We view Matter Management as critical to running an efficient Legal Department.
Matter management is often seen as being synonymous with “Litigation Management” but that should not be the case. A “matter” encompasses any activity that a lawyer is involved in, ranging from a mega-merger to a routine transaction or from a very complex litigation case to a straight-forward slip-and-fall.
With such a wide definition of a matter in mind, it is clear that the key responsibility of an in-house lawyer’s activity is to manage matters. Anything that would make this activity more robust should be considered as essential.
What is it?
A Matter Management System (MMS) is a central repository recording all the information on all the matters. Information includes: Matter details (location, parties, matter type etc.), matter up-dates, risks, financials, documents, tasks, events, emails etc.
Why is it important?
Just like no Sales department would function without a “CRM” system, no Legal department should function without a MMS.
An MMS gives visibility to the overall activity, workload, exposure, financials of the Legal Department. When faced with broad imperatives such as “doing more for less”, how can a Legal Department effectively try and do more for less if it does not precisely know what it currently does?
What are the benefits?
• Single point of access: In a collaborative environment, it is crucial that all matter information be recorded and recorded with consistency. When lawyers are travelling, or visiting clients (internal or external) they should be able to have access to their matters. This is also of huge help when a lawyer needs to take a case over from a colleague: all the critical information about a case is recorded in the system, making transitioning cases a lot smoother.
• Information & Business Intelligence: An MMS gives visibility as to what is being worked on (what are my open matters?), is a foundation for Knowledge Management (how did we handle this other similar matter in the past?) and Spend Management (for example, all incoming invoices need to relate to a matter). The aggregation of all the data and information on all these matters worked on by all the lawyers is a huge source of information and allows Legal Directors to make more informed decisions and more effectively manage the legal function. What is managed can be measured, and improved upon.
• Risks & exposure: at a more granular level, Risks and exposure can also be captured at an individual matter level. When aggregated to the Corporate level, even a crude scale of risk level on each matter will be a useful gauge for areas that might need further attention.
A well maintained MMS should deliver benefit to both a lawyer in his or her day-to-day activities as well as Management.
What should I know?
Matter Management Systems (MMS) come in a variety of flavors and sizes.
For smaller legal departments, a well-designed and practical SharePoint site could be a huge improvement from an Excel spreadsheet.
For larger functions or “distributed” legal departments (for example, lawyers in many jurisdictions), a more robust solution should be considered.
An MMS should be set-up in such a way that lawyers can easily access all the information on all the cases they are involved in. The flip side of this is that security (overall) and access to specific matters needs to be carefully designed.