5 February 2024

Best practice matter management for internal and external matters

Author: Sacha Kirk Insights Resources

In the context of legal technology, matter management refers to the practices and systems that in-house legal departments utilise to keep track of the myriad of elements associated with legal matters.

These matters range from internal advisory activities to external disputes or transactions. A best practice approach is essential to streamline these processes and ensure all legal matters are handled efficiently and effectively, with nothing falling through the cracks.

Centralisation of information

One of the cornerstones of effective matter management is the centralisation of information. This involves creating a single repository where all matter-related information is stored. This includes documents, correspondence, contracts, notes, timelines, budgets, and other relevant data.

Centralisation ensures everyone can access the same information and provides a single source of truth, reducing the risk of errors and miscommunication. Holding this information within a secured platform helps protect the data, lowers the risk of data breaches, and can uphold confidentiality and legal professional privilege.

Matter intake

A streamlined matter intake process is critical. It sets the stage for how a matter will be handled throughout its lifecycle. Best practice involves establishing digital intake forms, or workflows, that capture all relevant information for each type of matter at the outset. This includes details such as the parties involved, the nature of the matter, any deadlines or important dates, and the objectives of the matter. This is also where important data is captured for reporting.

Having a consistent, standardised process helps prioritise matters and allocate resources efficiently.

Implementing project management principles

Legal matters can be complex and multifaceted, from M&A to litigation and contract disputes. Thus, applying project management principles can be incredibly beneficial. This means setting clear objectives, defining the scope of the matter, allocating tasks and activities, setting deadlines, and monitoring progress. A structured legal project management process can help legal teams stay on top of their workload and ensure that no critical task falls through the cracks.

Leveraging legal tech with Gantt charts significantly enhances this process. Gantt charts offer a visualisation of the matter’s timeline, illustrating tasks and progress, which is especially beneficial for complex, long-term cases. They allow legal teams to break down matters into distinct phases and stages, making large tasks more manageable and ensuring that each step is methodically planned and executed.

Collaboration and communication

Effective matter management demands collaboration and communication, both internally, with the business and legal department, and with external parties, such as outside counsel. Secure communication channels and collaborative tools should be utilised to facilitate this. Ensuring that all stakeholders are kept in the loop and can communicate effectively is paramount to the smooth running of any matter.

Managing the budget

Financial oversight is a critical aspect of matter management. This involves setting a budget for each matter and continuously monitoring spend against that budget. Legal departments should have tools to issue RFPs to multiple firms and have visibility on agreed external legal fees, scopes of work, changes to scopes and other expenses, including disbursements.

This financial vigilance helps avoid cost overruns and enables more accurate forecasting for future matters.

Risk management

Every legal matter carries with it a degree of risk. Best practices in matter management involve identifying potential risks at the outset and throughout the matter’s lifecycle. Once identified, risks can be assessed, and steps taken to mitigate them. This could involve anything from ensuring compliance with relevant laws to managing potential conflicts of interest.

Where possible, introduce processes and protocols such as checklists, risk ratings, and reporting visualisations to assist with risk management and compliance.

Use of legal tech

Legal technology has evolved rapidly, and there are numerous tools available that can aid in matter management. These range from comprehensive end-to-end matter management systems to specialised tools such as document automation software and spend management platforms.

The key is to choose the right technology that fits the legal department’s needs and integrates well with existing systems. Sourcing one configurable legal operations platform that offers all requirements, i.e., intake, matter management, document management, spend management, and BI reporting, will deliver the most efficiencies for the in-house legal team.

Continuous improvement

Finally, best practice involves regularly reviewing and improving matter management processes. This means taking the time to analyse outcomes, gather feedback from key stakeholders, and identify areas for improvement. Continuous improvement ensures that matter management practices remain effective and responsive to the organisation’s changing needs.

Conclusion

Best practice matter management requires a blend of structured processes, effective communication, financial oversight, risk management, and the strategic use of technology.

By following these best practices, in-house legal departments can handle their internal and external matters with greater efficiency, transparency, and success, ultimately providing better service to their internal clients and contributing to the overall strategic goals of their organisations.

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