The ability to default to agreed rules and standards can be reassuringly grounding, maintaining order and control when usual business conditions and processes have been disrupted. And now, more than ever, corporate legal teams are realising the importance of formal structure in matter management, especially where colleagues may be working off site.
The calming order of consistent filing practices
Where previously lawyers have self-governed, looking after their own work and logging developments in their own way, a more standardised and systematic approach encourages professionals to record matter activity and to file emails and documents in a more formal and consistent way.
This has all sorts of operational benefits for the whole team – as well as for business clients. As long as it is made easy and intuitive for lawyers to record matter status information and file the latest correspondence and documents properly as they go, legal operations will be able to monitor progress – and professionals will be able to locate and pick up each other’s work more readily as and when required.
This contrasts with common ad-hoc methods which typically see individuals each recording information in their own way in their own folders – on their own local hard drive, within their email account, or somewhere on a shared drive (not always immediately discoverable if each lawyer uses their own filing protocol, and if remote access depends on a cumbersome VPN connection). This haphazard behaviour often sees lawyers having to set aside three hours on a Friday to catch up with filing, and trying to decipher their scant notes to report back on matter progress at team meetings.
Capitalising on existing investments in Microsoft 365
So what is holding teams back from formalising and streamlining matter management – something that can substantially hamper their productivity and efficiency?
Well, historically, corporate legal teams have felt badly served by IT solutions. Any systems with a legal leaning have tended to be designed predominantly for private law firms. More generic document management systems, on the other hand, have failed to cater for the specific demands of a legal setting. Although Microsoft SharePoint may have been readily available within the organisation for instance, without the right IT support in-house legal teams may have struggled to know how best to incorporate the repository as part of matter management.
But these barriers no longer apply. Repstor, a Microsoft Gold Partner, specialises in optimising Microsoft 365 for legal use – particularly in end-to-end matter lifecycle management. Using a secure, proven, cloud-based software platform that most organisations have already invested in, we help corporate legal teams standardise and transform the way they log, manage, store and access their work, whatever their location.
This means that they can perform at their most productive wherever professionals are.
As recording and filing become instinctive and ‘in stream’, and matter archives become pooled, professionals are able to look up previous case files for precedents – and to save reinventing the wheel. If a lawyer isn’t available for whatever reason, a colleague with access rights can call up the latest files, notes and email correspondence, to check the current status of a matter and, if appropriate, progress it in their absence. At a time when colleagues are not conveniently within ear shot at the next desk, easy look-up and the means of intuitive, ad-hoc collaboration matter more than ever.
When Eversheds Sutherland adopted our technology, making Microsoft 365 and Outlook its default platform for matter management, it found it was saving an hour of fee-earner time per day, just from chasing matter updates, finding the latest versions of documents, and switching between different systems to get the job done.
Legal professionals have found the Repstor/Microsoft 365 approach to matter management ‘transformational’, according to the company’s Legal Operations Manager. Today the company has 800 open matters being handled through the system, and lawyers are marvelling at how they ever coped without it.
Adding visibility for the business
Business clients benefit greatly from systematic matter management, too – especially where they have access to self-service portal and/or automatic notification system which updates them on the evolving status of a matter (with the added benefit that lawyers no longer have to service routine queries). Reporting is made effortless too, as metadata about matters is captured continuously across the lifecycle of an engagement.
A further considerable benefit of going down the Microsoft 365 route is that the platform is being updated all the time with the latest technology advances – including artificial intelligence and workflow automation – so as a choice for matter management it is reassuringly futureproof.
We recently delivered a short webinar ‘Transforming Legal Operations with Microsoft 365’ featuring a presentation by IATA’s assistant general counsel, Dane Clapson. Catch the webinar on demand here
Leigh Smith, Principal Consultant, Corporate Legal, Repstor