This term can be used to cover a multitude of different applications as applied to the practice of law.
Firstly, are the traditional workflow-style systems that were originally developed in the 1980s to automate very high volume, low value cases such as debt collection. Over the decades they were extended to include similarly automatable cases such as personal injury litigation, domestic conveyancing and such like. They have successfully been applied across the board to such an extent that it is no longer generally economic to run personal injury cases in the UK without case management.
As this type of software has developed to be more flexible, and capable of handling cases of lower volume and higher value it has also been extended to other types of work somewhat up the value chain. There are now systems available that have been shown to be capable of handling matters such as commercial property, some elements of criminal and family work, and even M&A Due Diligence.
Sometimes this more adaptable type of software is described (in order to distinguish it from older style case management systems) as ‘matter management’. However, this causes some confusion as systems developed for legal departments to manage their entire caseload of matters (whether being handled internally, or on their behalf by a law firm) are also known as ‘matter management’ systems.
There is no doubt that the current state of highly flexible and easy to use case management systems are capable of being applied to a much broader range of case types than currently in use. One of the obstacles to this broader adoption is that most commercial lawyers refuse to accept that what they are engaged in – while delivering legal services to clients – is a ‘process’. Such an admission seems to strike deep at the heart of a lawyer’s view of their own self-worth; however, in our experience, if you can get past this impediment and then persuade them to analyse what they do with a view to improve it – then such technology can be applied to many more types of work.
In a different vein, there is Business Process Management software, or more generally, ‘workflow’ systems. These are generally systems which are not targeted at legal case management, or even for law firms generally, but are primarily designed to standardise and automate the non-legal work that a firm does every day. They generally use the applications (PMS, CRM etc) and other IT infrastructure that the law firm already has and put a process workflow layer on top. Many such technologies have been applied to the overall processes of client and matter inception – in order to improve the quality of data capture and risk management procedures – and there are also various dedicated legal workflow business intake systems.
We have experience with all of these types of technology, and a wide variety of vendors’ systems.