Post by Chris Boyd and Amy Halverson, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Part 1 of this series examined the typically siloed, department-based structure of many law firm intranets and proposed an alternative: an interface based on the lifecycle of a matter that suggests relevant KM resources and other practice support tools based on the stage of the deal or case. In this post we explore the concept further by examining how such an interface might work for a case team that is in the “Work” phase and “Manage” process of a large litigation matter.
Let’s imagine that the firm is defending a company in a significant dispute involving the alleged misappropriation of trade secrets. The litigation team is facing a discovery deadline and is preparing its motion for summary judgment.
Barbara, the senior partner on the case, logs into the firm’s intranet from home before leaving for a breakfast meeting with the client’s Chief Legal Officer, who will want an update on the case team’s progress and next steps, along with current and forecasted fees and costs. Barbara opens the matter dashboard and reviews the previous day’s updates to the case status page, including research summaries and deposition schedules. Next, Barbara looks at the matter management tool to see how closely the fees billed to date are tracking the original fee estimate and the latest forecast of fees and costs through summary judgment. To get an update on the client’s business, Barbara then opens the client portal page, which contains recent news stories about the client and related industry news. She sees a story relating to proposed changes in consumer data security laws that may affect the client, so she prints a recent client alert written by the firm’s privacy practice group that describes the proposal and recommends next steps.
Gary, the junior partner running the day-to-day work on the case, arrives at the office to learn that one of the associates on the case team will be taking an unexpected leave of absence. He opens the matter dashboard and checks the shared team task list, which shows the responsibilities he will need to reassign to other associates. He also looks at the litigation calendar to see who is scheduled for deposition over the next two weeks and track other significant upcoming deadlines. He sees that he will soon be taking the deposition of plaintiff’s expert, which causes him to add to the list a task to compile a backgrounder on the expert by Friday. He assigns the task to a junior associate, Alex, who automatically receives an email informing him of it.
Shortly thereafter Susan, a mid-level associate, receives a call from Gary telling her that she will be joining the litigation team. She needs to come up to speed on the case quickly and begin work on her first assignment, which is to prepare a deposition outline for Gary to use with a witness later that week. She goes to the matter dashboard and first looks at the shared team task list, to see who else is working on the case and what they are doing. She next reviews the case’s pleading index, from which she can see a chronological list of the court filings and discovery served in the matter to date, to learn the case history and read key briefs. When browsing through the links listed on the matter Discovery Phase section, she opens a recent firm training course on preparing for depositions, which gives her a refresher on how to prepare and use exhibits in a deposition. She then uses the firm’s enterprise search tool to find an example of a deposition outline that Gary had prepared in another matter to see his preferred format.
Susan tells her secretary, Julie, that she’ll be working on the case. Julie checks the case pleading index and notices from the case profile that the action is pending in a federal district court to which Susan is not yet admitted to practice. Julie goes to the checklist for new court admissions and begins filling out the paperwork for Susan.
Around the same time the junior associate on the case, Alex, starts the task of compiling a backgrounder on the plaintiff’s expert by checking the firm’s expert witness database and pulling a list of firm attorneys who’d worked with or against that witness previously, along with work product created by the witness.
That evening, senior associate Peter reviews his unopened emails and sees that a motion to quash had been filed by an internet service provider to which he had issued a subpoena. He turns to the pleading index database to search for examples of oppositions to motions to quash involving ISPs. In finding samples he also learns who in the firm worked on prior matters involving the same legal issues, so he can speak to those attorneys to learn more about their experiences. He then checks the matter Discovery Phase section and re-reads the guide to third-party discovery.
Each of these role-based examples illustrates a type of information resource that can be aggregated and presented together through a matter-based interface as part of a “Work” phase or “Manage” process for a litigation matter. Some resources are persistent across phases, such as the client portal, while others are specific to the case type and phase, such as materials relating to discovery and depositions. Regardless of the type of resource, the end user does not need to hunt through various administrative pages to find the tool. Rather, the client and matter phase-based presentation promotes more effective use of KM and other practice support resources by leading the user to his or her next task and introducing the resource needed to complete it. Moreover, the transparent nature of the shared resources (task lists, calendars and pleading indices) enable team members to better collaborate on tasks.