Transform Legal Operations: Matter Management within ELM Systems

In the complex landscape of corporate legal operations, managing legal matters efficiently is paramount. Enterprise Legal Management (ELM) systems have emerged as a cornerstone for in-house legal departments aiming to streamline their operations through processes, reduce costs, and enhance productivity.

Among the functionalities these systems offer, matter management stands out as a critical component. For this article we are not going to focus on e-billing and financial management. Nor, are we going to cover outside counsel or vendor management. We will cover those in another article. In this article, I am going to delve into how matter management functionality within ELM systems transforms the way legal departments operate.

“…matter management stands out as a critical component. For this article we are not going to focus on e-billing and financial management. Nor, are we going to cover outside counsel or vendor management.”

What is a Matter?

A “matter” in the context of legal departments refers to any case, project, issue, transaction, or legal work that requires tracking, management, and resolution.

What is a Matter?

Matters can range from litigation cases, contracts, compliance issues, and intellectual property management, to mergers and acquisitions. Understanding the diverse nature of matters is crucial for configuring the Enterprise Legal Management system to accurately reflect and manage the legal department’s unique matter management workflow and information needs.

How does matter management help attorneys in their day-to-day work?

Matter management functionality within Enterprise Legal Management systems is designed to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of attorneys’ daily operations. Here’s how:

How does matter management help attorneys in their day-to-day work?

Centralized Information Access: Attorneys can access all matter-related information, including documents, correspondence, and deadlines, from a single platform. This centralized access reduces time spent searching for information and ensures that attorneys have the most current data at their fingertips.

Automated Workflow and Task Management: By automating routine tasks and workflows, attorneys can focus more on substantive legal work rather than administrative tasks. Automated reminders and task assignments ensure that critical deadlines are met, reducing the risk of errors or oversights.

Efficient Document Management: With integrated document management capabilities, attorneys can quickly create, edit, store, and retrieve legal documents. Version control and collaborative editing further streamline document handling processes.

How does matter management help other legal professionals in their day-to-day work?

Enterprise Legal Management systems offer significant matter management benefits to paralegals, legal secretaries, and allied legal professionals:

How does matter management help other legal professionals in their day-to-day work?

Enhanced Collaboration: Legal professionals can collaborate more effectively, with shared access to matter information, task assignments, and updates. This fosters a more cohesive team environment and ensures that everyone is aligned on matter progress.

Centralized Data Entry and Retrieval: Legal professionals can track and enter all data in a single location. It makes the data capture standardized and easily accessible.

Streamlined Administrative Tasks: For paralegals and legal secretaries, matter management systems simplify many administrative tasks such as scheduling, document preparation, and compliance checks. This frees up time for more value-added activities.

Improved Matter Tracking: Legal professionals can easily track the progress of matters, monitor deadlines, and manage documentation, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks and that matters progress efficiently.

How does matter management help legal operations and leadership in their day-to-day work?

For legal operations and department leadership, matter management systems provide valuable insights and data analytics for informed decision-making:

How does matter management help legal operations and leadership in their day-to-day work?

Visibility into Matter Portfolio: Enterprise Legal Management systems provide leaders with an overview of all matters in progress, their stages, associated costs, and timelines. This helps in resource allocation and workload distribution.

Data-Driven Insights: Analytics features allow leaders to analyze trends, identify areas for improvement, and make strategic decisions regarding legal operations. This includes insights into matter outcomes, expense patterns, and efficiency metrics.

Strategic Planning and Reporting: With comprehensive ELM reporting tools, leadership can prepare detailed reports on legal department performance, matter costs, and compliance status. This aids in strategic planning and demonstrates the value of the legal department to the broader organization.

Risk Management: Matter management systems help leaders identify potential risks, compliance issues, and areas requiring attention. This enables proactive risk management and strategic decision-making.

What are key matter management features of Enterprise Legal Management systems?

Matter management refers to the process of overseeing all aspects of legal matters or cases within an organization. Enterprise Legal Management Systems include tracking and managing case information, documents, communications, deadlines, and financials from inception to conclusion. Effective matter management in ELM systems ensures that legal departments can operate more strategically, with better oversight and control over their workload.

What are key matter management features of Enterprise Legal Management systems?

Centralized Repository

ELM systems provide a centralized platform where all matter-related information is stored. This includes documents, emails, notes, and schedules related to each case. Centralizing data eliminates silos, making information retrieval quick and efficient, thereby enhancing decision-making.

