Onit

Sep 9, 2011

Legal Project Management is What Legal Matter Management “Should” Have Always Been

I have sold a lot of legal matter management (and light matter tracking) software over the last 12 years for lots of money to corporations.

I also spent a lot of money buying a leading legal matter management company in 2006 while CEO of the last company I founded.

Senator, I served with matter management, I knew matter management, matter management was a friend of mine. Senator, matter management is not what you need! (If you understand the reference here, you’re welcome for my brilliance. If you don’t, please forgive my clumsy attempt at humor).

So, the truth about matter management is that it has evolved as a big container for stuff; fields and tables and labels and such. It is a big database application. And, it does a good job at collecting stuff, as long as a corporation requires it to be done and there are sufficient administrative people to accomplish it. Where matter management has squarely fallen down is on helping lawyers get much of any value out of the data. Consequently, other than docketing and calendaring information (which is normally synced with their e-mail/calendar application already), there is no good reason for a lawyer to open a matter management tool. So they don’t.

Many corporations have spent in excess of $1 million in the selection, purchase and implementation of a matter management system. What should have been included in these systems are tools that actually help a lawyer do a better job, achieve better outcomes, spend less money, or all of the above.

In short, matter management always “should” have been based on project management discipline and on helping lawyers manage the “process” of law better. It wasn’t, precisely because of the belief that legal work was special; it had to be handled differently, by experts that would not get value from routinized steps (or checklists). And while we are on the topic of legal matters, I am of the mind that we should get rid of all terms that connote that legal projects are any different than other projects.

The more work we have done on legal project management, the more we have realized that it is almost exactly the same as project management for architects, engineers, builders, etc. So, a matter is a project. A case is a project. A deal is a project. A transaction is a project. Litigation is a special project. This will make things easier, now.

Project management is what matter management “should” have always been. Project management is process-driven, where appropriate, it is collaborative, it is work-flow and it is about planning, executing and monitoring. See the diagram below for the basic process flow for project management:

Legal Project Management Onit

Most legal matter and spend management applications today start the management of work at the receipt of the invoice. This is okay for some, I guess. After all, you can save 1 to 10% of your legal spend just by making sure that invoices comply with your business rules. But you don’t get better outcomes. You don’t get faster turnarounds. In short, you don’t get things better, faster, cheaper — just cheaper.

Here at Onit, our fundamental belief is that you have to start the management of your projects much earlier than the invoice.

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