Legal case management
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The terms Legal case management (LCM) or matter management refer to a subset of law practice management and cover a range of approaches and technologies used by law firms and courts to leverage knowledge and methodologies for managing the life cycle of a case or matter more effectively. Generally, the terms refer to the sophisticated information management and workflow practices that are tailored to meet the legal field's specific needs and requirements.
As attorneys and law firms compete for clients they are routinely challenged to deliver services at lower costs with greater efficiency, thus firms develop practice-specific processes and utilize contemporary technologies to assist in meeting such challenges. Law practice management processes and technologies include case and matter management, time and billing, litigation support, research, communication and collaboration, data mining and modeling, and data security, storage, and archive accessibility.
Case management software
Legal case or matter management software has two primary functions: it helps to better use, manage, consolidate, share, and protect information, and it tracks and shapes the business process. Because the most useful forms of such software can integrate data from multiple systems, departments, users, and business entities, its use can increase a firm's business advantage.
Case or matter management systems having the capacity to push and pull data over the Internet, whether within the software itself or within an integrated software framework or environment became an industry standard with the advent of the Lexis and Westlaw legal research platforms.
Case management software is marketed to specific segments of the legal marketplace, with some products designed for small firms and others for large multinational firms, and a few claim to be scalable to all. Cost-containment and competition concerns facing small-to-mid-size firms that cannot afford a full-time IT staff often drive custom solutions incorporating multiple integrated products.
Case management in the U.S. federal courts
As electronic court systems continue to increase their online presence, many now require case filings to be accomplished electronically. Many legal software vendors' products include the ability to take advantage of such electronic filing by pulling data from the case management product and pushing it into court filing systems.
In litigation, the discovery process often results in enormous amounts of information that must be managed, and with the revision of the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 2006 to include electronic means of discovery came a new subset of case management systems that incorporated those changes, often dubbed 'electronic evidence' or 'e-discovery' management systems. Since the new rules took effect, e-Discovery firms as outside service vendors have flourished.
Case management and the regulation of mediation in Australia
The term case management is also used to refer to systems in which court or tribunal officials assume closer administrative control over the litigation process than is traditionally associated with common law litigation. The Assisted Dispute Resolution program was introduced into the Federal Court in 1990 after a number of cases failed to reach resolutions having several directional hearings. In those cases the parties were not able to isolate the issues requiring determination. With the new program, judges can refer the parties to a court registrar for mediation. The following section was introduced into the Federal Court of Australia Act in 1991:
Subject to the Rules of Court, the Court may, with the consent of the parties to proceedings in the Court, by order refer the proceedings, or any part of them or any matter arising out of them to a mediator or an arbitrator for mediation or arbitration as the case may be….
In Australia, mediation as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method is designed to avoid resorting to formal court-based adjudication and is now also being applied to criminal matters. Traditional theories of criminal justice view the matter as one between the offender and the state.
It is not necessary to have the parties consent to the mediation process and a judge can direct the mediation. In this sense, case management is designed to identify and define issues in dispute and to reduce delays, costs and unnecessary pre-trial activities.
- ‘[W]hat was born of resistance and opposition to the formal justice system has been extensively integrated and co-opted into the system’.
- In the U.S., the term 'case' is customarily applied to a matter in which there are opposing parties or which involves a conflict between parties, while the term 'matter' is more broad and encompasses instances in which a legal matter may not have a conflict at its center, such as the probate of an estate.
- See generally, Spencer Dixon and Foster, Capturing More Time ... And Keeping Your Clients Happy While Doing It, Law Practice Today, March 2007.
- See, e.g., News Release, Electronic Case Filing in Federal Courts Reaches Milestone, November 21, 2005.
- U.S. Courts, About Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF), July 2009.
- See Kaplan, Industry Research Report, A Conversation with Corporate Counsel: e-Discovery Trends and Perspectives, Fios, Inc. and Ari Kaplan Advisors, 2008.
- Blake, Are You Litigation-Ready?, Law Practice Today, April 2008
- Boulle, L. (2005). Mediation: Principles Process Practice. 2nd Edition. Queensland, Australia. LexisNexis Butterworths.
- Sarre, R. and Earle, K. (2004). Restorative Justice in Key Issues in Criminal Justice Sarre R, and Tomaino, J. (eds) Key Issues in Criminal Justice, Adelaide: Australian Humanities Press
- Astor, H & Chinkin, C. M. (2nd Edition, 2002). Dispute Resolution in Australia. Sydney Australia.. LexisNexis Butterworths