Workflow Automation

Workflow automation legaltech streamlines repetitive tasks such as document generation, approval processes, and alerts for critical deadlines. By automating these processes, legal departments can focus more on strategic activities rather than administrative tasks.

Additional processes such as obtaining timekeeper data, status updates, and case input can be automated. These are examples of processes that require input from stakeholders beyond the legal function such as outside counsel, business partners, data stewards and involved parties.

Collaboration Tools

Enterprise Legal Management systems facilitate better collaboration among team members, with shared access to matter information, task assignments, and progress tracking. ELM systems can also be interfaced with other corporate system such as MS Teams and Slack to facilitate interaction and approvals beyond the legal function.

Similarly, these tools can be used to collaborate with external entities such as vendors, outside counsel, and other firms to obtain status updates and documents. This ensures that everyone is on the same page, reducing the risk of miscommunication and delays.

People and Entity Management

A key aspect of matter management in ELM systems is the ability to manage and track all individuals and entities involved in a matter. This includes:

  • Internal Team Members: Assigning roles and responsibilities to lawyers, paralegals, and support staff.

  • Other Parties: Tracking opposing parties, clients, witnesses, and other stakeholders.

  • External Counsel and Service Providers: Managing relationships and communications with outside counsel, consultants, and other service providers. This feature ensures that all relevant contacts are associated with their respective matters, facilitating efficient communication and collaboration.

Practice-Specific Information and Workflow Management

Enterprise Legal Management systems offer customizable matter management workflows and fields to cater to practice-specific requirements. This includes:

  • Custom Fields and Templates: Allowing legal departments to tailor the system with specific data fields, document templates, and checklists that align with different types of legal matters, such as litigation, corporate transactions, or intellectual property.

  • Automated Workflows: Configuring automated steps, reminders, checklists and approvals specific to the practice area to streamline processes and ensure compliance with internal policies and legal requirements.

Reporting and Analytics

The key to an effective Enterprise Legal Management system is its advanced reporting and analytics capabilities. While data entry is the means, the value of the system stems from allowing legal departments to generate insights into matter costs, duration, outcomes, and resource allocation. These insights support more informed decision-making and strategic planning.

Budgeting and Financial Management

Matter management would not be complete if it does not include tools for enterprise level budgeting and tracking of expenses associated with each legal matter. This helps legal departments manage costs more effectively and align spending with strategic priorities.

Task Tracking and Management

Task tracking is a fundamental feature that enables legal professionals to assign, monitor, and manage tasks related to a matter. This functionality ensures that all tasks are clearly defined, assigned to the appropriate team member, and tracked through to completion. It allows for setting priorities, deadlines, and reminders, ensuring that nothing is overlooked and that matters progress efficiently. Most Enterprise Legal Management systems have the functionality to interface with company-wide task and calendaring systems like Gmail and MS Outlook. This ensures easier collaboration.


ELM systems allow checklists for managing matters using a structured approach i.e. manage the various stages and requirements of legal matters. They help ensure compliance with internal procedures and legal regulations by outlining all necessary steps and documents for different types of matters. Customizable checklists can adapt to the specific needs of each matter, improving consistency and reducing the risk of errors. Checklists can be created for specific tasks such as legal holds or types of matters such as M&A.

Document Version Control

Document version control is essential for managing the numerous revisions that legal documents often undergo. This feature of Enterprise Legal Management tools track changes made to documents, allows for the recovery of previous versions, and ensures that all team members are working with the most current version of a document. It enhances collaboration while maintaining the integrity and history of legal documents.

Time and Expense Tracking

Although this may elicit a reaction from most in-house attorneys, some need it to keep time for regulatory purposes (e.g. utilities, local govt). In addition to receiving billing and invoicing from external parties, comprehensive time and expense tracking capabilities allow legal professionals to record the time spent on specific tasks and the expenses incurred for each matter. This facilitates holistic (internal + external) budget management, and financial reporting, contributing to more effective financial oversight of legal matters.

Integration Capabilities

Enterprise Legal Management systems have the ability to integrate with other corporate software systems (such as email, calendar, document management systems, and billing software) and specialized systems (intellectual property, corporate secretary, contract lifecycle management). It is crucial for maximizing the efficiency of legal operations. Integration ensures seamless workflows and data consistency across platforms, reducing manual data entry and the potential for errors.

