We all know the importance of maintaining one’s home. Preventive maintenance saves problems and is always less costly than emergency maintenance. Caring for your law department matter management system is no different. And the good news is it is easy to do and does not require a lot of time if proper procedures are put in place.
In this blog I will provide a checklist of tasks that should be made part of you department’s procedures to ensure that your matter management system is operating at peak performance. I would like to recognize the law department of United Technologies Corporation for providing much of the source material upon which this blog is based.
The checklist is divided into the following categories:
- User requests
- Data audits
- Database maintenance/testing
- Homepage maintenance
- User credentialing
The remainder of this blog will describe each of the categories in more detail.
A procedure should be in place for answering general “how-to” and “how come” questions from regular users. This procedure can be formal or informal depending on the size of the department. However, regardless of size, the types of questions coming from users should be tracked or noted in some fashion. The benefit of doing so will, at the very least, identify some potential training needs or perhaps even a change in system procedures.
This task is crucial to good maintenance of a matter management system and was actually covered in more detail as a separate topic in my blog of March 26, 2015 – Do You Know Where Your Information Manager Is?. I include a reference to data audits here to reinforce its importance. This task should be performed at least once a week. Assuming one has created some exception reports that can run automatically, it should be no more than fifteen minutes per week.
If you are using Lawtrac as your matter management system, it is a requirement to update the current fiscal year setting in the Administration menu annually. This should normally be done on December 31st of each year.
Another maintenance task that should be included in a system administration checklist is the steps involved in adding new users. The steps involved will typically depend on the size of the department and the location of the users relative to the system administrator who is actually adding the user to the database.
If multiple people in your department can open a matter, there should be a process in place to ensure that more than one person is not entering the same matter. There are several techniques that can be employed. One simple method is to search for any part of the matter name prior to adding the matter.
Matters may need to be reassigned from one person to another from time to time. Some matter management systems such as Lawtrac have a utility function to transfer all, or portions of, a user’s portfolio. Whether or not such a function exists in the matter management system utilized in your department, a process should still be in place so that matters in the database are properly reassigned when personnel changes occur.
A mechanism should be in place to notify users about events or updates related to your matter management system. Notices should be distributed to users such as upcoming training dates or system downtime due to maintenance or upgrades. In the case of the Lawtrac system, this can be accomplished in an effective manner using the Home page. If you are using a different matter management system without a home page notification function, another process should be put in place that will notify all users when applicable.
System administration reporting
The department should produce some basic reports to measure system activity. Some examples of reports that may be applicable are the number of new users trained, the number of users disabled and the number of vendors added.
The department should have a process in place for training new users, and perhaps even advanced training for existing users. You might be surprised to know how often I’ve had people who have been using the system for a year or more tell me “I didn’t know the system could do that!” The benefit to the department can be great if, for example, a user was made aware of simple search features that they did not know existed.
There should be a standard checklist for adding new users to the system. The checklist should cover basic functions such as assigning a user name and password according to department protocol and then assigning permissions within the system. Will the user have administrative rights and access to reports? These permissions should not be left to chance.
Similarly, there should be a checklist of tasks to perform in the matter management system when an individual is released from employment. Changing passwords, reasigning open matters, and adjusting the invoice approval chain are some of the steps that should be considered when an employee leaves the company.
Smart law departments recognize that a matter management system is a strategic tool for the corporation. Putting system maintenance procedures in place as described above will ensure that the system will always be ready to support the strategic information needs of the law department and the corporation.