How Project Management Tools Can Transform Your Law Firm

November 16

Tired of recreating the wheel every time you get a new legal matter? 

Use these simple tools to build repeatable processes that make you money.  


Law firms manage many cases and tasks everyday and use various systems and tech tools to keep track of their work. From simple calendaring of tasks to case management applications, the focus of these systems is to manage the chaos. Rarely are these systems fully deployed or used for a strategic purpose. 


Practice management vendors have shared with us that most law firms use only about 30% of the capability of their case management systems. So it isn’t a surprise that most law firms end up frustrated with their case management software applications. 


While law firms purchase and deploy new technology to reduce inefficiencies and frustrations related to case management, the truth is this almost never happens. After the initial implementation and vendor training is complete, law firms rarely deploy the advanced features of the software application. 


Project management tools CAN increase a firm’s efficiency and productivity IF a firm has the right leadership, plan and implementation team in place to make it happen. 



Given how most firms manage their cases, we know we have a heavy lift as we try to introduce another concept into the case management process. So why do it? Because the potential rewards for law firms are astronomical. We fix law firms, so it’s our job. 


Applying project management concepts and tools to legal work can capture repeatable processes that translate significant benefits including:

  • Faster case handling
  • Reduced training costs
  • Reduced write offs
  • Lower production costs
  • Better client service metrics scores
  • More profit

Clients will see the difference in the way cases are handled by firms who take this approach and have a strong incentive to send more assignments. 



You do not need a degree in project management to deploy these systems. A little creativity coupled with a good project management application and some implementation support will take you a long way.  


While these tools and concepts are helpful in a wide range of cases, it is easiest to see the benefits in practice areas with a volume of similar cases. Many complex and unique cases can surely benefit from this approach, but it is near impossible to predict with any certainty the future direction of some cases. In these situations, results outweigh everything else and efficiency is less important.  


Let’s look at a video example below for a casualty litigation case. We like the application Teamwork as a project management tool, so we will use that one in our example. 



It is essentially a comprehensive and detailed approach that focuses on the organization and delegation of tasks and opportunities, workflow effectiveness and efficiency, deadline and time management, collaboration and communication, as well as case oversight and progress reporting. 


Who is this for and why should you do this?

Approaching legal work with a project management methodology requires buy-in and commitment to a structured workflow from all team members. We recommend this to firms who want to

  • manage their cases more effectively and efficiently
  • optimize their case workflow
  • understand the workload and time spent on cases
  • understand the costs associated with their case work
  • improve collaboration and teamwork
  • speed up the learning curve of their associates
  • foster independent associate work


Selecting a Project Management Application

A key driver of successful project management is the software. While we prefer Teamwork, there are a variety of applications on the market that will do the job.  Examples include programs like Basecamp, Trello, Asana and


When choosing an application, here are the main features that will deliver the most value when deployed as suggested. 

  • Projects

    The heart of any project management application is the projects that users can create. Within each project there is a variety of functionalities such as task lists, deadlines, messages and timekeeping, which law firms can use to manage their cases and transactions. 

  • Tasks

Task lists allow for role and responsibility assignment by assigning tasks to project members allow for efficient delegation. Having the ability to set priorities and reminders and add tags helps the team to manage their workload and deadlines. Task checklists and completion percentages are important to keep track of the project progress.

Since most projects/ cases follow the same steps in a specific practice area or practice group, having the ability to create project templates is important to automate and speed up the project setup process.

  • Management

For project delegation purposes it is helpful to be able to set durations and deadlines for the project as well as individual tasks. This way managers ensure that the project timeline is satisfied and team members don’t have to needlessly wait for a late task completion from someone else. Milestones that tasks can be associated with are an additional element for more efficient project management. Another key feature of project management is budget setting to track how much time should be spent on a project and to count time entries against the budget.

A project overview dashboard provides managers with a complete overview of the project progress including measures and reports on all the aforementioned project components. 

  • Collaboration

The ability to add comments and share messages is great to communicate with team members and other stakeholders. Attaching files to tasks or creating notebooks gives project participants a way to keep track of documents and notes related to the matter.

  • Accounting

Some project management applications have an integrated timekeeping and billing function. Depending on the practice area and client requirements, this function might entirely eliminate the need for additional billing software. For firms who do not bill by the hour, the time tracking is still a great tool to understand how much time is spent on a case and its related tasks. This allows for more accurate flat fee pricing and time allocation/ budgeting. 

  • Integrations

Integrations with file storage systems, accounting or crm software are great to build a seamless suite of applications. Files stored in OneDrive or Google Drive can be associated with projects and tasks, which allows for law firms to keep their files on their own document storage tool instead of having to upload them into the project management app. CRM software integrations enable the connection of business development and case management. Accounting integrations connect the billing feature with a business accounting software like Quickbooks. 

Typically, project management applications have an integrated calendar to show deadlines, due tasks and other events associated with the project. An integration with the firm email account such as Outlook or Gmail allows for calendar synchronization.


The majority of the project management software vendors offer demos and risk free trial periods to test and try out their programs, which should ease any fears selecting an application that is not right for the firm. 


Project Management’s Role in Other Areas

Once you become familiar with project management fundamentals you can apply them to almost any project that requires a sustained effort. Here are a few examples:

  • Attorney Development Plans 

  • Firm Management Projects 

  • Strategic Planning Efforts

Look for our future pieces on using project management principles and tools to excel in these areas. Who knows, we might even publish a template or two. 


Bottom line

The project management approach is suited for law firm managers who put an emphasis on collaboration and seamless teamwork. With a capable software application managers can keep a complete overview of cases and statuses, which is especially beneficial with complicated or bigger cases that involve multiple moving pieces. Smart firms can also see how they measure up to the most important case management KPI’s their clients value. 


A collaborative approach has beneficial effects on the firm’s economic and operational performance. Besides an improved bottom line, it enhances innovation, talent integration and retention, as well as associate training and development. It allows for a combination of individual strengths into a better overall team performance and reduces frustration that comes from insufficient communication, overdue tasks and waiting for others to complete their work.