As a keen Formula 1 fan, the closest I’ve come to driving an F1 car is spending time in a single-seat racer at my local race track. It's an amazing experience: the acceleration, the braking and the controllability of the car are exhilarating, and leave you wanting more.
It has to be said, however, that there's little opportunity to adjust the car to your own driving style. Strapped into the seat, you must simply drive as well as you can using the car's fixed controls and mirrors, following the instructions you've received. That's all well and good for a one-off experience, but you certainly wouldn't be able to drive competitively with those limitations.
Some of the case management systems in use at law firms are like that in terms of how restrictive they are. They get you through all the steps of a defined process, the way that the vendor of the software defined them, but they're too inflexible to accommodate the way your firm works, let alone individual teams' ways of working, or different lawyers' preferences or levels of experience.
Room to manoeuvre
Of course, when you race for one of the top F1 teams, it's quite a different story. For starters, the car's design will reflect the team's expertise, and will use a combination of aerodynamic features; such as chassis shape and setup, engine configuration, tyres and much more to help its drivers get round the track faster.
Although the drivers on a team don't have any choice about the fundamentals of the car's design, each of them will perform better when the car's setup is tweaked to suit their particular skills and driving style. So a driver who's comfortable dealing with trickier handling in the corners, say, may opt for less front wing in return for more speed on the straights.
Similarly, a law firm's case management system should reflect the expertise of its people and the unique offering it brings to market. The firm will use a combination of core system features, such as workflow and automation, to create processes that help its lawyers work more effectively and efficiently. Ideally, the case management system will also offer lawyers the flexibility to tailor processes to suit their individual competencies.
For example, a Partner may have the right to deviate from a specific process by skipping an authorisation step that a more junior lawyer must go through. The system should also allow lawyers to make modifications themselves — and should make it easy for them to do so with a user-friendly interface. So that they can, for example, create a range of standard form letters, personalise key success indicators, or build customised schedules with reminders and alerts — in short, anything they need to help them perform better.
We're still in the off-season, so perhaps it's a good moment to reflect on your own firm's case management system. Does it offer more than just the basics? Is it the best fit for your firm? And does it let your lawyers tweak and customise it to their own needs, so that each of them can deliver the best performance for your firm?
This is part two of an extended blog Series by Simon Farthing, Sales and Marketing Director in the run up to the Visualfiles Share 2019 event.