We’re working in a world where legal matter management tools aren’t an option for legal functions, they’re a must. And that’s a problem if you’re either struggling to convey the value of a matter management software or the options available don’t stack up to the ever-growing demands of your legal function.
In this article we unpack some of the traditional approaches to matter management and discuss the merits of reconsidering your approach or business case with an arguably better one.
The traditional approaches to legal matter management
To recap, matter management encompasses all elements of internal and external work raised or requested, in progress, and executed within an in-house legal function, including how a legal team views, engages and collaborates on each matter – whether it’s completed in-house or outsourced.
That’s why the means to manage matters, or the tools and/or technology at play, must be inclusive of all the cogs that keep matters in motion. This starts with business requests for legal support through to how work is prioritized, managed, and the outcome, all while capturing valuable data that can be used for reporting and operational decision making.
As a result, matter management traditionally involves a range of tools and systems such as:
- Emails for internal legal (intake) requests and to collaborate within the legal team and the wider business
- Spreadsheets or project management systems like Monday.com or Jira to manage and track the progress of each matter
- Various filing or document management systems to store documents and contracts associated to each matter
- Various point solutions like contract lifecycle management (CLM) to manage contracts in isolation from the rest of your work, or e-billing and spend management solutions that focus heavily on external cost and matter management
- Time-consuming ways of consolidating data and generating reports such as getting status updates via email, pulling data from various systems, and creating presentations at the last minute
Pros of the traditional approaches to legal matter management
There’s no denying that emails and spreadsheets are useful, especially given their widespread use across the business. And when it comes to project management tools like Jira, it’s likely that another team, such as engineering, implemented it to support the work they do, so legal may as well try to make it work for them too. Overall, by using systems already in play, there are arguably fewer tools to implement and adopt and less spend coming out of the legal department.
As for point solutions like CLMs, document management, case management, and traditional e-billing or spend management solutions, they can sometimes make sense for teams requiring advanced configurations, or for those that can justify having complex, expensive and disparate systems.
Cons of the traditional approaches to legal matter management
The overall goal of matter management is to support legal operations, optimize productivity, maximize efficiency, provide visibility of legal’s work, mitigate risk and support legal in delivering value as a strategic business partner and enabler. Let’s investigate how the traditional approaches fall short in meeting these objectives.
They aren’t purpose-built for the legal function
There’s no way to sugarcoat it, many of the traditional approaches aren’t designed expressly for the specific nature of legal work and data capture. This means legal functions miss out on opportunities to optimize the productivity and efficiency of the matter-related work they do and how they do it.
For example, when it comes to how legal collaborate and communicate with the wider business, to gather the information they need to complete their work, 37 percent report spending three or more hours per day or more going back and forth with the wider business (The 2023 In-House Legal Technology Report). While the time spent going back and forth is eye-opening (we’ll dive into that next), it also means there are missed opportunities to better collect and gather the information needed in the first place and to provide better visibility of the status or progress of the legal work at play. All these things can become challenging for both legal and the wider business when relying on technology that isn’t purpose-built for legal.
Lost time equals legal waste
As we started to unpack earlier, there’s also the inefficiency or ‘legal waste’ teams experience when relying on multiple systems. The 2023 In-House Legal Technology Report found that 61 percent spend over an hour or more a day jumping between systems to gain a complete view of their work to determine priorities, and 28 percent report spending three hours or more per day searching through emails to determine contract, matter history or advice from outside counsel. In addition, common pain points include lack of integration between platforms, systems not being user friendly enough, and time wasted creating reports and aggregating data. Over a week these inefficiencies or lost hours snowball. This is especially alarming when we consider that the average global annual salary range for in-house legal professionals is USD$176,500 to $554,901 (The 2022 In-House Counsel Compensation Survey, Major, Lindsey & Africa). You can either do the math on that one or use a legal waste calculator to quantify where your legal team could be saving valuable time, and how much having that time back is worth to the business.
Keeping legal away from what matters most
Further adding to the snowball effect is legal’s time spent on manual activities over higher value ones. A staggering 80 percent of respondents believe time spent on manual activities takes time and effort away from larger business goals and their ability to deliver services in a timely manner (The 2023 In-House Legal Technology Report). So, while you’re likely to be losing time (and money) with traditional approaches to matter management, your legal team is also being kept from doing the work that matters the most – the high-value strategic work.
