Implementing Case Management – Ensuring Profit Maximisation

March 1, 2000

Case management is the name given to a form of computer software tool that is used to automate legal and administrative services. This kind of software has been available, in different forms, for over ten years. However, even today, it is difficult to make it work efficiently and to maximise its financial return to the practice. All too often, implementing case management software is just viewed as the computerisation of manual procedures. But to make it work successfully requires taking account of practice structure, the services offered and how staff are used. This article explores these areas and how to achieve successful implementation.

Let us start by considering what case management software is. It is usual for this software either to be pre-defined for a specific legal service or else to be provided as a software tool that can be used to develop a process. In this way, the process can then be defined to link:

  • client and matter details

  • standard precedents

  • diary information

  • events

  • management controls.

Even if it is provided complete, for conveyancing, PI etc, the legal software suppliers have appreciated that every practice works slightly differently. Therefore, they often provide facilities to enable the case management software to be manipulated to fit individual practice requirements.

Why Implement Case Management?

So why do practices wish to implement case management? Primarily it is their wish to simplify legal processes, which allows them to react quicker to their client’s needs and to make better use of their own personnel. In turn, this will lead to happier clients and personnel – which will result in increasing profitability.

It is all very well identifying what the practice wants itself, but for a system to be really successful it must directly satisfy client needs. To achieve this, the practice needs to consider what their clients want from them. Do you know? These days, clients assume legal excellence but expect:

  • an efficient and timely service

  • that they are able to ascertain current matter status, at any point in time

  • that they are kept informed at all times

  • that the practice always operates with a consistent approach.

So how can technology directly assist in the delivery of client service? Computers are very good at carrying out repetitive actions. This is ideal, as case management systems can be designed around the reproduction of similar information. Systems can also enable the sharing of information through the correct application of up-to-date communications.

The Internet’s Influence

The Internet is becoming more important by the day, and beginning to encroach into every facet of our lives. It can no longer be ignored and must be included in any practice’s business strategy. It is inevitable that the future will lead to electronic commerce, so the practice must not be left behind. Every practice must now begin to integrate the Internet into client services. The starting point is often through using e-mail, and having a firm Web site. In time, this Web site can become interactive to provide information directly to clients. In this way, the practice’s own information will become available to its clients, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This results in the provision of systems that react and reflect client needs. The integration of case management and information reporting to provide Internet client access, for most practices, is still something for the future. The first step is still to use case management successfully within the practice.

Practice Structure

So is the structure of the practice right to benefit from case management? All too often, current procedures are blindly replicated into computer systems producing automated chaos. The introduction of case management is the ideal time to ask why you follow these procedures. In many cases an answer cannot be given as it is found that procedures have been blindly followed for many years.

The starting point should be to automate just the routine that everyone can agree with. Many practices have difficulties in persuading all fee earners to work in exactly the same way, so leave the legal complexities out on day one. These can come later after the introduction of case management’s common standards and defined ways of working have been generally accepted. An initial first step into case management can be a system that creates the client/matter information then merges this information into the production of a client care letter. These early steps can often be achieved through the automation of standard precedents and merged data, maybe by the clever use of Microsoft Word macros. Thereafter, specific case management software can be introduced and more comprehensive systems can develop over time.

Today’s case management systems can include an element of in-built supervision of casework and exception reporting. This has often led, in the past, to a pyramid-type organisational structure. However, this type of structure can, for the smaller non-departmental practice, work against the creation of a more flexible team approach. The old fee earner and secretarial relationship through the division of duties will not work successfully in maximising the use of case management for this structure of practice. It is far more important to allocate tasks to appropriate individuals, and utilise the elements of control that can be automatically built into these systems to assist understanding and promotion of flexible working procedures.


Carefully planned systems implementation is the key to success. People are only happy to champion successful systems, and no one will champion a system that has not been correctly planned or implemented. To assist, it is important that realistic objectives are set during implementation. Celebrate success by setting small milestones that can be easily recognised. Success breeds interest – therefore communicate success and keep everyone informed. In this way, the practice will have no difficulty in finding people to champion the new successful system. The people process is really more important than the technology, which should become just a secondary issue. Training people and developing their skills, like system development, must be ongoing.

In planning the system, it is important to understand how to measure implementation success. It is essential that the system’s key objectives be identified. This allows implementation to be measured against the delivery of these objectives. But what should they be?

  • more efficient operations that reduce the time taken to complete specific tasks by a defined amount of time

  • increasing profit costs by a certain value

  • the ability to increase volumes of work by a certain defined percentage

  • the ability to respond to client correspondence quicker by a defined timescale.

Actual measurement of success is important. It provides a tangible result for all to see.


As can be seen, to achieve positive case management implementation requires more than just purchasing the new system. Most importantly, it requires a change in attitude. A new flexible approach is required that positions the practice to provide the services its clients want, focusing outward rather than in. The consequence will be better-serviced clients and more contented practice personnel; a result that will inevitably lead to increased practice profitability.

David Higdon can be contacted by telephone on 01833 621130 or at