Practice Management

 View Only

Legal Project Management and Practice Management - They Sound Similar, But How Are They Different and How Do They Complement Each Other?

By Kristin Rhodes posted 06-29-2022 09:57


Please enjoy this co-authored blog post by Kristin Rhodes, Senior Practice Manager, Paul Hastings LLP, Mike Ertel, KM Attorney, Paul Hastings LLP and Lori Millang, Legal Project Manager, Paul Hastings LLP. 


Legal Project Management (“LPM”) and Practice Management (“PM”) are two terms that are commonly interchanged or misused. This blog post offers a concise recitation of the differences and similarities between LPM and PM.  There is often synergy between the roles, but they each bring their own value to the practice. This blog focuses on their unique contributions.

In broad strokes, Practice Management (“PM”) is the global general management of a practice group (e.g., overall productivity and profitability), whereas Legal Project Management (“LPM”) is the more localized management of individual matters within a practice group (e.g., matter scope, budget, and deadlines).

Defining Terms

Legal Project Management

Legal Project Management is led by a Legal Project Manager (also abbreviated as “LPM”) and provides a concentrated view of the business of law, focusing specifically on the individual matters, or in some instances, a portfolio of matters.

A Legal Project Manager assists attorneys with scope, budget, and deadlines for a particular matter. An LPM can become involved in a matter at any point in its lifecycle. Ideally, however, they are involved at the beginning of the pitch and proposal stage to help define the scope of the matter, budget, staffing, and other resources. Throughout the matter lifecycle, an LPM provides project management support, including analytics on accrued fees against the budget. The LPM also creates a project plan for the matter with task codes and assigns timekeepers and due dates to maintain matter deadlines.

Practice Management

A Practice Manager (also “PM”), who has a broader, aerial view of the practice, leads practice Management. As discussed in prior posts (please view the comments section below), PMs run the overall business operations of a practice, which include any number of tasks and priorities. When a PM has an LPM on the team, the PM is less likely to engage deeply on individual matters and will be more focused on the collective effect of those matters, or may get involved when there are significant issues.

When the LPM and PM overlap, they may add value working separately or working together. The next section provides examples of how they can differentiate on similar functions.

Applied Examples

Workforce Management

The core of practice group operations centers on workforce management, i.e., managing timekeepers. A profitable practice needs the right number of people and the right skill sets to match client demand. Practice Managers and Legal Project Managers provide key insights.

Practice Management

Legal Project Management

Manage timekeeper productivity (capacity and skill sets)

Staff individuals on matters they manage

Facilitate staffing (coordinate  timekeepers based on capacity and demand)

Create project scope for matters

Anticipate needs for additional timekeepers (recruiting)

Identify timekeepers who meet client billing guidelines and help obtain any needed client approval

Identify poor performers and facilitate career transitions.

Identify knowledge/experience gaps on staffed matters


Billing time is an important operational part of running a practice. When clients don’t receive accurate or timely bills, the firm risks not getting paid. LPMs and PMs can enhance a firm’s existing billing process by aiding communication between partners, the billing team, and/or the client.

Practice Management

Legal Project Management

Get involved when issues are global in nature, e.g., consistently late bills from specific partners. 

Review (or assist in reviewing) time entries for compliance with client guidelines

Facilitate communications within the group about timely time entry.

Assess task code compliance

Facilitate training within the group about proper time entry protocols, client guidelines, and partner/client preferences.

Remind partners about any aging unbilled fees on a matter



Like billing, collections is critical to preserving revenue for the practice. Even when a firm sends out bills correctly and on time, it may struggle to bring in the client’s payments. Once again, LPMs and PMs can help partners and practice group leaders keep track of their collections and support general client outreach and management where needed.

Practice Management

Legal Project Management

Provide analysis of potential misses and evaluate likely collection targets

Partner with the client to meet their needs

Assess potential collection surpluses. For example, any retainers that can be pre-paid or collected more quickly

Remind/chase partners regarding outstanding invoices

Report likely collection targets to the collections committee, particularly as the accounting period closes

Assist partners with contacting clients who are slow to pay


There is no one-size-fits-all-solution because every firm and practice group have different needs and personalities. For some practice groups, or firms with smaller budgets, one person serving a dual LPM/PM role may be the best fit for a practice group (or multiple groups).  For other firms or larger practices, having a dedicated LPM and PM may be necessary.

Most attorneys and practice group leaders enjoy practicing law, but do not enjoy the administrative burdens of running the business. Both LPM and PM roles help relieve these administrative burdens by allowing practice group leaders and other timekeepers to concentrate on the things they enjoy.  If your firm does not have PM or LPM roles, you should consider the benefits and value-add they would provide to your attorneys.

1 comment