Legal case management

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The terms legal case management (LCM), matter management or legal project 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.[1][2] 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[edit]

Legal case or matter management software has three main functions:

  • to organize and manage the individual cases or matters that that clients have hired the firm to perform, including the assignment and performance services by the firm's staff
  • to record the services that the firm performs and expenses that the firm incurs in performing services for clients, including the information required issue bills to clients
  • to organize, manage, consolidate, share, and protect the firm's information resources and work product

Some case management software either performs the firm's accounting or interfaces with firm's accounting software.

Some case management software is marketed to specific segments of the legal marketplace. Segments can be based on the size of the law firm or on the firm's law practice areas (for example, civil litigation, criminal law, real estate, tax law, etc.).

In-house legal departments[edit]

In-house legal teams (in the public and private sectors) have their own needs: generally these require less emphasis on billing and accounts (since clients tend to be internal), and even more on traceability, real-time integration and configurability. The need to improve productivity of the team and reduce costs to taxpayers, or the business, is often a key driver. Some in-house teams have reduced their external legal bills by using case management software to increase their capacity and bring case work in-house.[3]

Case management in the U.S. federal courts[edit]

As electronic court systems continue to increase their online presence, many now require case filings to be accomplished electronically.[4][5] 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.

e-Discovery systems[edit]

Legal-project management meets traditional project management particularly in the area of electronic discovery.[6] E-discovery in particular has a set of regularized, repeatable, and measurable practices and has been subject to great cost-control pressure for the past few years, making it a specialty within law amenable to traditional project management. The practice of legal-project management varies from the schema in Steven Levy's book[2] to law-firm-specific regimens such as Seyfarth Lean[7] to corporate initiatives such as Cisco’s core-and-context[8] approach to legal work.

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[9] came a new subset of case management systems that incorporated those changes, often dubbed 'electronic evidence' or 'e-discovery' management systems.[10][11] Since the new rules took effect, e-Discovery firms as outside service vendors have flourished.

Case management and the regulation of mediation in Australia[edit]

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.[12] 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. This is stated in the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 Section 53A(1):[13]

(1) Subject to the Rules of Court, the Court may by order refer the proceedings in the Court, 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 accordance with the Rules of Court. (1A) Referrals under subsection (1) to a mediator may be made with or without the consent of the parties to the proceedings. However, referrals to an arbitrator may be made only with the consent of the parties.

Case management in the State of New South Wales includes governing civil court proceedings by court management rules, which are the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW)[3] and Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 (NSW)[4]. The overriding purpose of case management in the Civil Procedure Act 2005 is 'to facilitate the just, quick and cheap resolution' to the matter at dispute in the civil court proceedings (s56(1), Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW) [5]).

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.[14]

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.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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 Capturing More Time ... And Keeping Your Clients Happy While Doing It, Law Practice Today, March 2007.[1]
  2. ^ a b Legal Project Management: Control Costs, Meet Schedules, Manage Risks, and Maintain Sanity, Steven B. Levy, DayPack Books (2009) ISBN 1-4499-2864-1
  3. ^ Kate Teh, Telegraph Media Group on January 2014
  4. ^ See, e.g., News Release, Electronic Case Filing in Federal Courts Reaches Milestone, November 21, 2005."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2009-07-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ U.S. Courts, About Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF), July 2009."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2009-07-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Legal Project Management: Bringing Process to Practice Peer-to-Peer, 2010, Randal Girouard, Sarah Brown
  7. ^ SeyfarthLean: Using Lean Six Sigma and Project Management Methodologies to Create a Shared Value Proposition
  8. ^ Business Times (London) Online, Mark Chandler
  9. ^ FRCP
  10. ^ See Kaplan, Industry Research Report, A Conversation with Corporate Counsel: e-Discovery Trends and Perspectives, Fios, Inc. and Ari Kaplan Advisors, 2008.[2]
  11. ^ Blake, Are You Litigation-Ready?, Law Practice Today, April 2008
  12. ^ Boulle, L. (2005). Mediation: Principles Process Practice. 2nd Edition. Queensland, Australia. LexisNexis Butterworths.
  13. ^ "Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) s 53A". Archived from the original on 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2017-03-07.
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ Astor, H & Chinkin, C. M. (2nd Edition, 2002). Dispute Resolution in Australia. Sydney Australia.. LexisNexis Butterworths