The term case management is often misunderstood to be a system for high volume and process driven work, but Brian Smith of Caseflow suggests that modern systems offer much more
A few years ago, when the term 'litigation support' first emerged, it was often perceived as a description of products designed to address several areas of litigation. Back then, and even now, it could have applied to transcript analysis, discovery, scanning and optical character recognition, or a case-by-case structured database with user entered cross references and keywords.
A case management system is often regarded as a system that is deployed when a firm engages in high volume, process driven matters. Although case management systems were likely to have originally been developed to handle this type of work, in recent years they have far surpassed this, and are now finding acceptance as the third "must have" system within firms.
Case management systems now sit alongside the two other major systems within a firm, namely; the practice management system and the content (Document) management system. No longer are case management systems just limited to the sausage machine or 'process' work they have been historically tagged with.
Overseas firms, especially in the UK, also regard case management systems as a must have. It is not just a question of whether they need a case management system, but also which is the best for their firm. The benefits attached to having an integrated case management system extend to most practice areas within a firm - not just the highly automated areas. There is currently a strong view held by firms that 'a little bit of case management for everyone' offers the best balance.
However, exactly what is a modern 'best of breed' case management system? It is actually where it fits within today's law firm and how it can be utilised at many differing levels. Most firms now employ sophisticated document management and practice management systems. For a best of breed case management system to be highly effective, it must seamlessly integrate with document management and practice management systems - failing this, the case management system becomes an orphaned legacy piece of software that can plague firms.
On the flip side, a case management system can be as simple as having the ability to store, update and easily access the full database of clauses that any law firm uses on a day-to-day basis. All users can make use of a centralised, firm-wide clause library, regardless of what area they work in. The role of a case management system can also extend to add document assembly functions, which can automate letters to various parties or automate completion of court or other regulatory documents. These all appear to be simple tasks, but why not just handle them from a single system, and re-use the firm's central repository of clauses instead? Often one finds that firms deploy multiple independent systems to address these "micro-tasks" within the firm, only to end up with a plethora of systems that are difficult for staff to deploy and manage.
When a lawyer produces documents using document assembly, it sends out a notice that requires a response within a certain timeframe, and adds a reminder to the calendar, email or task list that is part of the case management system. These mini-workflow tasks have always been possible through the use of macros and other custom-built software, and are now firmly in the camp of the case management system as well. They can easily be expanded to produce multiple documents, as well as track the reminders and deadlines.
Many knowledge/precedent managers would know many horror stories about the misuse of clauses within firms. A firm depends on many things to be successful and its knowledge base would be one of the most fundamental parts. It partly lies within the repository of clauses, which may involve hundreds - if not thousands - of individual clauses spread across the many practices.
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