many years, personal injury, workers' compensation and other
high-volume practices have used case management systems to control
what otherwise would be crushing workloads. Many transactional
attorneys, too, should take advantage of matter management systems.
Our legal department has eight attorneys plus
support staff. Last year, we selected eCounsel from Bridgeway Software
(www.bridge-way.com) for a new
matter management system. Most of what I describe below about eCounsel
is true for other matter management systems, such as those offered by
and ProLaw Software (www.prolaw.com).
I lead a technology contracting team that
includes a contract administrator and an administrative assistant. We
are among the heaviest users of eCounsel within the department, having
several dozen active matters at any moment.
eCounsel can maintain a huge amount of
information for each matter. For our team, key data include contract
title and description; effective and expiration dates; titles,
descriptions, effective and expiration dates of amendments, exhibits
and other attachments; client business units and individuals; other
parties and individuals.
eCounsel automatically assigns a matter number to
each matter. We label folders and store them in the file room by
eCounsel can link the record for a matter to
files such as word processing documents and scanned images. We expect
to scan many of our files so users can view contracts online. With a
single click, users will print documents, avoiding a trip to the file
room and time at the photocopier.
A fundamental issue in setting up any matter
management system is determining what is a matter. Some matters are
obvious. For example, if we have only one agreement with a given
party, and the transaction reflected in that agreement involves no
other parties, then that specific transaction and agreement are a
On the other hand, a particularly complex
transaction with multiple parties and agreements also may be a single
matter. That way, all related documents and information will be
readily available in one place.
eCounsel is serving us well. However, a subtle
shortcoming precludes my using eCounsel's powerful calendaring
I had hoped to switch my calendar from Microsoft
Outlook to eCounsel because Outlook does not have an easy way to
associate calendar events and to-do tasks with matters. For this
switch to work, however, synchronization with my Palm V handheld is
Outlook and the Palm readily exchange records for
calendar events, to-do tasks and contacts (names, addresses, telephone
numbers, etc.). The contact information is important both in its own
right and because I associate contacts with events and tasks.
Unfortunately, eCounsel cannot synchronize this
information with the Palm. Indeed, eCounsel does not even provide my
own list of contacts, separate from the department-wide list, let
alone synchronize it. (eCounsel will synchronize events and tasks to
Outlook, but not back in the opposite direction.) As a result, I still
use Outlook, despite its limitations, for calendaring.
In summary, while our matter management system is
not perfect, it does a lot and will do more in the future. We are
better off with it than without it, and I suspect that many other
transactional lawyers would be, too.
Dana Shultz is vice president and legal counsel for an
international financial services organization, where he specializes in
technology licensing and related transactions. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.