Matter Management As The Nucleus Of The Legal Department A Conversation With Datacert's Associate General Counsel, David Bain

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 01:00

Editor: Your presentation had a strong focus on matter management, but I've heard a few different definitions for the term. Can you give me a clear definition of matter management?

Bain: It is not surprising that you have heard the term matter management used in a number of ways, as it is a broad term that can have more than one definition. For example, depending on the law department, matter management can refer to a process or to a technology system. When speaking of matter management as a process, it encompasses procedures within the legal department by which matters and related data are gathered, tracked, reported and used for decision-making throughout the matter lifecycle. Matter management as a system refers to software that is designed specifically to support the execution of legal work - litigation and non-litigation - and allows legal departments to utilize technology to track, manage and report on matter-related data.

Editor: As a global provider of enterprise legal management solutions, it is easy to surmise that Datacert works with legal departments to implement matter management systems, not processes. Is that correct?

Bain: That's an excellent question, but the answer isn't very straightforward. Yes, Datacert's technology solutions - such as Passport, our patent-pending technology platform, which has a matter management solution built on top - are implemented in some of the most complex legal departments across the globe. But each department has distinct processes, and the matter management system should not dictate the processes. Rather, it should be leveraged to support and streamline a department's defined processes and best practices.

We've found that many clients have some level of defined matter management processes. And Passport was designed with advanced configuration capabilities that allow us to tailor the system to support any unique requirements that a department may have. Therefore, to optimize the design and subsequent user adoption of the system, Datacert begins each implementation by examining the client's current processes. This helps drive the system design and configuration. However, if a client doesn't have defined processes, then the system implementation can help initiate their development.

Datacert has profound knowledge on many of the legal industry's proven best practices. This awareness is due in large part to the extensive experience that comes from working directly with our Fortune/ Fortune Global 500 clients. We used this knowledge, along with added input from our global clients and other industry thought-leaders, to design Passport according to the legal industry's best practices. With Passport, clients have the option of starting out-of-the-box with an industry-best practice-based configuration.

Editor: You've mentioned that Datacert offers a matter management application built on Passport, your technology platform. Why would a legal department want to consider a matter management system on a platform over a standalone solution?

Bain: Traditionally, legal departments have implemented different point solutions to satisfy various technology needs - one system for spend management, another for matter management, a third for e-discovery, etc. This strategy is inefficient and costly to maintain because there are too many systems to manage. Additionally, important data is siloed across multiple applications, making it difficult to access and analyze. Consolidating legal systems on a platform solves this and other common challenges.

Datacert has a diverse client-base that includes a number of Fortune/Fortune Global 500 organizations. Some of our Passport clients initially approached us seeking a point solution. However, after we helped them identify their long-term strategies, many recognized that the benefits are greater if the matter management system is built on a configurable and extensible platform.

A matter management system built on a platform allows the department to use best-in-class point applications for certain needs, such as eDiscovery, then consolidate and integrate them so there is only one point of access for tasks, such as reporting, across all systems. Passport is a unique solution in that it offers a broad set of packaged tools that a department can use for configuring current applications and building, deploying and integrating new ones, without returning to Datacert or hiring external resources. This gives the client the flexibility to evolve the system as needed to support varied business requirements for each practice area and/or support legal processes specific to their department.

Editor: During the panel discussion you stated that a matter management system should be the nucleus of the legal department. Can you please elaborate on that concept?

Bain: When selected and implemented properly, a matter management system should be the key operational tool that provides a department with a consistent way to track, control, manage, analyze and report on all legal activities and associated costs.

Because most departments have a number of legal point solutions and enterprise-wide systems within their technology repertoire, the matter management system should integrate with each system to provide easy access to information and promote the sharing of data between systems. Other systems within the department that are commonly integrated with matter management include e-billing, eDiscovery, and document management, just to name a few.

Once systems are properly integrated, the matter management system becomes the center, or nucleus, of the department, and all matters, people and organizations, calendaring, time, documents, and financials are related to each other. This matter-centric approach provides an inclusive view of the relationship between each piece of data and facilitates the use of strategic reports and dashboards. It also helps in-house counsel increase effectiveness and efficiency because it allows them to better control costs and manage risks and resources.

Editor: One guarantee in business is change. What happens when a legal department's requirements shift and new systems need to be integrated with the matter management system after Datacert has completed implementation?

Bain: This is a question Datacert is often asked when engaged in a review and selection process with a potential client. System integrations are essential to a comprehensive technology strategy. When systems are integrated, repetitive tasks that result from entering data in multiple systems are eliminated. In addition, visibility is increased and reporting is simplified because all systems work together and share information.

Business needs are always evolving, and departments will likely need to integrate additional solutions with the matter management system. In the past, this has been a difficult and expensive process because most legal professionals lack the advanced IT skills needed to design and manage sophisticated systems integrations. Therefore, to facilitate the integration process, the department had to invest time and financial resources to engage the vendor again or hire an outside consultant.

Datacert is always available to help clients manage integrations, but we understand that re-hiring the vendor isn't always the most efficient or cost-effective tactic. To provide clients with an option for managing integrations internally, Datacert designed Passport with an Integration Toolkit that allows clients to create, maintain and adjust system integrations in-house. This toolkit is exclusive to Passport, and its broad capabilities can't be found in other vendors' matter management systems.

Editor: The session title, "Minimizing Legal Spend Using eBilling and Matter Management Tools," indicates that a reduction in costs is at least one benefit that could result from the use of a matter management system. Can you expand on that and offer details on other possible advantages?

Bain: There are a number of ways a matter management system can be used to add value to the legal department. As the session title suggested, minimizing spend is one of the key benefits. However, providing ongoing value depends on the ability to implement a matter management system that reduces costs and increases efficiency.

In terms of reducing spend, a matter management system can offer multiple operational cost savings almost immediately following its integration with a legal spend management system. Operational savings typically result from the system's ability to automate the tighter enforcement of outside counsel guidelines, alternative fee arrangements and budgets, plus audit for billing errors. And because all data is housed in one system, it also eliminates the re-keying of data and other manual processes and their associated overhead.

The comprehensive data collected via a matter management system that is built on a broad platform like Passport, which has an integrated business intelligence engine, offers a high level of transparency that can be used to evaluate risk and spend across a department's matter portfolio. This data can also be used to help manage work and time allocations among internal and external staff. And it enables more strategic and proactive decision-making and improves risk and compliance management because potential risks and issues can be quickly identified via the custom dashboards and reporting capabilities.

With the power to manage all legal data in a single workspace, Passport helps streamline manual processes so legal staff can focus on higher-value, business-critical activities. Additionally, it enhances collaboration with law firms because access to real-time data can be used to eliminate repetitive efforts and time spent by internal resources in requesting, reviewing and capturing information and updates from outside counsel.

Editor: Many of capabilities and benefits of a matter management system that you have mentioned throughout our conversation are unique to Passport. However, there are a number of matter management systems on the market. Do you have any tips or suggestions for departments that might be reviewing systems in the near future?

Bain: As I mentioned previously, providing ongoing value depends on the ability to implement technology processes that increase efficiency and reduce costs. When reviewing matter management systems, it is important to examine factors, such as client-side configurability and integration capabilities, to ensure the system can evolve as internal needs change. Additionally, a platform-based system can reduce total cost of ownership for the matter management system and all other systems residing on the platform because the department is required to support and maintain only one common infrastructure rather than multiple point solutions.

Please email the interviewee at david.bain@datacert.com with questions about this interview.