Case management systems are an excellent tool for any law firm. This is generally a software program that organizes case information and interfaces with other tools like Microsoft Office, Quickbooks, or other business systems. These case management systems can manage cases and the business with all the information they have access to. I have worked with systems like Trialworks, Needles, Clio, and Litify over the years, and they all are sound systems. The problem I see is getting everyone to use them.
These systems are costly and require some level of IT support. To justify this overhead expense, the systems are used for multiple purposes. HR likes to use the reports to evaluate performance, the law firm administrator likes to track the status of cases, the business manager wants to use the reports to measure return on investment, and the attorney likes to use the case tracking to keep critical dates and notes. There are other functions that these systems can do, but those are the primary functions I find. All of these functions rely on the data being entered into the system. The problem is, not all the data is important to everyone, so sometimes the data is not entered. Once that happens, the reports are no longer complete.
The question I have is, how should we create enthusiasm for data entry. A daunting task at best. There is the reward idea; if all the data is entered, everyone gets a bonus or something like that. There is the other side of that coin; if the data is missing, nobody gets a bonus. Most of the time, that also gets sifted down to individual roles. Not very efficient and very labor intensive to do all that tracking. The best approach I have found is to form high-performance teams. Everyone on the team knows what is required and why. Everyone on the team wants the team to win. Winning is about more than settling a case.
Now, it is easy to get bogged down in performance measurement and data analysis. The best way we have found to prevent that is a Balanced Scorecard approach, which looks at four critical areas: financial performance, client service, internal business processes, and staff. The case management system is the central collector of data that can produce reports on each area. The team wants to be the best in all areas of the scorecard. All the other elements of a high-performance team come into play, and the case management system is utilized more.
With all this thought out and documented in the strategic plan, we can implement the program. One of the challenges is to define the data requirements for each of the areas of the balanced scorecard. Financial is usually the easiest because that is most likely what you have always measured. Client service is also a standard measure; you have to relate that measure to data in the case management system. Process efficiency or effectiveness is a bit tricky, but not that difficult to accomplish. Most of the time, we found that staff measurements were the most difficult to define. There are a lot of papers on the balanced scorecard, and we have written several. The data and measures are influenced by the case management system software you are using.
The staff will follow what they perceive as important to the law firm owner and the administrative policies of the firm. If the only focus is money, client satisfaction, number of cases settled, or something else, that is what you will get. If all you care about is one measure, then why spend the money and time to install a case management system with a lot of function. Don’t buy bells and whistles you do not intend to use. On the other hand, you may want to reconsider your limited focus. I suspect that the final decision will be based on the work environment you have or want. Most law firms are going with a remote element, some form of a team environment, and a focus on some combination of balanced business metrics.