This article is the second of our four-part blog series which is focussing solely on matter management and various aspects. If you have not yet read the first article, click here to catch up. In part two we will be focussing on the question of how full-suite, digital matter management platforms help to optimise and streamline the management of legal matters.
In short the answer is fairly simple: If we take the core components of a matter, then we can easily deduce the benefits and efficiencies that matter management systems, such as Matter.Space from BusyLamp, provide for legal departments. This boils down to:
1. Central and secure document management
Matter management systems centralise document storage for matters and provide a secure location where important matter documents can be accessed. Essential document management functionality is normally present, including versioning, redlining, custom metadata, tagging and granular permissioning etc. Integrations with MS Office and Google Workspace are often available and make editing and collaborating on documents quick and easy. Matter management tools also make it simple for documents and their content to be searched and found. Some matter management systems also offer specific contract management capability such as e-signature integration and clause extraction for contract related matters.
2. Discoverable know-how
One benefit of managing matters in a single system is that it means that all matter related information and knowledge is collated in one location, a single source of truth. It also gives structure and taxonomy to that data. Good matter management systems harness this data and make know-how searchable and easily available in context when it is needed. Some matter management systems are even utilising AI to simplify and support knowledge delivery, connect data, help keep it up to date and put it into context. Some matter management platforms are leveraging integrations with other systems to centralise data and make multiple sources searchable; others are also embedding chatbots and decision automation tools to deliver answers to specific questions and circumstances rather than just search results.
3. Efficient communication and collaboration
Following the pandemic and the rise in remote working, the best matter management platforms will now integrate with the market-leading collaboration tools such as MS Teams. Good matter management platforms will also be systems of engagement (not just systems of record), so will enable users from both within and outside the organisation to collaborate on the delivery of matters. This is particularly helpful when legal teams are working with outside counsel. Communication should be possible within the matter management platform as well, with social collaboration functionality like messaging, comments and sharing. We are seeing a trend towards the “meet users where they work” model, so expect to see matter management tools integrating with more personal productivity and collaboration tools in future.
4. Automated workflows and self-service
Automating standardised workflows and reducing manual intervention is the key to making any legal process more efficient. Therefore, matter management platforms often provide workflow automation functionality. Process automation can range from standardised and fixed, to fully configurable (often known as no-code automation). It can be used to optimise a wide range of matter processes including notifications, legal intake, document automation, approval processes, risk escalation mechanisms and contract lifecycles to name just a few. One key benefit of automation is that is unlocks greater self-service. Legal teams are busy enough, so the more they can enable others to help themselves, the more they can focus on higher-value work. Matter management platforms are therefore being used to enable stakeholders within the business to instruct the legal team, generate their own documents and access relevant guidance and know-how.
5. Clear organisation of work
Delivering a legal matter involves the intricate co-ordination and management of resource, status and risk in order to ensure delivery of the matter on time and on budget. Matter management systems often include tools to help with planning, resource allocation and scheduling. From task management, work allocation and project plans to capacity trackers, team calendars and timelines – matter management tools help map the work necessary for the delivery of the legal matter and support the management of the resource to ensure proper execution of that matter. In some cases, matter management platforms will also include time tracking features to enable legal teams to record the time they spend working on matters. However, project management isn’t just about resource, it’s about monitoring status changes, tracking risk and ensuring transparent reporting. Matter management tools therefore provide tools that ensure complete transparency over matter activity.
6. Transparent spend management
Whilst many matters are dealt with in-house, a large proportion still require the support and input of outside counsel. Full-suite matter management tools often provide functionality to help source legal service providers, create budgets, track spend, review invoices, enforce billing guidelines and run approval processes. Since spend is such a large element of any legal matter, it makes sense for spend management to form part of broader matter management systems – after all, it’s possible to derive more valuable insight when spend data is layered against other matter data. For example, comparing law firm spend with that law firm’s cycle times and outcomes can help determine whether a legal department is seeing value from their legal service providers.
7. Access to data
The more matter activity that is being conducted within matter management systems, the more useful data they hold. Whether the data relates to spend, status, resourcing, contracts, risk or legal intake – it’s important to ensure that the data can be properly accessed and interrogated, and that insights can be delivered quickly. Many matter management systems therefore provide sophisticated reporting and analysis tools that enable matter data to be filtered and extracted. Alternatively, data can be visualised in charts and graphs within reporting dashboards or via connectors with tools such as Power BI. It’s important to note that many matter management systems are going beyond simple reporting and are now using data to predict future outcomes and spot trends.
Putting it into practice
Matter management is a broad discipline that involves the efficient co-ordination and delivery of all aspects of a legal matter. Optimising the matter management process is critical in the current landscape but may seem daunting given the scope of many legal matters, however, there are significant gains to be made by deploying technology solutions to streamline and support the management of legal matters. Instead of trying to stitch together different tech tools, look for full-suite matter management platforms that can enhance the entire matter lifecycle. These tools will help you start small but will provide the foundation for your team to scale into an organised, productive and informed legal function!