In July I wrote a piece for Lawyerist in which I prescribed Agile as a good technique for legal project management. Some commentars questioned, of all means of managing projects, why Agile for legal? Here’s my response. Finally.
As legal professionals join the project management party, hopefully they can benefit by arriving late. Other industries have invented project management techniques, many of which were reactions to previous methodologies that didn’t quite work. Software, for example, has seen technique after technique come and go, leaving failed initiatives in their wake.
Legal is in the enviable position of viewing the project management landscape from a 10,000 foot view, with the ability to reap the rewards as well as avoid expensive missteps other industries had to feel their way through.
There’s oodles of project management methodologies, books, and consultants waiting to make a buck off of companies implementing organizational change. Fans of Jack Welch will recognize Six Sigma, originally developed by Motorola. There’s Waterfall, Lean, RUP, just to scratch the surface.
I’m a fan of Agile for legal project management for two reasons: First, of all the techniques I’ve tried, I’ve seen it enjoy the most sustained success. It’s what we use to build Rocket Matter and what my previous company employed.
Second, I believe the core ideas of Agile deal well with the uncertainty of legal matters. Agile was a reaction to the Waterfall method of software delivery, where all of the requirements of a project were known in advance. Software peeps, like legal peeps, have to ride out bumpy, crazy, unexpected surprises along the way from beginning to end. There’s a ton of unquantifiable factors that can skew even the most explicit plan. Agile’s process of built-in adaptability cleaves well with the need in legal, especially litigators, to continually adapt to a changing landscape.