Inability to easily generate reports
Now that we have a better understanding of the legal waste teams can experience, another problem arises. By relying on tools that aren’t specific to in-house legal, or on multiple tools for various workflows, comprehensive reporting can be very manual or even impossible. Thirty percent of survey respondents report spending three or more hours or more per day compiling the assets needed for reporting (The 2023 In-House Legal Technology Report).
Ironically, if you’re trying to create reports to identify inefficiencies or optimize your legal function, there’s every likelihood the very act of doing so is fueling those same inefficiencies.
Data and security risk
Mitigating risk is one of the biggest deciding factors when purchasing legal technology (The 2023 Law Department Management Benchmarking Report,ACC), which means it could be time to consider the risk your legal function may be posing to the business due to information, documents and data being stored across platforms, or worse still, getting lost between the cracks – which is a real risk with some of the traditional approaches to matter management.
The pressure is on in-house legal teams
If those drawbacks don’t motivate you to rethink your approach to matter management, this might!
According to The 2023 Law Department Management Benchmarking Report (ACC), more than half of a legal team’s work is staying in-house. The same report also states that efficiency, cost reduction and compliance are the top three biggest deciding factors when purchasing legal technology.
In other words, there is an appetite for legal functions to do more with less. Which means, regardless of your approach to matter management, when it comes to the way you work and the technology you use, it’s time to look at ways to do more with less. And, crucially, ensure that your approach is tailored to the needs of your in-house legal function so you can save time and deliver more value to the business. The good news is that there is a better approach to matter management! The major benefit lies in its ability to bring ALL the aspects of the work legal does, as well as matter management, into one consolidated system known as a ‘legal workspace’.
The alternative – why matter management wins with a legal workspace approach
A ‘legal workspace approach’ to matter management is a win for in-house legal teams because it is:
1. Purpose-built for in-house legal teams and all the work you do, including matter management
A legal workspace, such as LawVu, allows you to streamline and consolidate your contracts, e-billing and spend management capabilities together with matter management in one system. It makes good sense given contracts and matters are the bread and butter of your attorneys’ day-to-day work, and the volume of work expected to stay or move in-house. In other words, a legal workspace allows you to do more with less, all in one system and regardless of whether the work is outsourced or not.
Another advantage is that a single source of truth also mitigates risk to the business (of things getting lost between the cracks) because information, documents and data are stored on one platform.
2. Optimizing efficiency means more time for high-value strategic work
By relying on one consolidated system or legal workspace to manage and complete all matter-related work, legal’s time – that would have otherwise been spent jumping back and forth between systems to view, progress and gain oversight of their work – can be spent on higher-value strategic work. And it’s not just the fact that having everything in one place will save you time, there are specific time-saving features, such as the ability to enable the wider business to self-serve, which keeps those low-value and often repetitive requests that would have otherwise been assigned to legal, moving. And when legal support is required, easily configurable legal request (or intake) forms enable legal teams to triage, prioritize and get to the crux of the work sooner, with essential information provided from the get-go. Meanwhile, task management, key date reminders, templates and collaboration tools keep work with the legal team moving with velocity.
“Our team has saved two days a week on administrative tasks as a direct result of using LawVu.” – Matt Brasch, Associate General Counsel at Buckle
3. Easily accessible and actionable data across all of legal’s work
Managing all the work you do in a legal workspace means that not only is it easier and quicker to access the data, but the reporting and insight capabilities also reflect all the work legal does. This makes for more comprehensive reports, better decision making, and opportunities for efficiency gains to be easily identified. In other words, it’s easier for legal to participate in data-driven planning, strategic conversations, and prove the value of your legal function with the business.
“Now we have the data to back up where our time is being spent, the complexity of the different matters, and whether we have the right skillsets in-house” – Rosanna Biggs, General Counsel and Acting Head of People & Culture at Linktree
There you have it! While revisiting the drawbacks of traditional approaches to matter management may have been eye-opening, hopefully we’ve fueled your motivation to reconsider or help build your business case to propose how a legal workspace approach to matter management might be the tonic for your legal operations.
Learn more about matter management in the legal workspace
To learn more about how a legal workspace approach to matter management can help you gain efficiencies and total oversight of your legal function, allowing you to focus on the work that matters the most and deliver more value to your business, check out this on-demand demo. Or, you can learn more about managing contracts and matters together in the legal workspace as part of the dedicated course within the Legal Tech Fundamentals certification – it’s free and takes no more than seven minutes to complete!