Keeping a record why it’s vital to track your matters

Keeping a record: why it’s vital to track your matters

Nathan Wilkins

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Bringing in yet another technologically advanced system that promises to save you time can be great – LegalTech is on the up. However, having recently completed an overhaul of a top law firm’s case organisation system, we’ve realised one thing: there is a range of solutions that can fit your budget and goals.

Using the technology you already have available to the firm, putting in the effort to create an uncomplicated (yet sufficiently detailed) record of your matters can bring numerous benefits to many aspects of your firm. This article details what we’ve observed throughout the process, as well as the benefits of doing so.

1. It’s helpful to have information ready to go for urgent pitches or capability statements

Depending on how your firm draws in new business and potential clients, a quick turnaround on documents like a capability statement can be imperative.

For some firms, particularly those working in a highly specialist area, being able to quickly pull out several pages worth of past case examples can save a lot of time.

Adding descriptive keywords to your matters database can enable your staff to quickly search for and select the best cases to fit their task. For example, if your firm deals with a lot of construction disputes, but wanted to present only those involving a French element to a client, you could put in both terms: ‘France’ and ‘construction’. Relevant cases would then be highlighted whenever someone searches for those particular attributes.

2. Legal 500 and Chambers would be a whole lot easier each year if all the information you needed was in one place

Completing directory submissions for Legal 500 and Chambers would be much easier and quicker if all of the information you needed was in one place. It might go without saying, but ideally without the need to trawl through the various storage methods in your office, including in a partner’s desk, email chains or intranet systems, to find the latest update.

Not only would being able to access the necessary information, quickly and easily, save a lot of time and stress, but it can also mean that no case is overlooked. Your team can spend more time polishing the final submission, than searching for the latest updates to your cases.

3. A comprehensive picture of the cases your firm is working on can be great for your firm’s long-term goals

Having all your matters neatly categorised in one place can provide an invaluable view of your overall achievements. You can keep a better handle on the overall direction of the firm, including keeping an eye on whether the matters that are being completed match your firm’s long-term strategy.

If there’s a particular area your firm is very strong in, or perhaps there are some areas that you’d like to see more business, you can efficiently scan the one document to pull out relevant data and identify shortfalls or surplus.

You could also use this information to inform your wider marketing efforts. For example, you might be getting lots of family law cases, but you want to build out your reputation for commercial property. This could provide a great area of focus for your marketing teams, such as producing more SEO or social content about commercial property.

4. Avoid presenting out of date information

Keeping your cases up-to-date on your website, official documents (such as capability statements), or other materials facing your clients and peers, helps to maintain a professional, reliable reputation as a firm.

Having a matters database enables your team to quickly proofread, crosscheck and update anything as needed. Including out of date information on a pitch might prove embarrassing – a prospective client (or their legal counsel) may do a quick Google search to read more about an interesting case of yours, only to find different information.

Having a database to house the most up-to-date versions of your matters enables your team to add and use updates as they come through. It goes a significant way to minimise the risk of pasting out-of-date information into important places.

5. If fee-earners or support staff leave, the firm can still retain all of its information

Requirements for handover, completion of ongoing matters/billings and preserving client relationships during the exit of a partner will depend on the process in place by the firm.

However, keeping a record of matters not only highlights the skill of your partners and fee earners as individuals but the achievements of the firm as a whole. The cases your team has worked on over the years is the heartbeat of your firm and one of its greatest assets when building new business relationships, impressing clients and attracting high-quality talent.

Where and how do we begin organising our matters?

Organising your matters can be something as straightforward as an internal master spreadsheet through to a custom-built web app, but you can do it in any way that suits the needs of the staff who’ll be using it most. All that is needed is one place to store and categorise up-to-date information on each matter.

Categorise your matters logically

You could base your category headings on the submission requirements for Chambers (which we have listed below) to ensure you are recording the necessary aspects of each matter. Then, simply adjust or add new columns and tabs based on your firm’s needs.

Not only will collecting this information be invaluable for adding to your capability statements or website, but it also creates a useful resource for more junior members of the firm. Trainees or support staff can quickly see whether the matter is confidential or not, or read a quick summary to give them an idea of what (and who) the matter involved.

Categories could include the following:

  • Confidentiality
  • Name of client
  • Summary of matter
  • Value of matter
  • Whether it is a cross-border matter (indicate jurisdictions)
  • Partners & team members
  • Any other firms or counsel involved
  • Status of the matter (ongoing or the date of completion)
  • Any other useful information about the matter (any press coverage, articles, link to the judgment

Prioritise your matters

Whilst it might feel like a rather inundating task, to unpack all the information in your past cases and package them neatly into a categorised spreadsheet (or similar), prioritising will help.

If you find that there are cases that crop up regularly in your capability statements or pitches, these could be your priority. Next might be cases that are in the area(s) of work you particularly want to bring in, especially those which align with the goals of your marketing or PR efforts.

Add other helpful tabs onto your master database

We’ve also found it useful to keep other, related, information on the document. This might include adding a section to keep up-to-date bios of your main fee earners, with cases your partners have worked on before joining your firm.

Lists of your feedback from clients, Chambers, Legal 500 or any press coverage can also be a useful resource to have. It’ll save your staff time when trying to find that brilliant quote from 2020 that seems to have disappeared, but would be highly relevant to that new, prospective client.