Today, more than ever, in-house legal teams have a lot on their plate. In-house teams are expected to increase efficiencies while also reducing costs and mitigating risk. Throughout the course of each legal matter, in-house legal teams coordinate and collaborate with a range of internal and external stakeholders. Delivering on key business objectives while also providing high-quality legal services can sometimes seem like competing objectives. To balance these key deliverables, in-house legal teams require excellent matter management tools and processes. This article sets out what good matter management looks like and provides ideas on how you improve matter management across your legal team.

What is Matter Management?

Matter management describes the process of managing and recording legal matters and related data. This may include: 

  • the type of legal work;
  • assigned lawyers;
  • budget; and
  • invoices.

They should be managed in a way that can be tracked and reported throughout the lifecycle of the matter. 

Effective matter management tools can assist in: 

  • improve your workflow; 
  • increase efficiencies across your in-house legal team; and
  • mitigate risk.

More specifically, effective matter management will:

  • allow you to easily access the larger strategic picture of your work while also keeping a close eye on the small details of each matter;
  • allow you to track your legal team’s activities in a central place; and
  • feature workflow management tools that you can configure to access particular matters when working on confidential projects.

Steps to Improve Your Matter Management Processes

There are many ways to improve your matter management tools and processes. As a starting point, consider whether you can make improvements by:

  1. reviewing your workflow and diagnosing key problems;
  2. consolidating disconnected systems;
  3. improving transparency through better file management; and
  4. leveraging technology platforms.

1. Review Your Workflow and Diagnose the Problem

Before you start working towards improving your matter management processes, it is important to diagnose the underlying problem. This way, you can identify how improving matter management is going to assist in resolving this need.

You should analyse your existing workflows before amending them. When beginning this diagnosis exercise, you should always analyse and understand the framework of how you are currently carrying out work in your in-house team. Stepping back and uncovering the framework is a powerful tool to help you enhance the way your team works.

Legal process mapping is a useful tool for analysing workflows. Through this exercise, you end up with a visual representation of how your legal tasks interact with other:

  • stakeholders in the business; and
  • business processes.

It can even identify pain points and opportunities for improvement.

2. Consolidate Disconnected Systems

One of the most common roadblocks to effective matter management is disconnected systems. If you have processes and data spread across multiple systems, it can be very difficult for your in-house legal team to collaborate with: 

  • each other;
  • the business; and
  • external providers, like external counsel.

As a first step, you should take stock of the various systems and tools you rely on, including:

  • sales and client relationship management portals; 
  • intranets;
  • email software; 
  • spreadsheets; and 
  • any technologies your external providers use.

Here, you can work with your IT team to identify opportunities to link or integrate these systems within your current technology stack. 

This stack includes, for example, the framework, languages and software products that your current systems are built from. 

A lot of the time, you can work with what you have and focus on improving the way these existing systems function. Even small steps towards system integration can boost efficiency and improve collaboration across the business.

3. Improve Transparency

Many legal teams are guilty of relying on spreadsheets to track matters. Many fall into the trap of using local drives or emails to save and store files. While spreadsheets and local drives seem like a simple solution, they can result in an archaic system of file storage and messy file management.

If your team relies on spreadsheets, it is likely you will have experienced how easily key information can be: 

  • overlooked; 
  • out of date; or
  • entered incorrectly. 

Similarly, if your team relies on various methods of saving and storing files, it can sometimes be difficult to access or locate important documents. As a result, you may find that lawyers are duplicating work, or knowledge is simply lost. This can harm the pace at which your lawyers are building their skills. It can also, ultimately, diminish the quality of the legal work itself.

Effective matter management improves transparency and promotes efficiency by facilitating a central storage system. It also efficiently tracks matter progress. By having this centralised system, any member of your in-house legal team can access the right files at any time. Access to files is not restricted because a member of your team is out of the office.

Helpfully, you can also implement access control functionality. This means if you need to partition certain confidential information within your team, you can. 

4. Improve Matter Management Through Technology 

Depending on your budget, matter management challenges can be addressed with a platform like LawVu or Xakia.

 As a starting point, matter management software platforms should: 

  • centralise your matter activities;
  • allow your team to track, manage and collaborate on all legal work; and
  • assist you to engage with the wider business and clearly communicate the value of work your team does.

Really effective matter management software combines features like: 

  • secure file sharing;
  • document and data collaboration;
  • automated workflows; and 
  • task management.

It will also integrate existing management systems like your intranet and email systems so you can capture and analyse key data in one place.

Key Takeaways

It is easy to see why effective matter management is the holy grail for in-house legal teams. Matter management allows you to manage the competing priorities of the business and legal functions efficiently. As a starting point, you should review your workflow processes and diagnose any problems or pain points and identify any opportunities for improvement. Once you have done, this will be in a good position to consider whether you can:

  • consolidate disconnected systems;
  • move files to a central repository; and
  • introduce new technology.

If you need assistance improving your matter management tools, contact LegalVision’s Legal Transformation team on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

 

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

The majority of our clients are LVConnect members. By becoming a member, you can stay ahead of legal issues while staying on top of costs. For just $199 per month, membership unlocks unlimited lawyer consultations, faster turnaround times, free legal templates and members-only discounts.

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George Turnbull
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