What is a Matter and Why Does it Matter?

Matters are the building blocks of in-house legal matter management, but what counts? The fast phone call, the contract, the major transaction? Here is a quick guide on how to define your matters, what to track...and why your matters matter.

To be successful in legal matter management, you need to get a little granular.

What is a legal matter?

A legal matter refers to any situation, issue, or dispute, subject to laws and regulations within the relevant jurisdiction. A matter can range from a small contract being negotiated, to a major and complex litigation. Legal matters typically require the involvement of lawyers to resolve the issue.

But what exactly qualifies?

The billion-dollar acquisition, or the ten-minute phone call answering questions from Jane in Product Development? A complex contract, or an automated NDA?

Simply put, a matter is a legal activity that has a beginning, an end and a clear objective or outcome. Size – in this context – does not matter.

The beginning of a legal matter

A matter can be identified by its inception – the moment that a business activity or request sparked the need for legal resolution or advice. Legal software will provide you with an intake and triage workflow process to streamline the commencement of a legal matter, but a legal matter will also arise from meetings, external events or regulatory changes.

Side note: your in house legal matter management software will capture the commencement date of a matter so that you can track the ‘beginning’ to understand turnaround time to your business or other stakeholders.

The end of a legal matter

It’s very helpful to meditate on the “end” when considering what constitutes a matter. The never-ending task of managing the organization’s brand portfolio is not a matter, whereas individual activities falling within that broader bucket, such as registering a new trademark, are matters.

Side note: your legal matter management system should allow you to link related matters to give you visibility of how much work falls into these broader buckets.

Objective of a legal matter

Is the legal issue in play the project, or a sub-component? With large projects like the billion-dollar acquisition example above, it can be tempting to record sub-components of the project as matters of their own. However, if the objective is to complete the project, the project itself is the ‘matter’ and the sub-components are better reflected as tasks within that matter.

Side note: your in house legal matter management solution will capture both matters and tasks so that they can be managed together for seamless delivery of the matter resolution.

legal matter management software

Why Matters matter

Your matters will form the foundation of legal matter management, improving productivity and maximizing the impact of your legal team on your organization's strategic goals – so it’s imperative to get this definition right and be consistent across your team.

Be practical

Although it’s important to be get fairly granular about your Legal Department’s activity, if the matter is so small that the time spent recording it would be a large proportion of the total time spent on the activity, it’s probably not ‘matter-worthy’. It is still useful to define this and using a simple matter management system for matter categorization helps to delineate quick advice from “business as usual” or a special project.

Let’s use the example of the ten-minute phone call with Jane in Product Development. It’s the kind of task that’s easy to dismiss as not “matter-worthy.” But what if Jane is calling every week with a new issue? What if she has engaged with multiple lawyers in the in-house Legal Department, none of whom are aware of the others’ direction? What if, by tracking her queries, you could identify a looming threat and act decisively to solve it….and save time and future hassles?

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the billion-dollar acquisition. From the perspective of legal workload management alone, classifying this as a single matter is problematic unless size, complexity and value are taken into account. Many legal matter management systems consider all matters equal and assigns one point of contact per matter. So, while Mei may be the project lead, this conceals the fact that Liam is buried in due diligence.

visibility into matters with a legal matter management software

Benefits of legal matter management

Once defined – and to be effective – legal matters within an in-house Legal Department need to be thoughtfully and consistently tracked.

One of the primary benefits of a matter management software is to provide visibility, and therefore insight into, your Legal Department’s activity. Without this, you risk spending your days reactively putting out fires – and never getting the mental bandwidth to be strategically focused on the organization.

Think about the tasks that make up the legal matter. For large matters in particular, breaking them down into components helps to manage workflow effectively.

Legal matter management is an organizational system for in-house corporate Legal Departments that:

  • Provides visibility into workloads and deadlines
  • Automates reporting
  • Connects in-house lawyers with one another and the business
  • Collects key data on legal matters, results, budget and more

That’s the what, and here’s the why: Matter management software for Legal Departments empowers data-driven decisions on multiple levels.

By taking a few seconds to categorize each legal matter, you collect insightful metrics. By defining the business client, you see which units have vulnerabilities and how your resources are spread across the organization. By defining the Legal Department workload, you see whether work is assigned fairly, how you may be under- or over-staffed, and better forecast hiring needs.

With advanced legal matter management software, you can define the strategic value, ensuring that your resources are appropriately allocated – and giving you the quantitative data to show your value to the organization. Trust that for your general counsel, CEO and board… that matters.

Get started with Xakia's matter legal matter management solution

To learn more about Xakia's leading matter management software, get in touch with the team today for a demo, or sign up for a free 14 day pilot.

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