Managing legal matters from beginning to end is a complex business. Even straightforward matters require effective, efficient handling with transparency for stakeholders at every stage. They need workflows that are easy to understand and navigate, along with controlled access that ensures secure information sharing for internal and external staff members – and no one else.
In order to make the complex task of matter management a bit simpler to tackle, Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions has released a new eBook called The Challenges of Matter Lifecycle Management: Common hurdles and the legal technology to address them. In this eBook, we break down the matter lifecycle into four phases and provide key information about the tasks and objectives associated with each phase, as well as expert advice on how to meet those objectives.
Below is a brief overview of each phase.
Phase 1: Matter intake
It is critically important to ensure that you set the stage for matter success by beginning with a well-planned and well-executed matter intake process. Although matter intake is sometimes overlooked by law departments when honing their processes, it can have a negative or positive impact on later matter stages. When carried out correctly, effective matter intake can:
- Save substantial time by eliminating unnecessary work
- Improve legal team performance by aligning appropriate resources to each matter
- Increase visibility and provide clear line of sight to matter staffing and other details on how the matter is to be handled.
The lack of a common intake process can leave legal teams stretched thin across emails, phone calls, and in-person requests that don’t include sufficient detail. In addition, without visibility into existing contracts and matters, staff members can find themselves duplicating work. It’s not unusual for these issues to leave teams playing catch-up later in the process, having missed out on early strategic planning opportunities.
Phase 2: Matter opening
The matter intake and opening phases truly work hand-in-hand to facilitate the smooth execution of the remaining phases. Following on from a good intake process during matter opening, effective information gathering is required to inform critical matter planning. However, there are several ways in which antiquated processes and procedures can create challenges in opening new matters:
- Point-based solutions that don’t integrate seamlessly often make it difficult for teams to locate relevant templates or documents and, once again, risk duplicated effort among team members.
- Lack of data on budgets, cycle times, and other aspects of law firm performance, along with additional missing matter data, can prevent teams from developing an adequate matter plan.
- Decentralized communication – both internally and externally – is inefficient and drives up costs while decreasing productivity.
Phase 3: Work delivery
During phase 3, there are several tasks that will drive adherence to timelines and budgets, in addition to keeping a focus on risk mitigation. When these moving parts work well together, it supports strong outcomes that meet business goals.
These objectives are, of course, more difficult to reach if matter intake and opening have not been completed effectively. Furthermore, an exceptionally strong foundation established during the prior stages will translate to two primary benefits during the delivery of work:
- The legal team is armed with the information they need to make sound decisions.
- Established budget and billing guidelines provide guardrails that help the matter remain on plan.
However, even matters originating from a well-prepared process of intake and opening can fall victim to common barriers that drive inefficiencies during the delivery of work. For example, the need to log in and out of multiple systems to complete work can impede needed access to contracts and other key data upon which important matter-related decisions are based.
Phase 4: Matter completion
Completion of a matter represents the near-term requirement to secure payment. However, this final stage also presents the opportunity to appropriately document the matter in a way that will help your team to be better prepared for future matters.
While you may encounter challenges, there are steps you can take to prevent inefficiencies from being carried forward into additional matters later on. For example:
- Proactively record how the matter went and how well the law firm performed
- Capture characteristics of the matter to facilitate pricing and other analysis going forward
- Approach documents and templates in a way that will support the ability to reuse them in future work
For more on overcoming obstacles and achieving success during all phases of the matter lifecycle, download our free eBook The Challenges of Matter Lifecycle Management: Common hurdles and the legal technology to address them.