This is the first in a two-part series that will help you evaluate your options for matter and spend management solutions. In this post, I’ll focus on what to look for in a technology offering.
In any growing, evolving legal department, there comes a point when manual processes for managing matters and legal bills no longer meet the organization’s needs. Manually updated spreadsheets and paper invoices become unwieldy as the workload grows. They also do not provide the necessary insight to make well-informed management decisions.
However, there are matter and spend systems designed specifically to improve these operations. When considering solutions, there are several core areas you should focus on:
E-Billing and Matter Management Functionality
E-billing and matter management capabilities are at the heart of legal operations technology. Any solution you consider should support best practices while optimizing your legal department’s productivity and savings. A top-tier solution will offer role-based security and configurability, support for practice areas, alerts and notifications, along with search capabilities.
The matter management and ebilling features should be Intuitive and offer step-by-step wizards and simple interfaces for common processes. Don’t think of great usability and individual personalization options as “nice-to-have.” These elements of a good user experience are essential to the user adoption that will help drive return on your technology investment.
Reporting & Business Intelligence
Business intelligence is what propels a matter and spend solution beyond efficiency and security improvements and provides the important insights that support better decision-making. Business intelligence requires:
- Digitally captured matter information
- e-Billing data from electronic invoices
- A high quality-reporting tool capable of combining matter and invoice data
Easy-to-use, on-demand reporting and report scheduling are essential, with best practice reports included out-of-the-box. However, you should also be able to create your own reports showing the value of the legal department’s efforts (for example, ROI reports, invoice reduction reports, etc.), with the ability to export the data for further analysis.
Collaboration and Outside Counsel Management
Effective collaboration, internally and with outside counsel, is a primary benefit of spend and matter management. A good solution facilitates internal communications and helps demonstrate the value of the legal department. Externally, it provides a shared workspace with your firms where you can securely capture and manage all matter-related information.
This technology is essential for a range of legal management strategies, including panel management and law firm performance evaluations. Look for a solution with standardized templates that prompt users to capture their satisfaction with outside counsel at case closing.
Interoperability and Integration
To achieve good user adoption and maximum efficiency, a solution should offer seamless interoperability between core e-billing and matter management and the applications where most people like to work. For example, if the matter management system integrates with the organization’s Outlook® email, it will streamline attorneys’ day-to-day management of their matters and encourage adherence to best practices.
Spend and matter management should also integrate with other key systems such as accounts payable and service of process. Growing companies need systems that will scale – this applies to the integrations with adjacent tools, as well – so consider flexibility for making changes to support growth.
Global and International Feature Support
Any company that operates across borders, or plans to in the future, needs a matter and spend solution that supports global operations. This means ensuring compliance with region- and country-specific tax requirements, including VAT, and offering out-of-the-box international currency support.
The security features must be appropriate for geographically distributed teams so that Information entered by a law firm user on the other side of the world will be just as secure as data originating at the home office. In addition, look for product support translation services to help keep productivity high for non-English-speaking users, including law firm staff.
Following this advice will help ensure you choose a system that will deliver value immediately and scale with you as your legal operations grow in volume and complexity. It’s also important to take solution providers into consideration before selecting a system because they will act as a partner in making sure this critical system meets your needs. More on that in my next post.