Enhancing Legal Operations in Higher Education with Advanced Technology

Maintaining compliance with the ever-growing body of laws and regulations that apply to higher education can be a challenging task. College and university attorneys and staff face distinct challenges in this unique legal field. However, advancements in legal technology have made it possible to alleviate the overwhelming nature of these challenges.

Legal matter software has evolved  to meet the specific needs of higher education legal professionals, helping them better manage traditional legal issues such as contracts and litigation, while also addressing unique legal scenarios related to campus safety, diversity, athletics, Title IX, fundraising and more. By adopting a flexible legal operations system, these legal professionals can better serve the various groups they regularly interact with, including:

  • Presidents
  • Chancellors
  • Regents
  • Trustees
  • Board Members
  • Deans
  • Department Heads
  • Administrators
  • Faculty Staff
  • Students
  • Parents
  • Alumni

Considering the multitude of individuals involved across various departments and sometimes multiple campuses, it can become easy to lose track of critical legal information. To mitigate this issue, many colleges and universities are turning to legal matter management software, which centralizes all legal information in a single location for easy access. This software is particularly beneficial in university settings such as:

  • Human resources
  • Employee relations
  • Student conduct
  • Risk management
  • Internal audit
  • Affirmative action
  • Equity/Title IX investigations
  • Diversity and access
  • Labor relations
  • Contracts
  • Public safety
  • Procurement
  • Ombuds offices
  • Law school legal clinics

Before you select the right legal software for you, it’s important to think through what you are looking for and how you want the software to work for you. To assist in this decision-making process, we have compiled a list of general steps that universities can take:

Five Steps Universities Can Take to Select the Right Legal Software

  1. Determine what matters. 

While most colleges and universities track similar matters, no two institutions are alike. That’s why it is important to take a look at your unique organization and establish a list of what issues and matters your legal department handles the most. To design an effective legal operations system, you want to get input from all the attorneys and staff to ensure nothing gets missed. 

You can first start with a comprehensive list of matter and case types—which allows you to see a visual grouping of topics. Contracts can be further broken down into subcategories like vendor contracts, employment contracts and real estate contracts. By conducting this exercise for all your matter and case types, you can ensure that nothing important gets overlooked. 

  1. Uncover hidden internal tools and processes. 

It’s no secret that every legal department has hidden tools and processes people use to get their jobs done that no one else in the department knows about. These hidden processes can be counterproductive to the goal of effectively and comprehensively managing all of your university’s issues and matters. 

Some of the typical hidden activities in the university legal setting include: 

  • Paper calendars
  • Handwritten notes
  • Reminders on cell phones 

By taking inventory of these hidden processes, you are one step closer to eliminating your dependence on them and adopting more centralized tools in a legal software system. 

  1. Say goodbye to spreadsheets.

While Excel spreadsheets have been a trusted resource for legal professionals over the years, there are far superior options available now for managing your legal operations. Here are three reasons it’s time to say goodbye to spreadsheets:

  1. You can’t update the spreadsheet if someone else has it open.
  2. A single Excel spreadsheet or workbook only provides a glimpse into the matter since people typically use more than one spreadsheet for tracking matter details. 
  3. You can’t easily link documents and other items with Excel.  

To stay current in today’s fast-paced environment, you need a collaborative, multi-user system that efficiently handles matters, documents, email, deadlines and data management—with easy exports to Excel and real-time information just a few clicks away. 

  1. Prioritize email organization. 

Emails play a crucial role in the lives of university legal professionals, with hundreds of emails to manage daily. While some emails require a quick response, others may take more time and additional research may be needed prior to responding. This is why a centralized legal matter management system is so important. Attorneys and staff need a way to quickly organize emails by matter and quickly retrieve them when needed—this is only possible with a technology solution that is integrated within your email account. 

One of the most effective ways for universities to organize their emails in a case management system include: general advice, matter specific and items for review. By implementing just this one step, you can achieve significant improvements in email organization and process improvements overnight. 

  1. Work within your budget. 

Outside counsel fees, litigation costs and risk management expenses are par for the legal professional’s course. But do you know how much your department has budgeted for each category and how much has actually been spent? This information is key to staying on track and on budget. 

Without a legal case management system to keep track of expenses it is hard to know how you are really doing in this important area. When selecting the legal software that is right for you, you want to look for a provider who not only offers built-in expense tracking features but also e-billing capabilities. 

If you don’t need e-billing, keep in mind that some legal case management systems cannot be implemented without this feature. Because it can be a complex and costly add-on if you don’t need it, be sure to select a solution that provides e-billing as an option, not a requirement.

A Simple Solution for Universities: Legal Case Management Software

As a college or university, you serve multiple groups and varying departments which can make legal operations complex and sometimes overwhelming. Legal case management software is the solution you are looking for to simplify your processes and keep track of all your matters, emails, litigation, expenses, document and contract management, e-billing and reporting, outside collaboration features, integrated calendars, tickler system and more—so you can be more efficient and effective.

With Legal Files Software, you no longer have to worry about how to effectively operate and serve the multiple groups you work with on a daily basis. With built-in email capabilities, storage and support for an unlimited number of cases, matters, documents and users, Legal Files makes it simple to manage all your critical emails and cases and respond effectively to the influx of messages you receive daily. 

Legal Files offers 30+ years of experience. Expertise within the university and higher education sector is offered by full-time, professional team members who are committed to your success. 

“Legal Files serves as our centralized repository, but it also links to Outlook which makes it easy to move documents and emails into Legal Files. We track our expiration dates, but the system also gives us the ability to track extension terms and the duration of each. If someone is out of the office, any of our end users can glance at a contract and easily determine what’s been done and what needs to be done.”

University of Connecticut, a Legal Files Client 

Request a demo to learn more about how we help organizations like yours manage what matters to you.