What are the key features of a case or matter management system for an in-house legal team?
Case Management Systems have been used in legal practices for decades. In essence, they help to organise and manage legal work, enabling lawyers to track and coordinate all the activities, documents, deadlines, and communication related to a specific piece of work (we’ll call it a “matter” here as it could be a court case, a transaction, or an advisory piece).
Case Management Systems may involve tools for:
Capturing matter-specific information and contacts and storing them in a way that they can easily be found when working on the matter or used to automate tasks such as sending reminders.
Identifying the steps likely to be required in dealing with the matter and managing (and in some cases automating) tasks, workflows, escalation, timescales and deadlines.
Storing and securing documents and other files or information, providing version control and easy retrieval when required.
Providing standard form documents, checklists and other know how relevant to the type of matter.
Automating the assembly of key documents and emails, using the standard forms (4) and the matter-specific information (1).
Providing an easy overview of the current status and next steps on the matter (which could include specific fields for key information such as insurance reserves).
Capturing and monitoring time costs and expenses and handling billing and credit control. This is likely to involve time capture (whether active or passive).
Enabling the team working on the matter to communicate and collaborate with each other.
Case Management Systems will often provide an overview of legal matters at several levels:
A specific matter (6 above),
A portfolio of matters,
An individual’s workload,
A team’s workload,
The workload of a particular type, and
The workload for a particular client.
Traditionally used in high volume work where much of the process is predictable at the outset, these systems have been adapted over time for use in the lower volume, less predictable types of legal matters. The trick has always been to ensure that the system guides and constrains what the lawyer can do in those situations where it is clear what the correct course will be but allows flexibility where the correct action is less predictable and there may be multiple options or iterations.
Some Case Management Systems may provide the functionality to enable the client to log in to see the status of their matters. They may not see everything the lawyer sees, but they will be given access to some of the key documentation and other information. Other external advisors (such as estate agents or external counsel) may have a degree of access too. In the in-house context, client access may go further such as where the Case Management System is the “front door” to the legal department for the business: the place where internal clients have to log their legal queries/requests.
In the past, law firms have often had several different Case Management Systems for different types of work, although increasingly these are being brought together into a single platform. In an in-house context, it is often important to be able to manage all the legal department’s work in one place, in order to have an overview of:
What work is the department handling? How busy members of the team are. It may help to divide the work into categories (e.g. contentious vs non-contentious?) to see where there is a need to train/recruit/redeploy team members in particular specialisms.
Where are the key areas of risk. Patterns of claims or problems that could indicate issues in working processes1
What is the work costing the business? What should be cross-charged?
As with most technology, the success or failure of Case Management Systems lies in the adoption of them. Change management is often forgotten in the implementation of new systems, but that leads to the risk that old ways of working will simply continue regardless. Making the systems easy to use, secure (but easy to log into), and fast (so that users are not watching the wheel of death spin round every time they try to do anything) is a good start for reducing barriers to adoption.
Case Management Systems rely on the capture of accurate data at the outset of matters, and the ability to change/correct the information as the matter develops or progresses. Persuading people to categorise their matters accurately at the outset is often a challenge, and it is wise to keep the classification as simple as possible, at least to start with.
If you are using the Case Management System as the front door for the organisation to instruct the legal department, it is even harder to get widespread adoption. People in the business who are not focused on the legal department’s processes will often continue to provide instructions by email or telephone and it is almost always necessary for the legal department to have the facility to go back and log the work in the system themselves.
If you would like further information about 3Kites Consulting and how we can help you with case or matter management, please contact us using the following details:
Melanie Farquharson 07802 850932 firstname.lastname@example.org