A. Step One: Scoping Out the Work
A critical first step once a new matter arises is scoping out the work to identify what needs to be
done to achieve success. This may be obvious on some level, but “the devil is in the details” in
order to achieve proper execution. The focus here must go beyond a gut feeling that items such as
the staffing plan, the rates, and the budget “look right,” to a more exact level of detail enabling
sound project management within a legal matter.
10 This may represent more administrative effort
than some in-house counsel are accustomed to or comfortable with, but the benefits are legion.
Effective project management (both in-house and within law firms) enhances the ability to
implement value-based fee structures (like alternative fees) and manage outside counsel work in a
more cost-effective way (even if the traditional hourly rate model is used). Discussed below are
three methods for obtaining useful information on the projected scope of a new matter.
Examine Existing Information within your Legal Department
Existing information within your legal department is a good place to start when defining the scope
of work to be performed for a particular matter. If your department has handled several similar
matters in recent years, then you have some reference points to help you address issues like:
■ The work to be performed;
■ The size of any outside counsel team required;
■ The types of resources required;
■ How the matter might unfold in terms of timing and duration;
■ The sequence of steps in terms of project management; and
■ The price you have paid for similar services in the past.
Depending on how your department functions, you can gather this information by:
■ Speaking with your colleagues who have worked on these matters;
■ Mining technologies/databanks that have captured data that can be useful;
■ Reviewing summary documents (like status reports, budget templates, forecast
updates, staffing plans, and project management documents) that were used to
manage similar matters in the past (If you do not have these handy, perhaps past
outside counsel might); or
■ Checking electronic matter management and e-billing systems, depending on how
effectively they are used in tracking key components of matter activity.
If you struggle to locate this information and you do not use summary management documents
like those listed above, consider how you can improve your approach to gathering and keeping
this information for future use. Ask outside counsel to provide this information in an effective