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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    April 01, 2002

    Technology: Practical Tips for Successful Implementation, Part II: Choosing a Case Management System

    In this second of a two-part series on successfully implementing case management systems, learn how to choose, train staff for, and use such a system to increase firm efficiency and profitability.

    Ross Kodner

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 75, No. 4, April 2002

    Practical Tips for Successful Implementation, Part II
    Choosing a Case Management System

    In this second of a two-part series on successfully implementing case management systems, learn how to choose, train staff for, and use such a system to increase firm efficiency and profitability.

    Ross KodnerRoss L. Kodner, rkodner@microlaw.com, is a lawyer and founder of Milwaukee's MicroLaw Inc., a legal technology consultancy and systems integrator. He chairs the ABA Law Practice Management Section's Computer & Technology Division and was a member of the ABA Techshow Executive Board from 1997-2001. He is chair of the 2002 Wisconsin Law & Technology Show.

    by Ross L. Kodner

    In March, the first article in this series discussed the capabilities of case management systems and the importance of - and how to go about building - consensus from each person and team in your firm. Now that you have "buy-in," it's time to choose and install a system.

    Deciding on a Case Management System

    For most law practices, it is neither economical nor logical to try to decide on a case manager without outside assistance. There are many qualified case management experts and resources available to assist in this process. A collection of very capable legal technology consultants is found at LawCommerce's Web site. A group called T3: Top Tier Technologists is the first independent association of legal technology consultants. Membership is restricted based on a selective and critical peer review process to determine qualifications. Many of the group's members have significant case management expertise. Information on the T3 Network can be seen at the above link.

    If you are interested in a specific case manager, the major companies generally have a roster of qualified and, in many cases, certified consultants who can assist with planning, customizing, and deploying their software. See, for example, TimeMatters consultant info and Amicus Attorney consultant. While the consultants may not be independent advisors, they can assist with the specific program for which they are certified. If you seek independent guidance, be sure to specifically verify that qualification.

    Books and periodicals are great sources of information. One of the leading publications on the topic of legal case management is Andrew Adkins' recent book, Computerized Case Management Systems: Choosing and Implementing the Right Software for You. Law Office Computing magazine also features a major case management review article in each December/January issue.

    Attending legal technology CLE conferences that feature case management-focused education is another effective approach. National conferences include LegalTech, ABA TECHSHOW, and LegalWorks. Case management is a hot topic, and you likely will find many available sessions.

    Building Your Planning Team

    Nothing is more important than planning. This truth cannot be overstated when the subject is case management systems. Unlike many other software applications you might deploy in your practice, with case managers, you can't just click "install" and expect instant productivity miracles.

    The key to case management success is acknowledging that implementing such a project is similar to managing a complex litigated case for one of your clients. Think of it as a multi-step process, spread over time, where the talents and efforts of several people in the practice must be coordinated. In this situation, the case is the case management project and the client you're going to win for is your own firm.

    Start the process by building an implementation team - your "Case Management SWAT Team." Pick a crosssection of people from the firm so you have representation from a variety of perspectives. This means that there should be a partner (at least one in a smaller firm, or a partner from each practice department in a larger firm). There should be an associate or more than one in a larger firm. Associates see the process of case handling from a different viewpoint than partners and have much to offer in this process. Include your firm's administrator and the head of your technology committee. Include a paralegal and legal assistant from each practice group. And include the consultant who is guiding you through the implementation process.

    Your SWAT team should then develop an action plan, plotting out the timeline of the entire process. Your consultant, who may be a veteran of many case management implementations in different kinds of practices, has experiences that should be tapped at this stage. In a sense, it is the same as sitting down with a legal pad, or a "thought processor" such as CaseMap (www.casesoft.com), and outlining the skeletal structure of the process from beginning to end. Allow at least 30 days to arrive at an action plan of how to best configure and roll out your new case manager. Don't worry about filling in every minute detail in your action plan outline - much of what happens will be fleshed out along the way.

    Training: Think Backwards for Success

    With most software in the average law practice, you install it and then learn it. With case management systems, the process is precisely the reverse. You first need to learn the program, and then you can install it.

    Your case management implementation team has to take time to learn the software in order to determine the best configuration approaches; develop a comprehensive training plan that fits your firm, your schedule, and your practice approach; and decide when to activate advanced capabilities like document assembly systems. This is impossible to plan and coordinate unless there is a fairly deep understanding of the software. Of course, getting to this level of comprehension without physically installing the software may be impractical or even impossible. Systems like TimeMatters and most other products can be installed in a demo or tutorial mode, allowing the firm to work through the program's key functions and its "flow" using canned demonstration data files.

    It can be very cost-effective to use your consultant to provide a detailed overview of the program and explain the level of customizability that exists within each major area of the software. A morning of such review can help the Case Management SWAT team supercharge its action plan creation process and better direct the ensuing discussions about the program's initial configuration and customization to best fit the firm's practice approach and workflow patterns.


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