The ‘traditional’, oft-held view is that ‘case management’ is for high volume/low value business operations, in areas staffed by clerks, paralegals and junior fee earners, and it doesn’t fit anywhere that’s not a repetitive, ‘factory’ environment.
I would challenge this assumption. This was fine in the pre credit-crunch days, but today (in my view) it’s outdated, naïve and potentially damaging to your business to think of case management in this way.
Let’s do away with the ‘case management’ phrase for a moment, and concentrate on what it means and where it fits, I’m going to use the automotive industry to support some concepts.
In the early 20th Century cars were hand-built, one at a time. It was a costly and time consuming operation and cars were a luxury item. Henry Ford recognised the need to be more efficient and the product more affordable, so set a goal of producing the largest number of cars, to the simplest design, for the lowest possible cost. In 1913, to deliver this vision, he introduced the assembly line. This was the ‘case management’ solution and it revolutionised car production.
A century later, assembly line automation in the mass market of car production is still a key foundation. However, it’s not just the mass volume market that embraced the need to change in order to improve performance – Rolls Royce did too! It used to take 50 days to build a Rolls Royce, but now it’s possible to make one in less than a month (although most take a lot longer!). BMW, who now own the brand, recognised the need for improvement, and they invested millions into a new production plant that allowed production to rise from just over 1,000 cars in 2003, to more than 3,500 in 2013. Obviously not everything is automated, Rolls Royce prides itself on how it embraces all bespoke client requirements, but a 16-step production line was introduced at the Goodwood plant that supported automation and efficiency improvements in the specific places that it would fit and provide benefit.
If the ‘improving efficiency by automation’ concept is good enough for the world’s leading luxury car maker, can the same principle be adopted in the more ‘bespoke’ areas of law? Complete case management may not be appropriate in all scenarios, but take the best bits and improve your service wherever possible.
It’s widely accepted that the legal market is changing, and not necessarily to the benefit of law firms. Recently I read an interesting article that described how the lawyer has transitioned from generalist, to specialist, and most recently to project manager. The project management era is being driven by client demands for more and better legal work at lower and more predictable costs. I would suggest that an expert legal project manager needs to be able to handle greater complexities; easily collaborate widely with colleagues, clients and the wider legal landscape; reduce costs and deliver an expert service – simple really!
So in answer to the original question… I would suggest that you DO need to use case management technology throughout your firm, in totality, or specific functionality – it will deliver benefits, and it will help your assembly workers and your project managers. You can become both the Ford and Rolls Royce supplier to your customers.
Next time I’ll consider the specific ‘case management’ tools that can help you to exceed all expectations. For more information on case management click here >>