Secure Communication Portals

Many ELM systems offer secure communication portals for matter management. They provide a safe and efficient way for legal teams to communicate with clients, external counsel, and other stakeholders. These portals offer secure messaging and document exchange, ensuring confidentiality and compliance with privacy regulations.

How to streamline legal service requests with an ELM Legal Front Door?

One needle-moving functionality that is gaining traction in matter management systems is the “Legal Front Door.” This Enterprise Legal Management system feature serves as a centralized intake mechanism for all legal requests within an organization, streamlining the process of submitting, triaging, and assigning legal work. Here’s how the Legal Front Door enhances legal department operations:

How to streamline legal service requests with an ELM Legal Front Door?

Centralized Request Submission: The Legal Front Door provides a single entry point for all legal requests, from contract reviews to legal advice and litigation support. By centralizing request submission, organizations can ensure that all legal needs are captured systematically and directed to the appropriate legal resources.

Efficient Triage and Assignment: Once a request is submitted through the Legal Front Door, the ELM system facilitates the triage process, helping to prioritize requests based on urgency, complexity, and other criteria. Automated workflows can then assign requests to the appropriate legal team members, ensuring that matters are handled by the right expertise in a timely manner.

Enhanced Visibility and Accountability: This Enterprise Legal Management system offers real-time visibility into the status of legal requests, tracking progress from submission to resolution. It enhances accountability within the legal department by clearly documenting who is responsible for each matter request, the actions taken, and the outcomes achieved.

Improved Legal Service Delivery: By streamlining the intake process, the Legal Front Door enables legal departments to respond more quickly and efficiently to requests, improving the overall delivery of legal services within the organization. It also helps in managing expectations by providing requestors with insights into the handling and timing of their requests.

Data-Driven Insights for Continuous Improvement: The aggregation of data from legal requests provides valuable insights into the types and volumes of legal needs within the organization. Thus leveraging the Legal Front Door functionality within the Enterprise Legal Management solution provides a richer data collection. This data can inform strategic decisions, such as resource allocation, process improvements, and the development of self-service tools for frequently asked questions or standard legal needs.

What are the benefits of implementing matter management within Enterprise Legal Management Systems?

The adoption of Enterprise Legal Management systems, particularly their matter management capabilities, has become a game-changer for legal departments seeking to navigate the complexities of modern legal environments. This transformative technology goes beyond mere case handling, offering a suite of benefits designed to optimize every facet of legal operations.

From enhancing efficiency and productivity to providing robust support for decision-making, matter management within ELM systems equips legal teams with the tools they need to excel in their roles.

This section delves into the advantages of matter management, highlighting how it empowers legal departments to improve operational workflows, manage risks effectively, and foster collaborative success, all while aligning with strategic organizational goals and improving service delivery.

What are the benefits of implementing matter management within Enterprise Legal Management Systems?

Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity: Matter management systems streamline legal processes facilitating easier access to information. This reduction in administrative overhead allows legal teams to focus on substantive legal work rather than getting bogged down by manual processes. Features like automated workflow, task tracking, and document management reduce the time spent on each matter, leading to increased productivity and the ability to handle a larger volume of work without corresponding increases in staff or resources.

Improved Visibility and Oversight: ELM allows legal departments gain a comprehensive view of the legal function. This includes detailed insights into the status of ongoing matters, resource allocation, and performance metrics. Enhanced visibility aids in proactive management of workloads and deadlines, ensuring that matters are progressing as planned. Reporting and analytics capabilities allow for the generation of custom reports that can track key performance indicators (KPIs), providing leadership with the data needed to make informed decisions.

Strategic Cost Control and Financial Management: Matter management and financial management go hand in hand within Enterprise Legal Management systems. ELM comprises of tools for budgeting, financial tracking, and analysis, enabling legal departments to manage costs more effectively. By providing detailed insights into spending patterns, departments can identify opportunities for savings, negotiate better rates with external providers, and allocate resources more efficiently. The ability to monitor financial metrics in real-time supports strategic decision-making regarding cost control measures, ensuring that the legal department operates within budgetary constraints while maximizing value.

Comprehensive Risk Mitigation: Matter management enabled within Enterprise Legal Management systems results in a centralized repository for documents and communications, combined with automated reminders and checklists, significantly reduced risk of missed deadlines, non-compliance, and other legal risks. By ensuring that all relevant information is stored in one place and accessible to authorized users, matter management systems help in maintaining a high level of data integrity and security. Customizable workflows and compliance tools further support adherence to internal policies and regulatory requirements, mitigating potential legal and financial exposures.

