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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.