Editor: How does a matter management system help a legal department control litigation costs and increase productivity in all its practice areas?
Sutherland: Helping to control litigation costs is an important function of any in-house legal department's matter management system. In recent years, the usefulness of a good system has expanded widely to other practice areas as well. Simple examples are managing data related to a company's patents and trademarks, and organizing information related to its contracts.
Editor: How do an in-house legal department's and a law firm's needs for a matter management system differ?
Sutherland: A law firm typically focuses on measuring the time spent by its partners, associates and staff for billing purposes. Their interest is in whether they'll be paid. On the other hand, lawyers within an in-house legal department focus on how its resources can be leveraged to achieve the company's strategic objectives. They need data for substantive management of outside counsel directed toward achieving desired results - not just reviewing bills simply to calculate how much time was spent at what dollar cost.
Editor: After assessing its needs, what factors should a legal department consider when selecting a matter management system?
Sutherland: Most factors are simple and basic. First and foremost, the vendor's stability should be considered. Some vendors have quickly come and gone because they never achieved a critical mass of customers. A company that has been in business for a long time is likely to have a reliable track record of providing long-term, cost-effective support.
Next, the implementation process should be considered. Other customers already using the product should be asked about their experiences in getting the product up and running. Questions about ease of use and other "soft" factors should be considered.
Also ask other customers what the support for the product has been. Has the vendor continued to be available after the sale to help ensure that the product is functioning as the customer anticipated? Does the vendor make an effort to understand and effectively address the customer's future, as well as ongoing needs?
Editor: Please tell our readers about your product development initiatives that led to the release of Corprasoft Legal Desktop 8.0.
Sutherland: We discovered that there are two types of users. One group includes "power" users who will learn all they can about the software either because it is a job requirement or because they enjoy exercising their technological savvy. The vast majority fall within the second group who are "casual" users. They just want to know what the software does. They have no interest in learning or no time to learn how the software does what it does.
Based on customer interviews and feedback, we built Corprasoft Legal Desktop 8.0 on the Windows.net platform and designed its user interface to look like Microsoft's Outlook 2003. With a smart client interface, the users intuitively have a general idea of where to input and retrieve the information they need. No specialized training is required.
Editor: How does the Corprasoft Legal Desktop help streamline an in-house legal department's invoice approval process?
Sutherland: The new 8.0 version of Corprasoft Legal Desktop is ideal for both the "power" and "casual" users alike. The software enables an invoice to pop up on the screen automatically at the time when the user's action is required. With a simple click or two, the user is able to take the approval action appropriate for the matter. If more information is needed, the system enables the user to drill down to find more detail quickly and efficiently.
Editor: Please tell our readers about the Corprasoft Legal Desktop's cost allocation module.
Sutherland: Our cost allocation module is a "must have" for legal departments within large corporations that allocate costs back to business units or other organizations. For example, one large, globally integrated company maintains a 200-mile long pipeline owned by seemingly countless combinations of entities. One mile is owned by a limited partnership, another by a joint venture, another outright by the company itself and so on. In a lawsuit involving the entire pipeline, litigation costs needed to be allocated among the various owners. The company's legal department found our Corprasoft Legal Desktop software to be very helpful because of its ease of use in handling complex allocations of data.
Editor: How does use of timekeeping modules within the U.S. and Europe differ?
Sutherland: In the U.S. only about five to ten percent of our customers use our timekeeping module. Many of the in-house lawyers explain that one reason they left a law firm setting was to get away from timekeeping mandates. They have no interest in using a timekeeping module in-house. In contrast, timekeeping by in-house counsel in Europe is common. Almost every single one of our European customers uses the module. Rather than using the timekeeping data to produce a bill, they use it to determine appropriate coverage with outside counsel or internal staffing for particular legal issues.
Editor: Please give an example or two of how in-house legal departments have been highly successful in their deployment of Corprasoft Legal Desktop.
Sutherland: We are delighted when our customers find ways to use Corprasoft Legal Desktop that we had not anticipated. For example, the legal department of an airline company implemented Corprasoft Legal Desktop initially to help control its litigation costs. Pleased with its effectiveness, the legal department called to acquire a few more licenses. We learned that it found the software so flexible that it has been able to use it for managing its compliance with the company's obligations to report certain incidents to the FAA. By simply labeling matters as "incidents," the legal department has been able to generate the reports it needs.
Corprasoft Legal Desktop also helps in-house lawyers to leverage their knowledge. For example, caught in the recent economic downturn, an organization that had been a customer of ours for a long time had to eliminate one third to one half of the jobs within its in-house legal department. The lawyers reported that they could not have met the requirements of doing more with less if they had not had the information made accessible through their use of Corprasoft Legal Desktop.
Editor: How does Corprasoft Legal Desktop help improve an in-house legal department's performance?
Sutherland: The software helps to pull all parts of a law department together. Making information readily available at each user's finger tips, it helps them make well informed decisions. In the litigation arena, it provides an excellent tool for assessing a case early and determining at key strategic points whether settlement makes sense.
Editor: By systematically gathering information about litigation and other legal functions, can in-house counsel contribute to a company's assessment and elimination of risks?
Sutherland: Yes. Using data collected by Corprasoft Legal Desktop, a litigation manager can look for trends accumulated across cases. For example, one plant may have been involved in more lawsuits than other facilities. If so, the data related to the lawsuits can be used in the creation and design of solutions to eliminate the risks.
Editor: Where can our readers learn more about Corpraoft Legal Desktop?
Sutherland: For both large legal departments replacing a legacy system and small departments just getting started, Corprasoft Legal Desktop can be an invaluable first step on the path to effective matter management. To learn more, your readers can visit www.corprasoft.com.