Last week, Martindale-Hubbell hosted one of our regular series of Counsel to Counsel Best Practices Forums. These are unique events bringing together in-house counsel and select law firms to discuss the particular challenges of their roles.
In this session, “Managing Complex Transactions,” participants talked about an idea that’s beginning to take hold in the legal community in many ways: the lawyer as project manager.
Project managers are not lawyers, of course – they’re a group with their own standards and certifications. If you can get a professional project manager to help make a deal happen and let the lawyers focus on legal issues, it can save a great deal of time and money.
Often, though, you can’t – it’s too expensive, it’s a one-time need, it’s too time-consuming to bring a new person up to speed on the way your organization does business. That’s where lawyers can benefit from some project management skills.
Project management may sound like common sense – ideas like making sure all the key stakeholders are held accountable for the parts they control, making sure the scope of the project doesn’t grow beyond its budgeted costs, and making sure top management gets enough information to accurately assess what’s going on at any stage.
On complex projects – a multinational merger, for example, or a business unit divestiture involving three private equity firms – it takes skills and experience to make sure common-sense objectives are being met. Often the person who brings those skills to the table, or can command them in others, is a general counsel. Forward-thinking GCs – and the law firms that hope to win their business – are beginning to look to project management as a way to maximize value and build efficient, profitable teams.