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Matter lifecycle management – the first milestone in the journey to becoming a ‘connected firm’

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Efficient matter delivery is key to meeting client expectations. Law firms are challenged today on many fronts – financial pressures, competition, globalisation, a changing workforce – but most of all by client expectation. Our research tells us that timeliness and responsiveness appear is a law firm client’s biggest bug bear.

Simplistic as the issue may sound, it essentially boils down to efficiency and productivity in the way a law firm manages a client’s matter lifecycle. It entails everything from optimal resourcing to streamlined billing procedures, all of which must be delivered to a plan that is formulated at the point when the business is won – potentially even when the client is pitched to. So right at the start client expectation is guided and agreed – safe in the knowledge and with confidence that the deliverables are profitably achievable.

Clearly, this marks a paradigm shift in the way law firms operate. Given the power that organisations have today, clients are shaping law firms – they are driving the services that firms deliver and how they deliver them. This, combined with the increasing pressure on price, requires firms to find that golden operational formula, which allows them to deliver every matter profitably while still meeting the ever increasing expectations of the client.

However, to price profitably, a firm needs to have insight into what individual types of matter typically cost. This requires access to data (historical and current) to ascertain what level of resources were applied in the past, how best to leverage those resources, are the skills currently available, how much will new skills cost to acquire, what level of staffing is needed, at what stage of the matter lifecycle and so on.

Similarly, timely and accurate billing is frequently a bone of contention for many clients. What is the best time to bill a client, how can a firm reduce debtor days, and such. Recently I was recounted a story where a firm spent three work days of effort trying to raise an invoice that still turned out to be inaccurate. The days when a law firm could easily discount invoices are long gone – there isn’t the tolerance for such attitudes anymore as business survival is at stake.

Firms need to have their ducks in a row, but many don’t have the capabilities or the technological interoperability that align all the facets of a matter lifecycle and give them a holistic view. Essentially a ‘matter’ is legal parlance for a ‘project’. So efficient and profitable execution of a matter requires project management principles to be applied, which in turn requires the front and back end of a firm to be inextricably and seamlessly connected.

Modern technology can enable this. It can provide a template upon which a matter can be executed supported by a connected environment – from pitching for a piece of work across delivery through to generating profit. Such interconnection for every matter goes from time recording, staffing and resource allocation, and communication right the way to accurate and timely billing.

This blog is the first in a three-part series that outlines the journey to becoming a ‘connected’ firm.

Tags: LexisOne

About the Author:

Stu Gooderham leads client engagement for LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions' ERP solution LexisOne in the UK and US markets. Consultative in style, he works closely with law firms to support their decision-making process for the adoption of LexisOne; and remains personally involved in projects from inception through to go-live and beyond. The implementation of LexisOne at Fieldfisher is the most recent example.

With a focus on the Top100 law firms in the UK and the AMLAW 250 in the US, and thriving in client-facing roles, Stu continues to play an instrumental role in educating the legal market on the business benefits of ERP. He was the founding member of the LexisOne Future Insights Group, which saw senior representatives of the Top100 law firms come together to brainstorm and articulate the dynamic nature of demands that clients had of their law firms in the 21st century. He has used the insight gained from this forum to convincingly illustrate to the market how LexisOne is well-placed to overcome many of the common problems faced by law firms – including continuous improvement in customer service levels, client retention, driving new business and always being operationally optimised.

Stu joined LexisNexis Enterprise Solution, following the company's acquisition of Redwood Analytics, a business intelligence software provider.

Prior to these positions, Stu worked at Oracle, selling the Oracle 11i ERP system to the legal market. He is an engineer by training and also has experience in the manufacturing sector.

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