Enhanced Collaboration and Communication: ELM systems break down silos within the legal department and between the legal department and other parts of the organization. By facilitating secure and efficient communication, document sharing, and collaboration on tasks, these systems ensure that all stakeholders are informed and engaged throughout the lifecycle of a matter. This collaborative environment fosters teamwork, improves the quality of legal work, and enhances the service delivery to internal and external clients.

Decision Support for Legal Operations and Department Leadership: The aggregation and analysis of data provided by matter management systems furnish legal department leaders with actionable insights for strategic planning and resource management. Leaders can assess the efficiency of legal processes, determine the effectiveness of strategies, and identify trends that may affect future legal needs. Since, ELM systems are truly “enterprise” they can work in conjunction with other business systems. This decision support capability enables legal departments to adapt to changing business environments, evaluate a constantly changing risk profile, align legal strategies with organizational goals, and demonstrate the strategic value of the legal department to the wider organization.

Streamlined Legal Service Request Intake: The Legal Front Door feature modernizes how legal departments receive and manage requests, ensuring that all legal needs are captured and addressed efficiently. This streamlined intake process improves response times, enhances client satisfaction, and provides a structured framework for prioritizing and allocating legal resources.

What are the key AI features in matter management and Enterprise Legal Management systems that actually work?

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into matter management systems represents a significant leap forward in the evolution of legal technology. Enterprise Legal Management systems using AI unlock new levels of efficiency, accuracy, and strategic insight. Here are several key applications of AI that work:

What are the key AI features in matter management and Enterprise Legal Management systems that actually work?

Summarization: ChatGPT-like summarization functionality is now available within and externally to Enterprise Legal Management Systems. AI can summarize, re-phrase, and analyze written text with speed and accuracy. ‘Accuracy’ is used here with caution. Drafting status updates, summarizing lengthy emails, or responding to queries can now be aided by AI.

Predictive Analytics for Legal Outcomes: I haven’t seen this functionality out of the box for any of the off-the-shelf Enterprise Legal Management systems but it can be integrated easily. AI algorithms can analyze historical legal data to predict the outcomes of current matters. This application enables legal teams to make more informed decisions about case strategy, resource allocation, and risk management by estimating the likelihood of different outcomes based on past trends and patterns.

Natural Language Processing for Document Review: Natural Language Processing (NLP) embedded within ELM systems allow for the search, review and analysis of legal documents. When managing matters, this can significantly speed up the discovery process, contract analysis, and compliance checks by identifying relevant information, clauses, and risk factors more efficiently than manual review processes.

AI-Powered Legal Research: AI-powered legal research tools can quickly sift through vast amounts of legal data, statutes, and case law to find pertinent information and precedents. Again, these are not necessary built within the Enterprise Legal Management system but part of the eco-system. This not only saves time but also ensures that legal teams have access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date legal knowledge available. Matter management systems can be interfaced with third-party tools like those provided by Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis.

Intelligent Contract Management: AI enhances contract management by automating the extraction of key terms, conditions, and obligations from contracts. It can also monitor compliance, flag potential issues, and even suggest optimizations based on learned patterns, thereby improving contract lifecycle management and strategic negotiation.

Chatbots for Legal Assistance: AI-driven chatbots provide immediate assistance for common legal inquiries, guiding internal clients through the legal front door, and offering preliminary advice on routine matters. This improves the accessibility of legal support and frees up legal professionals to focus on more complex tasks. And, it helps unlock the self-service potential of your Enterprise Legal Management system.

Predictive Budgeting and Cost Management: ELM’s financial and matter management capabilities leverage AI to forecast budgets for legal matters with a high degree of accuracy. This aids in financial planning, helps avoid cost overruns, and supports more strategic allocation of legal department resources.

How to transform an ELM System into a knowledge management system using matter management?

The ability to manage and leverage knowledge effectively is a key determinant of a legal department’s success. Matter management and Enterprise Legal Management platforms are indispensable in modern legal operations. They not only streamline the management of legal matters but also play a pivotal role in capturing, organizing, and leveraging the collective knowledge of the legal department.

The ability of matter management systems to transform disparate data into structured, accessible knowledge gives legal departments a competitive edge, enhancing their efficiency, effectiveness, and strategic capabilities.

How to transform an ELM System into a knowledge management system using matter management?

