9/1/15

Client/Matter Opening — What Can We Add to the Process?

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This is one of those posts where I start writing down my thoughts, not really sure where I'm going to end. However, that never stopped me before, so why let it stop me now?

When I was at a Westlaw lunch today discussing the AALL conference in Philadelphia, I had a germ of an idea that started burrowing its way into my brain. We were discussing things like Project Management, KM, lateral hires, and new client/matter opening processes. That's when it hit me that it seems like there is some role for the library and knowledge services groups to play in delivering some value added information into the opening process. Then I just kept thinking, "but what is that?"

When a new client is brought into the firm, there are certain administrative functions that kick in, primarily in the Conflicts group, and Records. Specifically, these groups investigate any potential issues that may cause the firm not to be able to represent the client due to some previous work, or other problems that legally or ethically prevent the firm from handling the work. Obviously, that's Conflicts. The other is more of a logistical process of creating a working folder system, assigned to a specific client number, and matter number, for the attorneys to manage the communications and electronic work flow of the client's specific legal matter. Typically, this is through a Records process assisted by the IT department.

There are other administrative functions that kick in as well. Accounting uses the client/matter number to create a billing process that assigns billing rates, and possibly a matter management process for those firms that use project management on the matter level. Marketing may ask for updates to the client relationship management tool, and if there are deals or significant news worthy issues, help draft a press release announcing the firm is handling the legal matter.

But what processes automatically kick in when a new client, or a new matter is opened within the library? I've been pondering that for a few hours now, and really haven't come up with anything specific that we do. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that we are doing anything wrong, but I'm wondering if we're missing an opportunity by not having something kick in, at a minimum when a new client is brought into the firm.

So let me bounce a few ideas off of you on what we could do through automated processes that bring value to the attorneys representing the new client:

  • Prior legal history
    • A report that shows what legal matters the client had, what jurisdictions, judges, law firm representation. 
    • Most likely this could be easily created using resources like Monitor Suite, atVantage, CourtLink, Bloomberg, etc.
  • Company Report
    • Overview of the company, key players, any existing client/firm relationships, and key competitors
    • These can be compiled through the firm's CRM, and external products like Capital IQ, Hoovers, etc.
  • Current Awareness Reports
    • News reports or industry trade information
    • Lexis news, or news aggregators like Manzama, InfoNgen, Ozmosys, or legal industry news providers like Law360.
  • Prior Deals (M&A, IP, Real Estate)
    • A report that shows prior M&A or other deals.
    • Deal Monitor, MergerMarket, CapIQ, Lex Machina
I'll stop there, but you get the idea. What is it that we could bring, automatically, or at least with very little human input, that would push information out to the attorney representing a new client? Is there value in producing this information in a proactive manner, rather than waiting to be asked by the Partner representing the client? Can it be pushed into a client portal, or into the client folders in iManage, or some other place where the attorneys can see it?

I heard the saying lately that "it's better to give the attorney something to edit, than to ask them to create something." Applying this concept to what we could do whenever a new client is brought in, then it would be better to present the attorneys with the information, and let them decide what is valuable or not valuable to them after seeing it. Listen to what the attorneys have to say about the information, and adapt to their needs. 

There's definitely an opportunity for each time we have a new client. Let's be proactive. Push something out and give the attorneys something to edit.



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5 comments:

Stacy Rowe said...

Great thoughts Greg! I come at this from more of the marketing/BD realm, and knowing this, I would hope that in many cases, research you referenced has already been pulled during the prospecting process. That said, one thing law firms often miss is nurturing current clients. If law firms have Manzama or another news aggregator, I would see huge value in proactively adding the new client to the relationship/billing attorneys' profile/email alerts, along with targeted industry feeds, etc. It's also a great excuse to be able to reach out to the lawyer and offer additional assistance with other client, competitor, industry, etc. intelligence.

Brenna Louzin said...

I completely agree with you here. I am pleased to say that our Research Center team is plart of the new client opening process. As soon as a new client comes through Conflicts, they are passed on to the Research Center. We review the entity's litigation history, business profile, worth, social media profile and intellectual property. What we have not been doing is the last step of setting up future newsfeeds/alerts to follow the newly accepted client.

Thank you.

Denise Rabogliatti said...

I, too, agree with everyone's comments. In looking at the client opening process, I see it as only one component of the larger business development cycle. Information is necessary throughout this cycle from identifying targets to pitching to on-boarding to client maintenance. We should be proactively targeting relevant material to the particular segment of the cycle where it will have the most impact and value. For example, on-boarding may be the time ensure the new client is categorized correctly in internal systems or monitoring is happening if it already isn't.

Jordan said...

Great ideas actually! It would be really helpful to have all of this information on a client like this. Thanks for sharing your insight.

Amit said...

Greg, this comment is a bit late after your post - but we have a tool called Tallyfy being used in various firms (and legal ventures for that matter!) for all sorts of processes. More is at https://tallyfy.com

The value here is it makes it beautifully easy to sync between various people and get a process such as matter opening/closing to be consistent and efficient. It's designed specifically for repetitive processes that need to be done right.

Happy to talk more if you're interested - our contact details are on our website.

 

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