Just as a house requires a solid foundation to ensure its trustworthiness and security, the same principle applies when implementing a legal case management program. The foundation is a critical starting point that lays the groundwork for a successful system.
What makes up the foundation of a successful legal case management system?
Legal case management software is a cohesive system that caters to everyone in the legal department to help them better manage these five most important basic functions:
- Email, calendar, tasks and contacts
- Tracking all matters
- Time and expense tracking
- Workflow and deadlines
- Document management.
Without a single platform to pull all these critical functions together, your legal activities are siloed, causing you to have to work much harder than you need to. With legal case management software, you can consolidate all of these basic functions together, linking contacts, documents, time tracking and deadlines to matters and files all stored in the same location. By adopting just this one simple tool, you can transform your legal department from siloed and sluggish to streamlined and efficient.
Five Basic Components that Make Up the Foundation of Legal Software
To set your legal team up for success, it’s crucial to begin with the five fundamental components of a successful legal software program. Let’s look at each component and explore the reasons it should be included in your implementation program design from day one.
- Email, Calendar, Tasks and Contacts
Many legal organizations have historically used Outlook, GroupWise, or IBM Notes to manage their communications. Yet, these products all have one common drawback—they don’t allow you to see a holistic view of matters and activity. This limitation hinders efficient case management and coordination within the organization. Some organizations will try to create case-specific public folders and global contacts to try to solve this dilemma, but this solution typically falls short in multiple ways, failing to provide the desired level of integration and functionality required for effective legal operations.
Through a legal matter management system, you can see all case-related items (emails, calendar items, tasks and contacts) in a single view and conduct office-wide conflict checks with ease. With two-way integration, you can also sync with existing email providers you are using to avoid duplicate entry. This information is accessible to anyone on the legal team so you can ensure everyone is always current on the latest information with each case/matter.
Implementing a legal matter management system takes productivity levels to new heights by eliminating outdated manual systems and replacing them with automated and reliable technology. This transition leads to a significant increase in performance within the organization.
- Tracking all Matters
If your organization is still using Excel spreadsheets, Access databases or some other homegrown system to manage all your case and matter information it’s time to take a look at how to use advanced technology to be more productive. Outdated and homegrown systems that rely on manual processes for tracking information are ill-suited to meet the demands of today’s legal landscape. These systems lack real-time updates and fail to keep pace with the evolving needs of specific departments and practice groups within the organization. As a result, the timely and efficient exchange of information becomes challenging.
Legal case management software gives you access to a management dashboard to view all your matters and related data, such as involved staff, progress and other details from a single location. Entries can be filtered and grouped by criteria such as department, staffing and allocation. These built-in filters empower offices to maintain control over prioritizing matters effectively, enabling your team to categorize cases based on criteria such as importance, difficulty and urgency level.
- Time and Expense Tracking
The programs that you use for accounting and billing are essential to the legal process. Without proper time and expense tracking tools, you can’t properly manage your office’s most critical assets. Whether you bill your time or not, keeping track of your time in a clear and organized way is essential to maintaining accurate timesheets—and ultimately protecting transparency and trust with your department contacts.
Legal technology enables a better way to track time in multiple ways. With a built-in auto-timer, you can automatically track time spent on cases during the day with the ability to turn the information into time slips at any moment. Time can also be directly captured from any of the UI items (calendar, to-dos, documents, notes, phone logs, etc.), making it easy for you to enter time while working in the system.
Similarly, legal case management software simplifies the expense tracking process by helping you track case-related expenses and tie them directly to the case in which they were incurred through built-in expense tracking features. Any expense such as research fees, records fees, copying or outside counsel fees can be entered easily into the system directly from the UI. Once entered, expenses can be reviewed, approved and exported for payment, while maintaining a permanent record in the platform of all expenses.
- Workflow and Deadlines
Whether you use a standard checklist or keep a calendar of court-based rules, your workflow system is critical to ensure that relevant matter and case activities are completed on time by the right person. You can choose to keep a manual record of tasks or take advantage of legal technology that can do it for you.
Legal case management software with workflow features automatically assigns tasks and due dates to users based on their role in a case. The workflow feature standardizes each step of the process into a task with an assigned role, ensuring nothing will be forgotten. The workflow then assigns the tasks to the appropriate user in one simple step. Once all tasks are populated within the workflow, they are linked together so if a change is made to the case, the user will be notified.
Workflows let you define conditions that trigger an email to notify specific users that a condition within the case has been met. There is no limit to the number of user-defined workflows you can establish to help ensure all your important case tasks are followed and deadlines are met.
- Document Management and Document Assembly
Whether it is contracts, board minutes, emails or reports—you manage numerous legal documents and files every day. Yet, it can be difficult and time-consuming to track, store, manage and search all your documents. The traditional approach of managing documents by storing them on desktops or network drives using file folders is considered outdated in today’s digital age. This method poses several limitations and challenges that can hinder productivity and accessibility. Legal case management software offers you fully functional document management tools built-in to the application. Now, you can have at your fingertips every document or file anyone has created or copied into your software stored at the appropriate case/matter and creator level.
Benefits of managing your documents within a matter management system include:
- Centralize documents to provide a knowledge base of past documents
- Organize every document or file anyone entered into the system (based on their security settings) stored at the appropriate case and creator
- Establish processes for saving, security and storage of documents
- Simplify your workflow
- Improve accuracy and productivity
A built-in document management component allows you to store and index any file type, such as Microsoft Office, Outlook messages, .pdf and image files, so no item gets left behind and you have a complete knowledge base of everything you need anytime, anywhere. The comprehensive knowledge base created through document management not only ensures that important documents are easily accessible but also promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing within your legal team. Team members can quickly reference previous work, review past documents, and build upon existing knowledge, fostering efficiency and maintaining consistency across cases and matters.
With document assembly, you can access a library of pre-approved templates that your team can easily customize by merging relevant information.. This saves you valuable time while boosting your team’s productivity. It also eliminates the need for repetitive data entry and reduces the chances of errors or inconsistencies.
Laying the Foundation for Success with Legal Management Software
If you want a better way to manage your legal activities and are looking to increase efficiency and productivity, then legal case management software is the tool you should build upon. You can lay the foundation for successful legal operations by implementing basic functions while having the freedom to adapt and add-on as your organization evolves. Finally, you can say goodbye to siloed systems and manual, outdated processes that no longer serve you.
To sum it up, Legal Files Software offers a powerful solution for consolidating and managing your legal operations. By centralizing contacts, email, file progress and documents, it provides a comprehensive and collaborative platform that gives you a 360-degree view of your cases and matters. With its unlimited scalability and robust features, Legal Files Software offers a flexible and efficient tool for legal departments of all sizes.
As your partner in the implementation process, Legal Files offers 30+ years of experience supporting organizations across numerous types of industries. Expertise is offered by full-time, professional team members who are committed to your success.
“Each person in the [state government] office built their own system and had their own way of doing things by using a combination of databases, documents, email and paper files. The office lacked a good, cohesive system to bring it all together. Implementing just the basic features of Legal Files Software revolutionized the entire office by allowing employees to work with the same files at the same time, while also providing updates.”Matt Ryan
Senior Consultant and Training Manager, Legal Files
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