Law firms evolve overtime from a small solo practice, to a practice with a few attorneys, and then many more. As a law firm evolves so do the tools that a firm will use. Initially a firm may have separate systems that reference their clients and matters, such as a time and billing system, a document management system, a records management system, or an ethical wall system. You may not think about how you are entering the client’s information into each system. Or perhaps a client changes their name, and this gets updated only in 1 system and not in all systems. So, client and matter names and numbers may vary between systems over time. This invisible problem will continue to grow. This does not become apparent until you try to take advantage of connecting all your systems that have been operating as silos into a more evolved structure.
This happens a lot with our clients. We often are a part of a larger iManage implementation project at a law firm who wants to take advantage of the most efficient tools on the market. The consultants are raring to go. The law firm is raring to go. But we soon find discrepancies between how a client matter is listed in their time and billing system and their document management system and perhaps in their records management system. Often, the discrepancies will need to be researched to identify which is the valid entry the client matter should be referenced especially for older matters. This data review and data cleanup often comes as a surprise to law firms who are understandably busy doing law firm work. This can cause a delay to the project if a firm is unprepared to address their data cleanup. The other option is to connect the systems with the data “as is”, which can create user searching frustrations in the future.
My recommendation is if you do not already have a data entry standard for clients and matters across your systems … began so today! Determine who or what system is the “system of record”. Often law firms consider the time and billing system the “system of record” or “gold copy” of information for client and matters. If you can, use the system of record to feed data to other systems downstream. Leverage this information so that everyone is using the same references for client and matter information. And, do not be surprised if your consultant finds discrepancies between systems. Consider it a part of your law firm’s evolution to a more advanced and efficient business.
If have questions about how to get started with a data clean up in your law firm, feel free to schedule a call with me. I am happy to help.