Client Matter Management
While the efficient management of legal business has always been a feature of Quarles & Brady's services, we have recognized the necessity of formalizing our operations management, not only to seek further efficiencies within our systems but to lend transparency to our business processes as a part of our ongoing obligation to keep our clients informed and confident that their matters are well managed and under control. Client Matter Management (CMM) is our multifaceted, firmwide program, defining specific protocols for the intake of new matters, the planning and estimation of costs and outcomes, the systematic-yet-flexible execution of those matters, and their final resolution to the client’s satisfaction. Throughout this “CMM Process,” communication between the legal team and the client remains essential so that all stakeholders have the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process as needed.
As part of formalizing our legal project management program, Quarles & Brady has created a “CMM Toolkit,” which is a series of five separate areas of focus designed to save time, streamline standard processes, avoid “reinventing the wheel” from matter to matter and ultimately provide the highest quality service as efficiently as possible.
Cost management lies at the heart of every discussion of efficiency. While Quarles & Brady's geographic imprint has always allowed for a competitive rate structure, we have embraced alternative fee arrangements to remain even more competitive and responsive, and we have built budgeting tools that allow us to break out the component parts of each matter and determine the costs associated with each element. This allows us and our clients to examine each facet of a given matter and consider the most effective and cost-efficient approach to completing it. We use cost structures developed for previous matters that have efficiently achieved desired results as possible baseline structures for new matters of a similar nature. We continually identify template budgeting structures that can be mixed and matched for new matters, allowing us to quickly create cost-efficient budgets.
Most organizations consider the periodic reconciliation of budget forecasts with actual expenditures a best practice and pursue it with varying levels of attention; Quarles & Brady builds the process directly into its CMM program. We review our numbers on an ongoing basis during each phase of a given project — typically each week — and do not merely wait until the matter or any of its phases are concluded to see, after it is too late, how close we were. Consistent monitoring allows us to inform our clients in advance when there may be cost overruns—before they are incurred—and discuss options to address and mitigate the changed circumstances. We also track our work status according to the approved plan and the percentage of each task completed, in order to detect delays that might add costs and identify significant progress that could alter assumptions about the rest of the matter.
We also build a timeline for complex matters and track our progress as part of our monitoring process.
While each matter and each client’s goals are unique, we strive to identify and streamline standard processes and document how they are to be completed, task-by-task. We use those templates where appropriate to save time and minimize repetitive work, and then turn them into legal process maps, which are detailed schematics of the processes with built-in decision points. Some of them are designed to help us navigate the individual but complex phases of a given matter, while others can serve to guide us through an entire matter. In both situations, these documents, along with our budget-monitoring processes, are extremely helpful during check-in meetings with our clients, providing a clear picture of where things stand with just a glance. Legal process maps are also useful in “customer pay” financial transactions, because they help ensure that all parties understand the structure and sequence of the various steps involved in a complex transaction and benefit from the efficiencies afforded by the process maps.
To maximize efficiency, as part of our CMM Toolkit, we have created and maintain a central library of standardized documents such as contracts and resolutions, quality control checklists, peer review templates, practice notes, best practice descriptions, and more.
We have made client communication a formal tool within the CMM toolkit. We produce work plans so our clients can see what we will be doing in addition to what we are doing. We create work status updates, including the budget and timeline documents described above. We consider any change of scope to be a “red flag,” indicating that the client must be contacted. And we maintain open channels for communication with our clients. For example, we make extensive use of client extranets, which are secure websites on which we and individual clients can exchange information, store documents, collect new information, and track matter status. We also schedule regular check-in meetings when handling matters that extend over prolonged periods, and we “touch base” as often as each client prefers.