Fibonacci is a built-for-purpose legal project management platform that has been designed and developed in partnership with a panel of innovative law firms and in-house corporate legal teams.
Lawyers and legal professionals implement a range of process improvements and technologies in order to more efficiently deliver legal services and meet increasingly stringent demands for transparency and service value, and yet there are still frustrations with the status quo.
This is why we have built Fibonacci: to provide a single source of truth on one platform - one that can expose further efficiencies and realise the productivity gains offered by legal project management.
What is Legal Project Management, and why is it important?
Project managers are commonplace in the majority of process-driven industries - take a look at construction, finance, software development, and healthcare. There are entire service-delivery business models committed to the provision of highly-trained project managers: goliath professional services firms such as PwC and Deloitte promote project management best practices, and their consulting teams are deployed to manage workflows, budgets, and reports for their stakeholders.
Irrespective of their industry, project managers share a common goal: to oversee the successful delivery of their projects. On its own, that sounds obvious and decidedly unremarkable, but it becomes more insightful when you break down a project manager’s role and peer into their four distinct areas of responsibility, namely:
These could be broken down ad infinitum, into their respective sub-responsibilities, but that’s somewhat “out of scope” for now.
When it comes to the legal industry, project managers are far less common, and yet the principles of project management, fittingly dubbed legal project management or LPM, are becoming increasingly prevalent and recognised in the sector, despite LPM having become something of an industry buzzword.
Barclays, for example, has a well-defined and well-adhered to set of legal project management principles which are deployed to any matter which values over £1 million - and this is a practice that we’ve seen used internally at other large corporates and law firms, to ensure that projects are delivered on time, within scope, and on budget. For large international organisations and their in-house corporate legal teams, managing the services provided by their external counsel is commonly governed by LPM methodologies, enhanced by the implementation of technology point-solutions. The volume of work performed by external counsel for a global organisation such as Barclays is vast, and the sizeable legal spend is one of the largest cost-centers in the group. It follows, then, that relationship and engagement activities with their panel law firms should be scrutinised and moderated for maximum possible efficiency.
The core tenets of LPM are synonymous with all good project management principles, and the driving force behind the industry’s increasing attention on LPM stems from increased pressure on legal teams to provide more value for less - be that less time or budget (or frequently, both!) Traditionally, the onus is on the in-house corporate team and the general counsel to oversee how their legal workload is conducted, and indeed lawyers have been de-facto project managers in their own right for as long as there has been a matter to manage. The role of the legal project manager is to chart the course of a matter in advance: to scope and plan it’s structure, ensure that resources are allocated effectively, and to manage its lifecycle to completion. Not only does the engagement of a legal project manager trend towards increased matter profitability for a law firm, but the associated operational improvements and coordination help to drive efficiency and better manage legal spend.
In a post-COVID 19 landscape, this emphasis on comprehensive planning and scoping of matters ahead of time, diligent resource allocation, and accurate progress updates is more important than ever. Scrutiny over expenditure promises to be more rigorous, and corporates will simply not be able to sign-off on excessive legal fees to external providers without being able to determine exactly what work is being done by lawyers to merit their valuable budget allocation.
Challenging the status quo
How do legal professionals manage projects and matters? How do we collaborate, share knowledge, and manage visibility across all the parties that may be involved in delivering a matter?
The increasing number of legal project managers deployed, both in corporates and in law firms, means that the coordination and administrative responsibilities of legal projects and matters have shifted away from the fee earners, freeing them up to focus their time and resources on what they do best.
The tools at their disposal, however, remain variable. Law firms use an array of different technology solutions and processes, frequently at the behest of their clients. This means that communication is often inconsistent, collaboration is not truly aligned and best practices are not fully formed or maintained.
Bird & Bird’s Employment team stressed that receiving and managing client materials varies greatly between engagements: in particular when using spreadsheets to request information which must then be manually tracked and collated. Anyone who has ever spent any meaningful time navigating the intricacies of Excel will empathize with this point in particular: how often have you received a spreadsheet to diligently populate, only to find that it is made up of unfamiliar columns, colour codes, and the occasional wonky formula? When cross-team collaboration is in full swing, data and files are shared back and forth, and there is a real risk that information may be erroneously omitted rather than carried over to the eponymous “master file” or waylaid amongst the noise of a busy inbox.
