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Adopting Project Management and New Ideas in the Legal Vertical

Legal Project Management is a good idea, with clear benefits to practitioners. Increased efficiency, better insight into matters, higher accountability among staff, and reduced errors are all hallmarks of well-implemented project management.

So adoption should be a slam dunk, right?

Not so fast. Law firms are known to lag behind other types of businesses when adopting new ideas and practices. Some people believe legal laggardness is due to the attorney mindset of basing decisions on precedent, which is drilled in on day one of law school and enforced every step along the way of a career.

As Everett Rogers notes in Diffusions of Innovation, his classic text on idea adoption:

Getting a new idea adopted, even when it has obvious advantages, is difficult. Many innovations require a lengthy period of many years from the time when they become available to the time when they are widely adopted.

Rogers then relates a story in which aid workers attempted to convince Bolivian villagers to boil their contaminated water to reduce disease. Though boiling water is clearly a good idea, the effort failed due to the precedents and belief systems of the villagers. Rogers observes:

An important factor regarding the adoption rate of an innovation is its compatibility with the values, beliefs, and past experiences of individuals in the social system.

My message to the legal community is this: project management, when executed well, gives demonstrable benefits for the industries embracing it. Look at it with an open mind. Ask yourself, hypothetically, how would businessmen from other industries, whether Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, run a law firm? And don’t get stuck drinking contaminated water.