The reality of corporate life is that litigation and legal transactions are always present. Nearly every business transaction requires legal review, and often assistance, from outside counsel. Once litigation becomes imminent, tracking how much money is being spent and which outside resources are being used become important and difficult tasks to manage. Modern matter management technology has made the chore of managing corporate legal matters far more effective and efficient. This article will review the benefits of matter management systems and how they can be effective in your legal department.
Simply keeping track of active matters and who is working on them can be a complicated task. Matter management software provides a centralized approach to tracking which matters are in play and which resources are being used. Far beyond simple spreadsheets and word processing documents, matter management tools will help you keep track of all matters and their associated details. For example, if you have a litigation portfolio of 30 matters, modern matter management software will help you track how long each matter has been active, at which stage within litigation each matter lies, and which outside firms are assisting. Since these tools are centralized and accessible to appropriate individuals on your team, it is easy to stay organized and allow the proper employees access to the information.
Budgeting and billing
Many matter management tools will also help you keep track of your budget for each matter. You can track document review costs, attorney time, vendor disbursements and any other line items in your invoices. You can set hard thresholds, track your legal spend more effectively and even set alerts for when thresholds are exceeded. With integration into e-billing modules, you can efficiently track which types of time entries and tasks are being billed to your matters.
Many systems have invoice validation rules which can verify that your outside counsel invoices adhere to your corporate rules. Do you have limits on associate billing rates and paralegal overtime charges? Invoice validation will flag invoices with violations to those limits. Are disbursements such as fax charges and photocopies negotiated out of your outside counsel fees? Invoice validation will ensure compliance. The budgeting and billing capabilities in matter management software make what was once a manual task an undertaking which can be implemented with relative ease.
Keeping track of all documents relating to a matter is often best handled with a centralized platform. You may already have a document management system within your organization, but utilizing document management software which is directly integrated into your matter management software will allow you to search for documents more easily by matter name or litigation type. In addition, it is convenient to have access to all engagement letters, court filings and corporate agreements in a single location. The document management capabilities in your matter management software can enforce security rights on sensitive documents and also provide an audit trail of who accessed which documents and when.
Reporting is one of the best features with any matter management system, but its benefits do not become apparent until you have used the system for a while. You need to have a certain critical mass of information before such reports show their true value. For example, are you curious about how many matters you have with outside counsel from Chicago versus New York? Matter management reporting can let you know. Curious about which regions in the country have the best billing rates for IP partners? Matter management reporting can tell you. The important thing is to capture as much data as possible, throughout the lifecycle of each matter, in order to make the best use of reporting.
Beyond internal metrics, reporting systems also allow you to report matter-level detail to other interested parties in the organization. You can provide summary reports of all legal matters in your portfolio to the CEO’s or CFO’s office, along with detailed legal spend information, on a per matter basis.
Keeping track of activities, outside counsel, legal spend and documents for legal matters used to be a manual process. Today, however, matter management technology enables the process to be centralized and systematic. As you input more data about each matter, you will find that better quality information will be produced about your portfolio, empowering you to make the best use of both corporate and outside counsel resources.