Project Management for Lawyers – First in a Series

Lawyers (and law students, who are proto-lawyers and just starting to develop the skills they will need as lawyers) are frequently under time pressure to complete complex writing projects such as memos, briefs, contracts, and other transactional documents. Completing our legal writing projects is not just a matter of sitting down for a few hours and knocking off a document from the information inside our heads (wouldn’t that be nice?).  No, our writing projects require multiple steps, such as legal research or due diligence, document review, interviewing clients, close reading of primary legal sources, and outlining – all before we are ready to prepare the first draft! Then comes repeated re-drafting, revising and editing before we have a finished product.

The complexity of the tasks needed for our writing projects has led me to think a lot lately about the idea of applying project management theory to lawyering. There’s not nearly as much written about this topic as one might expect (and might hope). But I think that project management is an approach that can be help lawyers conquer those seemingly insurmountable complex writing projects – one manageable step at a time. So I plan to share on the blog useful information I find on project management that can be applied to lawyer’s professional lives. This is the first post in what I plan as a continuing series.

I hasten to add that a project management-type approach can also be used effectively by law students in working on memos or briefs for their legal writing courses or clinics, as well as law review notes, and seminar papers.

The first source I want to mention is an article entitled “Life Is Complex and Uncertain,” found here, as part of a column called A Curmudgeon’s Perspective, by the anonymous columnist “Otto Sorts,” who blogs at Attorney at Work, The article discusses how to apply the project management process used in the corporate world to a litigation, but the planning principles apply just as well to a complex research and writing project. The steps discussed in detail in the article include:

  • Define the Project;
  • Identify Steps;
  • Find the Connections;
  • What Do You Need to Know?;
  • Eyeball It; and
  • Repeat Periodically.

Do read the article in full – it explains these useful steps in more detail.

The Attorney at Work Blog has also just started running a column called Get It Done, which discusses a project and calendar-management system called “Getting Things Done.” I will blog about that column and the applicability to lawyers of the “Getting Things Done” approach in a future post in this project management series.


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