phase. To help address this task, project managers use milestones as a means for evaluating a project’s performance. For instance, in our construction plan, all drawings and budget approvals had to be completed before a shovel went into the ground…and then the excavating began, which had to be completed before we began the foundation work. Milestones are simply short-term task or phases that need to be satisfied in a cost-efficient and quality manner according to established timelines on a project schedule before advancing to the next task.
How it applies to litigation planning
Effective litigation planning, too, takes advantage of the milestone concept. In fact, assisting clients with building in milestones to their litigation project plans is becoming accepted practice because it also contributes toward the continuous improvement of their litigation models for future cases. More importantly, though, milestones help foster the measurable performance of litigation planning based on sound principles of project management. The tasks involved in each milestone will be required to be completed to move to the next milestone.
Milestones break up the big project
It’s important to focus on accomplishing milestones, even with unexpected (or expected) changes in your litigation planning. Deviations from established milestones or revisions to a project plan can eventually impact the outcome of subsequent milestones. However, don’t become too preoccupied with this challenge. Keep in mind that an early case assessment may clearly call for adjustments in the number of professional staff or support personnel required or the number of expected actions to be undertaken.
Consequently, adding a milestone or multiple milestones along the way to a litigation project plan simply creates a period of reassessment, allowing the plan to be adjusted accordingly to the results of the new milestones. This approach has been shown to be quite effective in the planning models for larger litigations.
How this might work for you
A beginning milestone for a corporate legal counsel manager, for example, might apply to the start of a litigation case. Just for example…let’s call it “Milestone 1 (or M1): Engagement.” The first step is to open an active case and assign it to outside legal counsel. Within five days, the outside firm must file an “assignment acknowledgment” form. Next, the case information needs to be checked for any potential conflicts and confirmed. If there any immediate concerns, they should be adequately addressed before moving forward to other case assignment responsibilities. Once all issues have been resolved, if any, the case assignment is confirmed and approved by the managing attorney. A signed engagement letter needs to be completed and filed. Perhaps a very elementary example of a milestone…but we would not want to get too far into a litigation only to find out there is a serious conflict that has arisen. So the workflow of Milestones requires an approval process before we continue forward.
Additional milestones regarding case plan selection, litigation team assignments, budget forecasts, custodial collections, litigation holds and monitoring, real-time analytics, and ongoing modeling are all good candidates for litigation project management when realistic goals for achievement are set within reasonable time schedules.
A final thought on milestones in litigation
Although established milestones are a good business practice, don’t hesitate to adjust your milestones to account for change orders in project scope, quality, scheduling, costs, or eBilling options. Variances in milestones can help refine your litigation model for optimum use on future projects, making it more flexible when selecting your case plan or developing billing guidelines. And certainly, share the plan of milestones with the entire team to create a truly collaborative environment.
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