Law firms are facing pressures from all directions. This is nothing new but over the last few years, the pace of change in every aspect of the industry has rapidly accelerated. Firms that have clearly defined business objectives and an execution strategy to meet those objectives are thriving. Those that don’t are floundering. Today, a critical element of execution is the best use of technology to both create and deliver on compelling business objectives. A sound legal business strategy executed with today’s best technologies in mind has never been more compelling in this industry. Strategic use of technology has been shown to enable competitive, growth, and cost breakthroughs for law firms. Innovations in new business intake, legal matter service delivery, automated task and process management, practice specialization, and referral processing are possible with the right approach. This article with focus on the value of cloud-based matter management technology in attaining legal operations excellence to meet law firm business goals.
The Path Forward
Many law firms lack a true business operations focus or a group that focuses on legal technology innovation within the firm. If yours is one of these firms, now is the time to consider how to implement these functions. A key to success is having a clearly documented and agreed to business strategy and related technical roadmap that is reviewed and maintained regularly. It is essential for key business stakeholders, IT and end-users to maintain quality, consistent, and deep communications.
Overall firm objectives should reflect practice area objectives within the firm. This is not always about growth. Some practice areas may be maintaining current status with a focus on automation for efficiency purposes to cut costs and maintain current service levels. Other practice areas may be under competitive pressures and wish to implement innovations in service, quality or turn-around time to be best in class in their niche. Some practice areas may be posed for high growth and wish to accelerate new business intake with mass marketing, automated intake, matter scoring and skills-based assignment to fulfill a growth objective in a vibrant market.
Matter Management is at the Heart of Legal Innovation
Truly innovative legal processes have at their core the legal matter. A matter-centric approach allows for increased productivity and efficiency because all relevant information and associated workflow is organized, including:
- Matters and matter-specific data
- Organizations, contacts and matter participants and all relationships
- Activity, task and time management
- Meetings, dockets and important dates
- Time and expense tracking
- Documents, email, communications, and ad-hoc discussions
- Document templating, assembly and automation
A matter-centric approach will help your law firm rapidly move towards a state in which your firm is more productive and has more information for analysis and improvement. The desired state for most law firms includes:
- Automated intake, data collection, matter creation, matter assignment based on workload and/or skills, single system of record, automation and standardization of workflow and processes by matter type.
- Creation of actionable knowledge to optimize process and proactively optimize legal processes.
- Collection of in-context data to provide basis for analytics and predictive abilities to further hone legal operations.
Why the Cloud?
The cloud is a term that is broad and encompassing and can mean different things to different people. To be specific, we are discussing cloud native solutions for legal matter management that have been developed from the ground up on leading cloud platforms. We are not talking about the use of traditional on-premise software hosted on a cloud server. Cloud native solutions provide some unique characteristics for IT delivery for law firms not found with traditional on-premise technologies no matter where they reside. Cloud solutions provide dramatically easier ways to innovate and implement unique legal processes in support of business objectives.
How the Cloud Enables Legal Process Innovation
- Access – Cloud-based legal matter management systems can be accessed anywhere, anytime on virtually any device that has an Internet connection. This provides unique flexibility for employees to utilize matter management capabilities and processes wherever they may be and on whatever device is available at the time. Access is also easily and securely granted to specific capabilities not only to firm employees but to prospects, clients, partners, co-counsel, third party participants and others so they can be involved at the right time in any legal process, automatically.
- Micro Extensibility – A quality matter management cloud platform provides a clicks-not-code approach to extending and creating new functions that allow an organization to rapidly deploy high-value business process in support of business objectives. This eliminates time and the resulting negative business impact in waiting for either the vendor to provide support or for the internal IT team to do low level coding. There is no out-of-the-box solution that will meet your firm’s specific needs.
- Macro Extensibility – In addition to vendor-provided capabilities and configuration abilities, a key advantage of the cloud platform is community applications. Modern cloud platforms have a community of applications provided by vendors who develop compatible apps that can be used to extend native capabilities to fulfill legal process needs. If you firm needs advanced document management or assembly, integrated accounting to support time and billing, credit card processing or other capabilities you can benefit from the application community. The ability to add on applications eliminates the traditional dependence on a single vendor to provide needed capabilities and allows for support of any unique business process. In addition to application extensibility, there are typically many built-in integrations available to interconnect with existing applications.
- Elastic Scalability – Modern cloud app platforms have virtualized all underlying hardware and software components impacted by changes to application processing workloads and data volume needs. Storage, processing (CPU), network input/output and other items that must normally be capacity planned are built into the platform as scalable resources. As a law firm, you may start by bringing on board a small number of users in a specific practice area and seamlessly scale the solution to thousands or even tens of thousands of users. The elasticity of the solution provides for consistent and predictable costs for the solution long term and allows the organization to focus on true business needs vs.
- Security – At its simplest, cloud computing is running your applications and storing your (or your client’s data) on a computing environment outside of your firewall vs. inside your firewall. Major cloud platform computing providers have placed tremendous resources in to ensuring the privacy, security, availability and recoverability of the applications and data that reside in these platforms. It is important to understand the governance and compliance needs for your organization and vet those against the matter management deployment that is being contemplated to ensure compliance. In all likelihood, the ability of the major cloud platform computing vendors such as Salesforce® or Microsoft® Azure® to ensure security and availability is higher than most organizations can provide for on-premise applications.
The most progressive law firms are looking to cloud-based technology to rapidly advance their innovation and improve efficiency. With a strategic approach to technology, law firms enable competitive, growth and cost breakthroughs. Innovations in new business intake, legal matter service delivery, automated task and process management, specialization and referral processing, are possible with the right technology. The heart of this approach lies in legal matter management deployed in one of the leading cloud platforms.