Why do law firms invest in case management?
A unifying business driver of any case management system (CMS) purchase is to reduce risk and improve efficiency (therefore driving down the cost of delivery and improving profitability).
The transparency afforded by a well-designed and properly-used case management system is hugely beneficial to firm-level risk management. It can also be the supporting pillar to delivering a more responsive customer service, offering the ability to quickly retrieve the case history and inform next actions to support a cohesive team. The supervision aspects of good technology have become even more important to support the legal sector’s increase in working from home, likely to continue for the long term in many firms as a hybrid model, as many other sectors are reporting too.
However, even well-designed CMS systems can be badly used due to problems with the project, training, or even just cultural issues that affect user-adoption.
How is your case management system working for you?
This question often prompts much teeth-gnashing or at the very least some eye-rolling from partners, lawyers and/or support staff. So, why does this happen?
There are a variety of common issues we see with CMS choices, implementation, and ongoing maintenance. The biggest issue is that firms have been sold a dream. An easy technology silver bullet that never really existed.
Most case management systems require an investment of time and resource for sufficient tailoring to your processes and documents even if you start with a work-type specific framework. No system is ever going to be a 100% fit and will require careful training and ongoing maintenance to ensure it remains relevant to the legal and internal processes. A prescriptive ‘fixed’ CMS/workflow package has different trade-offs and compromises inherent in the design.
Knowing the shape of your legal business, where it is likely to go in future, and the skill-sets (legal and technical) of your staff is key to getting this right.
What are the options for SME law firms?
There are many different suppliers in the market some with stand-alone CMS systems that come with a good pedigree in one or more areas of law. An all-in-one PMS/CMS system is a sensible option for an SME firm conducting a range of legal services. Many of the PMS solutions now offer much-improved workflows covering common work types that particularly benefit from legal workflows in terms of efficiency in document/forms production, key date management, and team working (Conveyancing, Wills, Probate, LPA’s, PI and some Family law).
Look for a good range of fully integrated documents and forms that are maintained for you and as much data integration from the enquiry or matter inception stage to later case and financial data as possible. You’ll need to strike a balance between flexibility and supervision depending on your team’s experience.
Above all, the system should be there to help not hinder. Otherwise the team will find a way to work around it rendering the investment void.
Mind the gap!
It is a rare SME law firm that is fully making the most of an investment in existing IT. After implementation, once the day job takes over it is very difficult to keep up with new features and functions. In the case of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, these are often released automatically, or as regular technical upgrades covered under an annual maintenance fee in a more traditional model.
We often see a gradual widening of the gap between a system and its practical application. This gap is mirrored in employees’ waning engagement with it. Work-arounds and complaints about IT systems are symptoms, often not root causes.
If work-arounds and complaints are symptoms, what’s the cure?
Combined with a widening gap between system and real-life requirements, a deluge of new functions, and the lure of shiny new offerings promising to fix everyone’s problems, it is easy to see how SME law firms can make costly investments that rarely deliver. It is disappointing to visit a firm that has invested in IT but where end users are jaded and skeptical that case management can ever make a useful impact on their working life.
At Chatham, we help law firms unpick what they really need to make improve efficiency and risk management – looking to existing systems first to realise a return.
Our core message is that making technology work is not just a technical skill. Bringing in this expert assistance on a project basis makes perfect sense for busy law firms.
Book a time here for an informal, no commitment, conversation to discuss how we might help your firm.