Matter lifecycle management (MLM) refers to managing the various stages of a legal matter or dispute, from inception to resolution. This includes identifying and assessing potential legal risks, developing strategies to mitigate those risks, and implementing those strategies throughout the lifecycle of the matter.
Matter lifecycle management is crucial as it can help to prevent or minimise legal problems and ensure that legal issues are dealt with effectively and efficiently.
The matter lifecycle management process framework:
Clear and precise intake from internal clients enables in-house legal teams to delegate work appropriately, allocate resources and ensure the efficacious delivery of services and resolution of matters in a timely and cost-effective manner. Further clarification must be requested at this stage to be confident in the scope of work and ensure the desired outcome is apparent between the legal team and the client. Properly managing the flow of work is crucial for efficient business operations, matter management and reporting.
The intake or request for legal services can be completed manually, via email, or using a specialised intake portal. Using digital solutions such as a client or matter intake portal eliminates duplication and allows the legal team to receive the right instructions the first time, every time.
Planning is when the information captured during the intake stage is gathered to build out the plan for the delivery of legal services. There should be a clear scope of work, including what needs to be done, who in the team will perform which tasks, the estimated time frame, expected levels of communication with the client, allocated matter budget and whether there is a requirement for outside counsel.
Like managing a project, matter lifecycle management sets clear expectations for all involved, with activities that can be tracked and measured. Utilising a matter management platform will assist the Chief Legal Officer or General Counsel to be able to oversee each stage of the lifecycle and to be able to intervene and help if required.
This stage is where the matter is delivered according to the expectations outlined in the previous two stages. The focus must remain on the deliverables; if changes are needed, this should be completed through a change request. The actual deliverables must be updated to match the new scope when approved.
During the delivery stage it is important to capture data and track metrics. This can be used to highlight team involvement, review critical deadlines and task in progress, identify roadblocks, and assist with the ongoing management of the matter through to completion.
Once the matter is closed, the review stage can provide an opportunity for reflection and continuous improvement. For strategic or large matters, a meeting should be arranged with the prominent team members to review the matter with key insights, challenges and learnings discussed. It will then be determined if the matter successfully met all the requirements and deliverables outlined in the earlier stages.
Recognising that not all matters need an in-depth post-review, many matter management systems allow for streamlined provision and collation of digital post-matter reviews. These can be tailored to meet each organisation’s needs and automatically sent to key parties to provide feedback on different criteria using a 10-point rating scale, with optional qualitative feedback. These can be issued to the internal client to review the service delivery and resolution of their business issue, the primary in-house lawyer to review the law firm performance, and the law firm to provide feedback on the instructions provided to them.
The outcomes from the in-depth post-matter and digital reviews can then be an input to the legal team for process improvements for future matters. This is also the optimal time to document the success and demonstrate the legal team’s value.
In summary, matter lifecycle management is the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating legal risks throughout the lifecycle of a legal matter. This involves implementing strategies to prevent legal issues from arising and handling legal issues if they arise promptly and effectively. It’s important as successful management of a matter helps organisations to minimise their legal risks and ensure that they can deal with matters in a way that protects their interests and promotes their success. Finally, a best practice matter lifecycle management process supports a feedback loop to facilitate continuous improvement, eliminate issues and promotes transparent ways of working.