Exclusive: HSF to roll out legal project managers across firmwide practice groups this summer

Herbert Smith Freehills has launched an initiative to place legal project managers in each of its practices, initially focusing on its disputes and corporate groups.

The firm hired one project manager to its disputes practice based in London in May, and plans to roll out the programme across all sectors and a number of jurisdictions this summer.

It sees HSF join a small number of UK firms hiring project managers to oversee and manage client work.

Hogan Lovells created two global project management roles after taking two Berwin Leighton Paisner senior managers in September (5 September 2014).

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer revealed plans to create six project manager roles in its litigation practice in the same month (2 September 2014), and Clifford Chance and Linklaters are also understood to have implemented legal project managers in London this year.

HSF project managers will work with project teams and be involved in pricing negotiations with clients as well as providing coaching to partners on efficiency and best practice when managing complex cases.

The initiative is being managed from HSF’s Sydney office, which has used legal project managers for a number of years.

HSF corporate services director Richard King, heading up the rollout from London, said: “The project is right at the beginning of the curve in London but in Australia we’ve had more time to see the product of our labours and client feedback has been very positive.”

King added that it was too early to estimate how the legal project manager initiative will affect the firm’s financial performance, though he said the success of the Australia model “has been a motivator” for the firmwide programme.

“Project management is a core competency of our lawyers and our clients have been emphasising how important is it to get better at delivering an effective and efficient service,” King said. “We believe our lawyers are good at this but there is plenty of scope to improve. What we’re looking to do now is provide an expert service that can help, support and interface directly with clients.”

The project manager already in place in London is working with HSF’s regulatory disputes lawyers and its financial services clients.

“The matters in question are very substantial in terms of the numbers of documents, issues and timescales. The more complicated and multidimensional a matter, the greatest the challenge is and that’s where project managers can make a difference to client work.”

Global head of disputes Justin D’Agostino said the initiative “provides dedicated support to lawyers on the ground” and “demonstrates to clients how we can help them drive greater value in getting their legal work done efficiently.

Project managers will work alongside HSF’s new 240-lawyer alternative legal services offering, which launched last week (11 June 2015) and “will continue to enable us to provide a high-quality, competitive option for clients for large-scale document or other information intensive tasks,” D’Agostino said.