California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - JULY 2001
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - July 2001
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News / News Briefs
Two-year fee bill goes to governor
Janet Reno, low-cost MCLE highlight Annual Meeting
Stanley Mosk dies at 88
State Bar wins ABA's Harrison Tweed Award for pro bono, legal access, IOLTA efforts
Foundation will accept grant applications beginning July 16
Winnebago of justice serves those on the road less traveled
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Trials Digest
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Legal Tech - Matter management is not just for litigators
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Opinion
From the President - Public members bring fresh views
Holding judges accountable
Letters to the Editor
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MCLE Self-Study
Alcohol and the workplace
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Ethics update...
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You Need to Know
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Public Comment
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - Level field or a judicial practical joke?
Former DA disbarred for drunken-driving coverup
Attorney Discipline

LEGAL TECH

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Matter management is not just for litigators

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By DANA SHULTZ
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Dana ShultzFor 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 Corprasoft (www.corprasoft.com), Hummingbird (www.hummingbird.com), Mitratech (www.mitratech.com) and ProLaw Software (www.prolaw.com).

Extensive capabilities

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 matter number.

Scanned images

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 matter.

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.

Unmet expectations

eCounsel is serving us well. However, a subtle shortcoming precludes my using eCounsel's powerful calendaring capability.

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 essential.

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 dhshultz@ds-a.com.