4 Ways to Design Your In-House Legal Intake & Matter Management

May 17, 2024

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Today, with businesses requiring increasing amounts and growing types of legal support, legal departments are under pressure to meet this demand despite their limited access to resources. This is further compounded with flattening headcounts, the poor perception of legal and the lack of prioritization from IT, where legal teams are finding it more difficult to demonstrate value and justify additional resources to meet company goals.

This is why modern legal teams are using legal intake and matter management systems to design intake and triage solutions that improve their service delivery. But what should it look like and how can we get there? In this blog, we discuss the four ways to design your in-house legal intake and matter management solution to streamline your legal service delivery.  

4 ways to design your in-house legal intake and matter management

Designing your legal intake and matter management solution depends on your legal team’s maturity – the measure of the department’s ability to manage legal service delivery. Depending on your department’s maturity, you can adopt one of four approaches to gather and handle legal requests, spanning from manual to fully automated methods.

1. Spreadsheet-led (manual)

For legal teams in the initial stages of maturity, where legal requests come in highly unstructured with little or no organization at all, a spreadsheet method offers a cost-effective and straightforward approach to bring back some control to the chaos. Within a simple interface, spreadsheets provide a structured framework for organizing matter details, requester information, deadlines, and tasks. Through customizable columns, filters, and sorting functions, legal professionals can tailor spreadsheets to suit their specific needs, offering both flexibility and function.

Conversely, a spreadsheet-led approach leaves much to be desired when it comes to intake and matter management. Since this method requires manual sifting through each request, this is usually handled by a dedicated resource such as a paralegal or legal support staff who need to swim their way through a sea of requests. Additionally, as the volume of requests increases, the spreadsheet approach becomes difficult to coordinate where the ineffective and untimely allocation of requests leads to wasted time from unfocused resources, the doubling up of work and worst of all, missed deadlines. This approach to intake and matter management is often tedious and takes valuable time away from lawyers who would rather dedicate their expertise to more substantive legal work.  

While a spreadsheet-led approach can seem like a simple and organized way to handle legal requests, relying solely on this method of intake and matter management increases the likelihood of errors and missed deadlines. For legal departments looking for modern solutions to streamline their intake and matter management processes, relying on spreadsheets alone represents an outdated methodology.  

As legal teams grow and evolve, spreadsheets act as a steppingstone to more sophisticated methods or intake and matter management. As such, they can gradually introduce more intricate enhancements like incorporating more automated approaches to intake and triage.

2. Inbox-led (manual)

An inbox-led method for intake and matter management involves creating a centralized channel, often in the form of a designated email inbox, where all legal requests are directed. For instance, this could look like having an email address like legal@company.com that serves as the point of contact for business users who want to submit legal requests or inquiries directly to the department.  

This approach to intake and matter management helps eliminate confusion on how to address and interact with legal. It helps to ensure that requests do not get lost within the broader communication channels of the business. The simplicity of using an email inbox makes it an accessible and user-friendly method for business users to submit their legal needs. Furthermore, the transparency afforded by shared inboxes fosters accountability and enables real-time collaboration within the legal team.

However, lurking beneath the surface lies confidentiality risks, limited functionality for information storage and search, as well as ineffective collaboration on matters. With shared inboxes, the lines of confidentiality can blur, raising concerns about unauthorized access and data breaches. Managing permissions within a shared inbox environment can also quickly spiral, particularly in large legal teams with frequent personnel changes. Additionally, information overload is also a common pitfall of shared inboxes, where emails, documents, and communications converge in a tidal wave of data. Amidst this deluge, finding relevant information becomes akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, hampering productivity and efficiency. Communication errors also represent yet another stumbling block with multiple users accessing and responding to emails, the potential for duplication of efforts, conflicting responses, or overlooking critical messages.

The significant constraint for legal inboxes is the lack of visibility and reporting over matters. This limitation hampers the ability to generate comprehensive and insightful reports on intake metrics, matter status, workload distribution, and trends. Without this, legal teams face challenges in conducting in-depth analysis, generating actionable insights to inform strategic decision-making, and more importantly, demonstrating the value and impact of the legal department.

Without careful consideration and mitigation strategies, the benefits of a shared inbox approach may be overshadowed by its disadvantages, necessitating a balanced approach to implementation and management, or a timely move to automated forms of intake and matter management.

Inbox-led Intake

3. Forms-led (automated)

A forms-based intake method involves creating structured questions and fields that guide business users to provide information regarding their request. Forms provide a structured and standardized approach to gathering essential information, ensuring accuracy, consistency, and completeness in data collection. Forms provide a streamlined way to capture information, build in controls and validation, but most notably, allows legal teams to start automating the reporting of metrics such as matter volume, type, status and more.

If combined with an automated workflow solution, requests can be automatically triaged to the most appropriate lawyer or resource based on considerations such as capacity, request complexity, and specialization. This includes automatically redirecting non-legal requests to other parts of the business, completely removing the administrative overhead of capturing and allocating requests. Notifications can also be configured to automatically notify team members of new submissions, task assignments, and deadline reminders.  

Despite this, change management remains a challenge if the business is required to change the way they engage with legal, whether it’s through the previous methods of contacting the legal shared inbox, or through other channels such as Slack, Teams, Salesforce, and more.

Form-Led Intake with Checkbox

4. AI-led (automated)

An AI-led intake approach sees the use of AI chatbots to provide a conversational experience for business users to raise requests and ask questions.

AI chatbots equipped with natural language processing (NLP) can comprehend and respond to inquiries in natural language, mirroring human conversation patterns. This is distinct from forms and early chatbots that are reliant on stiff, restrictive logic and standard query-to-answer matches to provide set responses. This natural interaction fosters a sense of familiarity and ease for clients, eliminating the need to navigate complex forms or rigid scripts. Business users can articulate their questions, concerns, and requests in their own words, leading to more meaningful interactions and higher satisfaction levels.  

Checkbox takes this further by allowing teams to deploy AI legal chatbots where the business are, such as on email, Slack, Teams, Salesforce, intranets and more. This not only provides an immediate and conversational experience for the business, but enables an unprecedented user experience, mitigates change management, and solves adoption challenges.

Additionally, the Checkbox AI chatbot not only can respond to requests in a conversational manner but can extract key information and action from unstructured text, such as emails or chat messages. Legal teams are not only able to capture requests and provide answers to frequently asked questions but seamlessly link the AI chatbot to self-service workflows to collect approvals, submit disclosures, generate documents, and assign work to the appropriate lawyer.

AI Chatbot-led Intake with Checkbox

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Having identified the four distinct approaches to designing legal intake and matter management, the subsequent crucial step is determining the most suitable method for your legal department based on its maturity.

Legal intake and triage automation maturity denotes the current state or level of an organization’s capacity in managing its legal service delivery. These stages of maturity delineate how requests are handled, offering insight into the opportunity for service delivery optimization and readiness for automation.

To learn more about what stage of maturity your legal department is at, we have created a maturity model for legal service request management. This guide maps out the key features throughout each of the stages of maturity, providing valuable guidance for assessing and advancing your legal service delivery process.  

Get an in-depth analysis of your legal processes and see how Checkbox can help by scheduling a consultation with our legal technology experts today.

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