A Case Management System is a popular category of software used within the legal sector that assists law firms with managing their cases. The typical features of a case management system are the ability to create and manage clients, create related matters and store documents. Some more advanced systems also include time tracking, documentation automation and contract management.
Case Management System became very popular with Law Firms looking to digitise their processes and improve efficiencies. Traditional case management was unwieldy, relied heavily on individual knowledge and wasn’t in line with shifting consumer expectations.
A centralised shared database of clients and matters made accessing and storing information a lot more efficient and allowed for greater delegation of tasks. When customers called, Law Firms no would longer have to go searching through filing cabinets or, in some circumstances, retrieve documents from offsite storage anymore. With a CMS, firms can easily search and find the necessary details on their CMS, leave notes quickly and respond to clients quicker.
Another benefit of using a CMS is documentation generation and management. Some Case Management Systems include built-in documentation creations tools that allow you to create editable templates with auto-populate fields. Correctly done this can aid a law firms compliance procedure by centralising documents and ensuring the most up-to-date documents are being used. The downside of these tools can be that they don’t have the functionality of / ease of use that more established products like Microsoft office do. Integration with office and other word processors is a possibly
CMS’s can also be tailored to specific needs of certain legal areas such as conveyancing or criminal law. Conveyancing software like ours, Matter Centre, are designed to have features that are only relevant to the practice area they intended for. For conveyancing systems, this can include the ability to integrate with property searches, Land Reg and client portals. Criminal defence case management software could consist of docket generation and integration with the Legal Aid Agency and eDiscovery tools.
Most CMS started as on-premise desktop solutions that had to installed, maintained and updated by the Law Firm. There has been a significant shift to cloud-based CMS which remove the burden on Law Firms to manage and maintain the software as well as offering stronger cybersecurity. The added benefit of using a cloud-based system is that it is more accessible, allowing you to log in from various devices and locations, so no longer constrained to the office.
Digital case management software also offered the benefit of improved security over traditional paper-based case management as any changes can be automatically traced and logged against a user.
Law Practice Management Software (PMS) varies from Case Management Systems (CMS) in that they also include functionality to help manage the business side of a firm such as bookkeeping, invoicing, reporting, HR and marketing. While there used to be distinct differences between the two categories, over time they have become blurred with both offering similar features. Law Firms will often want their PMS to integrate with their CMS to reduce the need for duplicate data entry as client details and to connect billing with their related case.
Despite its prevalence, there are still Law Firms who haven’t moved to electronic case management. The main barriers of adoption, according to the Law Society are lack of vital resources including time, money and people. Many smaller long-established solicitors do not have the inhouse IT expertise required to take advantage of complex case management systems and prefer using spreadsheets, email and paper documents to manage the cases. Adopting new any technology is challenging and doesn’t always result in the benefits originally promised. Pricing can also be a barrier with varying models such per user, per case or per month confusing for some solicitors.
The last decade has seen CMS becoming a total solution for case management as well as business management for Law Firms. While this had benefitted law firms when it came to data management and training, it has also created one-size fits all platforms that don’t excel in any particular area.
Monolithic platforms are hard for developers to maintain and upgrade as the different parts are so dependent on each other. With Law Firms adopting more cloud-based solutions, this has made integration with other platforms a lot easier and has led to a rise in systems designed to meet the specific needs of different areas of practice. Also, a newer, younger generation of lawyers has reduced training requirements and are more comfortable using different platforms for specific solutions.
Older CMS’s promised improved efficiencies and additional billable hours but in reality, the time saved would often be used on updating the system, leaving notes, organising digital files and reconfigurations to keep up with changing requirements. Advancements in automation and integration are removing much of administrative elements of using a CMS while offering the flexibility to quickly reconfigure the software to work the way you want it to rather than having to adapt to how a computer programme thinks you should work.