In fact, a recurring piece of feedback that we have gathered, is that collaboration efforts are too often quagmired by email traffic and inbox volume. This is particularly evident when coordinating on matters that span multiple jurisdictions, involving numerous teams, and is further exacerbated when third-party organisations are involved. No doubt every lawyer or legal professional can recount at least one time they were not cc’d into an important response and consequently lost visibility over crucial matter progression or update.
Whilst working with Bird & Bird’s IP litigation team, we saw first-hand the thousands of documents that were sent, received, logged, and reviewed whilst managing a pan-European patent infringement project. There is a well-trodden process of storing and sorting documentation in the firm’s document management system, responding to correspondence, and sharing marked-up copies and edits amongst team members via email - but it is inescapably manual and laborious.
These manual processes are spread between multiple tools from different providers - tools that aren’t always built to work together, and the onus is on the user to jury-rig a process that works best on an ad-hoc basis, according to client demands or team requirements. Fundamentally, both in-house lawyers and their in-practice counterparts still spend too much time collating data and coordinating workstreams, whilst managing a deluge of emails and documents. In turn, this directly competes with the time available for their substantive legal work and strategy, which is required to deliver results for the very matters that they are managing.
Legal project management technology empowers legal project managers
We have worked hand in glove with a number of prominent law firms and corporate legal teams, in order to discover and understand exactly what it is that drives successful LPM practices in their organisations and, crucially, where the inefficiencies remain. Thanks to the time and efforts of the members of our steering group, we’ve been able to study distinct workflows and commonalities across practice areas, and build a comprehensive platform that benefits both client and practitioner.
Having spoken about how Barclays manages their LPM processes with Helga Butcher, the bank’s lead project portfolio manager, it is clear that technology plays an important role in empowering legal project management professionals to best execute their function. From the point of view of an in-house professional, Helga stressed that the importance of adopting new technology is an exercise in relationship-building.
Communication and collaboration are two of Fibonacci’s founding principles. Not only is internal communication crucial for the team delivering a matter, but clients are increasingly demanding more transparency and visibility over how their matters are managed.
Fibonacci enables full transparency over all the workstreams involved in the delivery of a matter, enabling participants to remain on the front foot - to see what has been performed and what tasks are upcoming. This ethos applies to all elements of an engagement: as we gathered from the Barclays team, costs are a primary concern when engaging external counsel. Fibonacci’s championing of visibility extends to matter financials and by way of a built-for-purpose financial tracker, you’ll be able to track project spend alongside the agreed estimates, to minimise the risk of cost blowouts.
Fibonacci is a true built-for-purpose legal project management platform. Rather than pivoting existing software to meet some of the demands of the sector, we have specifically designed, iterated, and tested each functionality with the help of our steering committee.
Working in partnership with firms such as Bird & Bird, Paul Hastings, Ashurst, Addleshaw Goddard, Simmons & Simmons, as well as the LPM and M&A divisions of Barclays’ corporate legal team, we have identified the need for collaboration features, workflow automation tools, and reporting mechanics: fundamental tools, no matter the practice area.
We recognise that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and so Fibonacci is modular by design. Whether for complex multi-jurisdictional litigation, high-stakes, and fast-moving M&A transactions, or cross-border employment restructuring, Fibonacci can be assembled to suit various workflows. In tandem with this building-blocks approach, Fibonacci is designed with an open-access philosophy in mind - to work alongside your existing tools from other vendors, as well as leaving open the door to future technologies and synergies.
It has been a long and rewarding road to reach this point. Each build of Fibonacci has been tested and iterated upon, utilising expert feedback from our ambitious steering committee. That’s not to say we’re done learning, far from it: we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that Fibonacci truly revolutionises legal service delivery.
Interested to see how Fibonacci can transform your legal operations?