*This article is a Legaltech News article. View the original article here.
This article is part two of a two-part series.
In part one of this article, I covered some of the steps necessary for legal operations to answer a question a general counsel might reasonably ask – “What legal work are we handling on behalf of the organization?”
Unfortunately, for most legal departments, this seemingly reasonable question is a challenging one to answer.
To help overcome this challenge, the first article focused on defining a process for gathering information about legal work and being prepared to face the skeptics within the organization about the value of matter management. Ultimately, those who have been successful with matter management initiatives understand the critical elements of change management that need to be planned for. Therefore, this piece will share best practices regarding those key change management elements. They include: bringing the A-Team to the project, communication, and preparation. As with most enterprise-wide projects, it is essential to invest the time up front to do things the right way.
Bring the A-Team
A successful matter management deployment cannot be solely driven by legal operations. A core team should include representatives from legal ops, IT, project management, legal practice areas, and executive leadership. This team needs to clearly define the project’s objectives and be unified in its message to the organization.
A benefit of including a lawyer from a practice area as a champion for the project is that these individuals help to address the concerns of attorneys who are resistant to tracking their in-house work (refer to part one of this article). When a lawyer says she doesn’t have time to create a matter in a system for an issue she’s handling, this individual can say peer-to-peer “really, my team has found that it takes less than a minute to do this.”
Executive leadership likely won’t be involved in day to day project activities, but their commitment and enthusiasm for the project is essential. More on this is in the next section.
It starts with an official launch, ideally in person at a senior leadership meeting, followed by emails and/or intranet portal communication. The message from executive leadership must convey a tone of excitement regarding the benefits of matter management to the department. Benefits should be tangible and meaningful to the individuals who will be asked to use the system. For example, “we’ll have the data to prove when we need additional staff in some areas,” and “having one central place where everything about a matter is visible for all relevant parties is going to be a tremendous efficiency gain.”
Initial project communication should address the elephant in the room — “in no way are we asking you to track time.” Other key elements of this internal communication should include a high-level project timeline, expectations for what to expect in upcoming weeks and months, and acknowledgment that you are asking lawyers to change some aspects of how they work today. The project team should commit to regular updates to the organization (at least monthly). Without regular communication, people will assume that the project has stalled, or that decisions are being made in a bubble.
A matter management implementation done well involves requirements gathering from each practice area in the department. This cannot be accomplished by sending each area a spreadsheet to complete (really, this happens). Requirements gathering should be accomplished in carefully planned conversations with each group, and likely more than one conversation.
It’s helpful to send “homework” or topics to think about in advance of each group meeting. Ask the lawyers about any current tracking or reporting they may already be doing on a spreadsheet. Send some questions in advance such as:
- In what ways would you want to categorize your matters?
- What would you want to know about the source/cause of the matter?
- What would you want to know about the disposition of the matter?
- What key dates and cycle times would be important?
In the first meeting with a practice group, begin with a demo of the matter management solution. Show the team what the experience will be like when setting up a new matter, how they’ll be able to add information about the matter status as time goes on, where they’ll store documents and other related data, etc. Then, after providing this context, ask them to explain the type of work they perform and what data will be important to capture. Give them examples of what some other groups are thinking about tracking. Refer to the first article in this series for specific examples of data to consider gathering for purposes of matter management.
I made this point in the first article, but it bears repeating. If a practice team is going down the path of wanting to capture dozens of data points about each matter, it’s a recipe for failure. If the process of setting up a matter and tracking critical data points is onerous, lawyers will not do it, or have a negative experience with the matter management solution.
Ideally, after gathering information from each group, it’s best to configure the system with their initial requirements, then meet again to show the group how that would look, giving them the opportunity to revise their requirements. Forcing decisions in one meeting is not going to feel like collaborative decision making.
Delivering on the Value Proposition
Fast forward. Several months have passed. You’ve engaged with lawyers throughout the department, learned what’s important to them, configured a matter management system, and all the legal work performed by the department is being captured in a central repository. Do you declare success?
Arguably you’ve successfully passed many milestones. But remember that our objective was to readily be able to answer the question from the general counsel, “what legal work are we handling on behalf of the organization?”
The final hurdle, but a critical one to make sure you plan for, is to make sure that you are providing management dashboards to the department so they can take action on the wealth of information now at their fingertips. Dashboards tell stories. For example, the story of one practice area may be that they’ve successfully managed lower value work out of the department by providing the business the ability to self-service those needs, yet the trend in increasing high-complexity work means that the group is at full capacity and will likely need more resources.
Dashboards close the loop in the change management process. Without dashboards to tell the many stories of the legal department, lawyers may gain efficiency in managing their matters through matter management, but they won’t tangibly see the value of capturing the various data fields required in their matter management solution. Once management information is available to all relevant parties, you can declare success. General counsel finally has the ability to collect, audit, track, organize, and report on all the work that comes into the legal department.