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  3. Matter Status: Get Better Answers

Stop dreading your status check calls 

Find the key to fielding matter-status inquiries with current, accurate information

It’s 3 p.m. and the email comes through. “Where are we on this matter?” You were in the middle of two other fire drills and now you have to answer one of the most difficult questions asked of a lawyer. It’s not as if you don’t know what you’ve been working on. But pulling together the insights from your team, knowing how much of the budget has been used and translating that information into a quick, cohesive response is not easy. In fact, in a recent Thomson Reuters survey, more than 70 percent of lawyers questioned reported a lack of matter visibility as a key challenge.

Many times, the question comes directly from the client. In years past, partners may have been able to mollify clients with estimates and directional answers. Even today, partners in some of the best firms rely on emails to multiple stakeholders to patch together a picture of matter progress. Associates, working on only a portion of the matter, are hamstrung by a lack of visibility into the broader strategy. Thus, their answers and understanding may lack necessary context.

But as pressures for transparency, efficiency, and cost-savings increase, the partner fielding the matter-status inquiry needs more accurate, up-to-date information. And while associates may sometimes regard these kinds of inquiries as distractions, they too stand to gain more than time from improved matter management.

Imagining a better way

Advancements in legal technology and services offer a path to the kind of matter visibility that can empower both partners and associates. Integration of matter planning, pricing, and business management solutions could help lawyers connect the dots between the complex and often disparate work surrounding their matters.

Partners managing multiple matters are focused on consistently delivering premium client service. Providing an accurate budget is now an integral part of matter scoping and planning. Simultaneously, they must get their teams started on the work by quickly and confidently delegating tasks. Once work is underway, they need access to at-a-glance reporting including budget-to-actuals analytics. A unified platform could help partners spot and mitigate risk while spending less time investigating matters. Imagine being able to get a status update on any or all of your matters at the click of a button. While the visibility improves outcomes, the time savings enable partners to spend more time on their top priorities – delivering excellent client service and growing their book of business.

For associates, this may sound like little more than big brother or time-entry on steroids. Lawyers focused on delivering work better and faster can’t afford a system that slows them down. As one COO put it, “Lots of historical systems are too amazing to use. They’re just too hard and complex to be adopted.” By integrating support tools and pre-drafted matter plans, a new system could actually expedite work. With a better understanding of what to do, how to do it and how it fits in the big picture, an associate’s day becomes less a list of tasks and more an opportunity to move matters forward in a meaningful way for the client and the firm.

From trepidation to confidence

The tolerance for matter uncertainty is coming to an end. Market dynamics and client demands will require lawyers to be able to communicate the precise status of their matters from a scope and budget-to-actuals perspective at a moment’s notice. But lawyers need tools that empower them, are flexible enough to support their own style and work within their firm’s culture. They cannot tolerate cumbersome solutions that provide data “for data’s sake” at the expense of productivity.

Lawyers need a tool that brings together the disparate systems employed by law firms and deliver an integrated, intuitive platform to provide insights, structure and support. The day is coming when “what’s the status of this matter?” is a question that’s as routine and easy to answer as “what did you have for breakfast?”

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A smarter practice: Beyond legal project management

Read this white paper to see how firms are simplifying the planning, management, and execution of legal work by connecting the business and practice of law