Capturing Institutional Knowledge: Matter management systems serve as a repository for a wealth of information on legal matters, including case documents, correspondences, court filings, and contracts. These systems capture institutional knowledge that would otherwise be dispersed across individual attorneys or files. This consolidation helps in preserving the organization’s legal knowledge base, making it accessible for future reference and learning.

Organizing Legal Information: Enterprise Legal Management systems possess the ability to organize legal information in a structured manner. Through customizable categorization, tagging, and indexing features, these systems ensure that legal information is organized logically and can be easily navigated. This organization supports efficient information retrieval, which is critical for legal research, case preparation, and strategic decision-making.

Facilitating Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration: Matter management systems enhance knowledge sharing among legal team members by providing platforms for collaboration and communication. Features such as shared document libraries, discussion forums, and collaborative workspaces allow team members to exchange knowledge, share insights, and work together more effectively. This collaborative environment not only improves the quality of legal work but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and knowledge exchange within the department.

Leveraging Past Insights for Future Matters: Matter management in Enterprise Legal Management systems enable legal departments to leverage past insights for future matters. Through advanced search functionalities and analytics tools, attorneys can identify relevant precedents, explore successful strategies, and apply lessons learned to new cases. This ability to draw on past experiences enhances the legal team’s effectiveness and can lead to more favorable outcomes.

Supporting Continuous Learning and Development: Matter management systems contribute to the continuous learning and development of legal teams by providing access to a vast repository of legal documents, templates, and best practices. This resource can be used for training new team members, refining legal strategies, and staying updated on legal trends and developments. The system’s role in facilitating access to a collective knowledge base supports ongoing professional development and expertise building within the legal department.

Supporting Remote Work: As the central hub for the institutions legal knowledge Enterprise Legal Management systems support remote and hybrid work. A SaaS based accessible ELM system with matter management functionality will allow a distributed legal function to operate regardless of where the actual employees are. Ensuring user adoption and data reliability become important for the legal function. But talent location becomes less important when it is a remote work situation or a globally distributed law function.

How to successfully implement matter management within an ELM System?

The successful implementation of matter management functionality with an Enterprise Legal Management system requires careful scoping and planning, clear understanding of legal department workflows, and customization to meet specific organizational needs. Training and change management are also crucial to ensure that the legal team fully adopts and optimally utilizes the system.

How to successfully implement matter management within an ELM System?

Do not go it alone. There have been people who have been there done that. And, it will save a lot of heartburn from re-inventing the matter management wheel if you can leverage their experience.

Focusing on the “processes” and “user experience” is the key to a successful matter management/enterprise legal management implementation. Do not forget to pair it with project and change management.

Contact Swiftwater & Company (using the Contact Us form on this page) to learn more about how to implement matter management and which Enterprise Legal Management systems are suitable.

Conclusion – Matter management the next frontier in Enterprise Legal Management

As legal departments continue to face increasing pressures to do more with less, the role of matter management in Enterprise Legal Management systems has never been more critical. Traditionally, there has been more focus on e-billing as it can show hard cost savings. But, for organizations looking to improve their business relationships, their strategic positioning, and their overall operating model matter management is the next frontier.

Conclusion - Matter management the next frontier in Enterprise Legal Management

General counsel are hard-pressed to ensure they are spending more time with their C-suite counterparts, managing their board commitments and present with their investors. Effective matter management allows them and their reports to do all that while managing the day-to-day legal needs of the organization.

By leveraging the power of legal technology to streamline legal operations, organizations can achieve greater efficiencies, control costs, and focus on strategic legal activities.

The role of AI and other innovations in matter management signifies a promising horizon for legal departments. Embracing these technologies enables legal teams not only to navigate the complexities of today’s legal landscape more effectively but also to anticipate and shape the future of legal operations.

The era of reactive legal management is giving way to a future where proactive, strategic legal operations drive organizational success. The evolution of ELM systems will undoubtedly continue to enhance the capabilities of legal departments, with matter management at the forefront of this transformation.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational and information purposes only. Neither Swiftwater & Co. or the author provide legal advice. External links are responsibility and reflect the thinking of their respective authors – those are provided for informational purposes only.

Danish Butt
Danish Butt

Danish is a visionary leader with 20+ years in transforming global enterprises. An advisor to chief legal officers, he excels in merging business growth with strategic vision and risk management. His impactful roles at Huron Consulting, Siemens, and Morae Global highlight his diverse expertise