Legal Matter Management Essentials for Modern Law Offices
Matter management describes the management of all elements involved in an individual legal matter within a ﬁrm and is an integral factor in the success of any law practice.
Proper and effective organization offers insight into the various facets of each matter and provides a clear sense of a matter’s trajectory in order to reasonably anticipate the next steps and best practices. Legal matter management requires a clear delegation of responsibilities and deadlines to ensure work is not duplicated and is completed on time. Additionally, communication (both internal and with the client) is an essential component of a productive matter management system and necessitates that the appropriate parties retain access to all pertinent communication records, documents, and details.
What Can Go Wrong?
Inconsistency When Opening Matters & Recording Progress
Without a legal matter management system in place, a law ﬁrm’s procedure of opening and maintaining client ﬁles is bound to become inconsistent. To facilitate uniformity and avoid possible record-keeping errors, it must be clear which information will be collected at the start of the process, how ﬁles will be compiled and stored, and who has access to these records.
Inaccurate or Scattered Database
When information is spread out amongst various ﬁles or tools, it can be difﬁcult to see the “big picture.” Furthermore, certain functions such as conﬂict checks or ﬁrm ﬁnancial transactions require a uniﬁed view to guarantee accuracy.
Matter details stored in multiple tools may result in a “scattered database” that does not provide a central location for all essential information. This can cause other difﬁculties, including:
- Losing track of clients and communication history
- Missing critical deadlines
- Misplacing important information (e.g. notes and expenses)
- Doubling up on tasks or work that may have already been completed
Self-Built Solutions or Task-Speciﬁc Software
When originating a legal matter, important steps like client intake, conﬂict checks, receiving important documentation, deﬁning important deadlines, and executing fee agreements are often top of the to-do list. Many lawyers and ﬁrms create their own systems or use software to automate processes, such as creating an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of necessary matter deadlines. For ongoing ﬁle maintenance and important reminders, ﬁrms may also choose to utilize a solution like a tickler ﬁle or system.
Centralizing Areas of the Matter
The next step may be to ﬁnd tools that specialize in certain areas. Firms often adopt a calendaring solution that allows all lawyers to view the events associated with a matter, or they may implement ﬁnancial management software that helps to standardize billing. Centralizing information for easy documentation and accessibility is a necessary method for managing even the smallest of caseloads.
Negative Financial Effects
Without the proper tools to point out inefﬁciencies, it is easy to lose track of important factors such as how much time is being spent on tasks, which lawyers are working on what matters, client retainers, and ﬁrm costs, resulting in wasted time and money.
Regular File Reviews/Reporting on Progress
Tracking matter progress or various matrices is often conducted manually through regular ﬁle reviews and reports. Typically, an individual in a ﬁrm will be assigned the task of compiling various manual reports. For example, ﬁrms may schedule regular ﬁle reviews, and a team member may be asked to produce a report that includes important matter details. At these meetings, individuals report on the progress of the matter so that other members of the ﬁrm remain up-to-date. Regular review of important information will keep the key players informed so that the best decisions can be made.
Ways to Improve on Common Solutions
One goal of a legal matter management system is to help reduce human error. To accomplish this, it is best to adopt a system that has a consistent method of opening and reporting on matter progress. Keep in mind that legal-speciﬁc tools can be very helpful in this respect, as they uphold these standard requirements.
Find a system that can automatically add, ﬁll in, or restrict matter input ﬁelds to help with standardizing data entry. Additionally, the tool should allow for custom ﬁeld entry in order to keep track of a ﬁrm’s important data. Automation is another useful feature; workﬂows and templates help standardize actions, documents, and tasks across the ﬁrm.
Unifying solutions into, preferably, an all-in-one system will result in added beneﬁts. First, centralized data makes it easier to ﬁnd information. This can also improve internal ﬁrm communication as well as the quality of communication with clients — leading to fewer client disputes and an increased likelihood of getting paid on time.
Use a Cloud-Based Matter Management System
To take it a step further, utilize a cloud-based solution that promotes centralized matter management. Not only does this provide 24/7 access to the most updated case information from anywhere, but it also offers peace of mind by reducing the risk of lost or misplaced data.
Use Information Wisely & Continuously Improve with Matter Matrices
While regular meetings are useful, a system that provides business intelligence and analytics will signiﬁcantly enhance productivity. A centralized system displays information in one location, allowing complete access across team members and providing reports and analytics. When selecting systems that will offer operational or ﬁnancial intelligence, keep in mind that compliance is key: legal ﬁrms are different than any other business.
The CosmoLex Solution
Standardization Every Step of the Way
Because CosmoLex is legal-speciﬁc and fully integrated with legal billing, accounting, and practice management, it serves as an excellent legal matter management solution. It is an effective tool for individual ﬁrms to standardize the way that new matters are opened and how progress is logged and offers features such as custom ﬁelds, auto-ﬁlled ﬁelds (like ﬁle numbers), and implementation permissions and restrictions to limit mistakes. The billing capabilities also facilitate standardized billing and collections processes and track timekeepers’ and lawyers’ workloads.
Easy Access & Centralized Data
In CosmoLex, each ﬁle has its own “Matter Details” section to review billing, calendar events, emails, and notes associated with a matter. Additionally, this feature also makes it easy to locate any item entered during the entire history of the case.
It is important to note that communications, document management, ﬁnancial information, and important matter details are all accessible using a single CosmoLex login – anytime, anywhere. Unifying data in this way enables useful activities such as conﬂict checks, automated document templates, and the use of the client portal. And since CosmoLex is a cloud-based program, it offers full mobility and remote access.
Interactive Dashboards, At-A-Glance Views & Automated Reports
Easily identify and address red ﬂags while simultaneously promoting continued improvement by staying informed of each matter’s progress. CosmoLex is built to show at-a-glance information and it provides the right reporting to provide the operational and ﬁnancial intelligence ﬁrms need to ensure best practices and increase productivity.