Project management has been around for decades. With roots in manufacturing, the practice started as a means to improve large-scale efficiency. The concept has grown from its humble beginnings and is now widely applied throughout an array of industries. The competitive nature of the legal market makes efficiency a high priority, so it should be no surprise that project management has become a primary means for handling the complexities of litigation within many firms.

For Michael Quartararo, managing partner of eDPM, an eDiscovery and project management consultant and author, the application of project management to litigation is critical to success. In a recent webinar, The Evolution of Project Management in Litigation, Michael joined me to explore the basics of project management and how it can be applied to simplify and improve litigation processes.

Project management basics

Project management isn’t overly complex, but it does require some careful consideration and planning to be successful. It’s an operational theory, a methodical way of thinking about work and pursuing a desired outcome.

Projects, unlike routine tasks, are not ongoing and have an established beginning and end. They have a defined goal that meets specified requirements or a customer need. Beyond saving money by creating efficiency, thoughtful project management can reduce risk.

The project management lifecycle

Made of five process groups and 10 knowledge areas, the traditional project management lifecycle builds a framework for every successful project. The methodology involved is the same across all industries and can offer a consistent way to approach all projects.

The five pillars of project management

  1. Initiating Should we take this project on? Do we have the resources?
  2. Planning What does ‘"done" look like? Start at the end and work backward.
  3. Executing The orderly work of the project begins, tasks are completed and work is prepared.
  4. Monitoring and controlling Are we on time and on budget? Are we maintaining quality?
  5. Closing Document project metrics and set guidelines for future projects.

The 10 knowledge areas

After a project has been initiated and planned out, a project manager must consider and keep in mind these 10 knowledge areas as well.

  • Integration management
  • Scope management
  • Time management
  • Cost management
  • Quality management
  • Human resources management
  • Communications management
  • Risk management
  • Procurement management
  • Stakeholder management

Of these 10 areas, Michael estimates that nearly 80 percent of unsuccessful project attribute their failure to poor communication. In addition, scope management can pose unique problems within litigation matters.

Processes within project management

The specific steps and actions taken to achieve the project objectives make up the process. Building a process is about identifying the inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs of a project. Inputs are the data and information required for the project, tools and techniques are the resources needed for the project, and outputs are the completed outcomes or deliverables.

Michael offered one last piece of advice that stuck with me, urging project managers to remember, “Project management is flexible.” It isn’t strict, but If you understand what "done" looks like, you can then determine the input, tools and techniques, and outputs required for success.