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Collaboration and Practice Management Programs

The following article was posted on the Technolawyer Community on May 10, 2001:

[CM's Note: Trying to choose a favorite TechnoLawyer post is like trying to choose a favorite Beatles song -- virtually impossible because so many gems exist (few bands have three singer/songwriters!). It's even difficult to choose a favorite compilation of posts (or a favorite Beatles album). That said, the compilation below is nearly perfect -- like the medley on Abbey Road. I'd like to thank Kevin Grierson, John Heckman, Judd Kessler, David Munn, and Rocky Stefano for their creativity and insight . . . ]


Most law firms do not use case management solutions. Will this ever change? 

It's not only law firms that don't use case management solutions. Most in-house legal departments don't use them either. However, judging from the interest in the subject I see among in-house counsel, I think that will change. If it that happens, and as corporate counsel come to understand the efficiency gains that are possible, could client pressure drive more law firms to adopt case management systems?

>TechnoLawyer member Laura Cain has noticed a new breed of case management solutions with an emphasis on collaboration. She cites as the market leaders: DataCert, TyMetrix, Examine, LegalGuard, Bridgeway, JD USA.

She wants to know what you think -- are these companies the new new thing or do they just serve a highly-specialized niche within the legal market?

DAVID MUNN: Clearly, Ms. Cain is correct in her observation that collaboration tools are being built into more and more case and matter management systems these days. This is in part a reflection of a trend toward trying to do more with a single, integrated system, rather than using different systems that may or may not work well together. As long as the single system is easier to use than the ones it replaces, this is a welcome trend.

It's almost a cliché these days to say that much of the adoption of technology by law firms is being driven by client demands, but it's probably not a coincidence that many of the collaboration products Ms. Cain mentioned are products designed for use in corporate legal departments rather than by outside law firms. Corporate counsel are looking for better ways to work with their outside counsel and to manage their cases and matters. This often involves forming teams that may include corporate officers and employees, outside counsel, experts, and even virtual legal department or law firm personnel.

It is possible to set up stand-alone extranet systems (virtual deal rooms, litigation collaboration systems, etc.), to facilitate collaboration, but those systems typically are not integrated with a comprehensive matter management system. In theory, it should be easier and more efficient to coordinate the efforts of the team members if you have the ability to open up selected parts of the matter management system you use every day to the other parties working on a case or matter.

Of the products mentioned by Ms. Cain, I believe that DataCert, Examen, and LegalGard, are primarily products for electronic management and auditing of legal invoices, and do not have matter management capabilities. TyMetrix  also deals with electronic invoicing, but they now also have a matter management system.

The TyMetrix matter management and collaboration system is now called CynOps <>. I mentioned this as a promising system in an article that appeared in Law Technology News in January, and now that CynOps is actually being rolled out, I still like it -- especially because of its project-management focus and advanced workflow management capabilities.

Other systems oriented toward corporate legal departments that tout their collaboration capabilities include Corporasoft's Legal Desktop, Bridgeway's eCounsel, GlobalCMS, Law Manager from Elite , LawPack from Hummingbird, and Mitratech

Collaboration systems integrated with matter management sound great in theory, but one significant obstacle to widespread adoption of any type of collaboration system is the fact that corporate legal departments and outside counsel typically use different systems. Not only is it unreasonable to expect corporate counsel to learn and use different collaboration systems provided by each of the law firms they use, but it is equally unreasonable to expect outside counsel to agree to learn and use different collaboration systems set up by their many clients. Another problem created by the use of multiple systems is that data may end up residing in many different places, none of which may be your matter management system -- which is probably where you want it.

ProLaw is trying to tackle these problems with its Napster-inspired Provolution peer-to-peer network, which they say is set to launch later this year. Given the many advantages of integrated collaborative systems, other solutions to these problems will undoubtedly appear before long.

David A. Munn


Last updated: 05/11/01


Copyright 2001-2005 David A. Munn