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If you build it, will they come?

Business Services and Innovation Director Stuart Whittle discusses the success of one of our recent projects.

If you build it, will they come? Sometimes. If you solve the right problem.

We manage all of our matters using a case management system, MatterSphere. It is our system of record for all matters, regardless of the type of work. This means all incoming and outgoing communications (including emails and scanned incoming post) are saved against the relevant client and matter number in MatterSphere. There is an administrative overhead in saving an incoming email into the right matter. It takes a number of clicks to step through the “save wizard”. Our case handlers find this irritating, especially as they have to do it a number of times through the day. Particularly those who work in the “volume” side of the business. Less of an issue in the last 18 months, but if you were out of the office for any period of time with only access to emails via your mobile, the emails would need to be saved into the relevant matters on return to the office.

Where outgoing emails are generated from MatterSphere, MatterSphere tags the email with client and matter number. Incoming replies to those outgoing emails retain that tag. Conceptually, therefore, it seemed possible to automatically store tagged emails into the right matter in MatterSphere and remove some friction for case handlers. This was not functionality provided within MatterSphere.

For the pilot, we worked in collaboration with PWC and a firm specialising in robotic process automation (RPA) to see if we could automate the task. Conceptually, it sounded relatively straightforward but the devil is, inevitably, in the detail. Having dealt with the detail we ran a small, successful, pilot with 8 case handlers. Feedback was positive in terms of the time saved for case handlers. Feedback from the pilot also allowed us to iterate. We added a function to enable case handlers to right click in the document management system (DMS) section of MatterSphere so that, should they wish too, case handlers could add a meaningful description to the email. We also added a visual flag in Outlook that identified whether the incoming email had been filed or not. We included a dedupe functionality in it, so an email is only saved once even if it is sent to multiple people.

On rollout, we received a lot of positive comments. One partner commented, unsolicited: “The new saving mail mechanism is really REALLY helpful … Seriously — for someone who might leave their desk for 2 minutes and then come back to a sea of new emails — it is utterly brilliant — well done to whoever orchestrated that”. Not something you get often working in IT. Despite having delivered technology to lawyers for over 15 years we were a little surprised at the negative comments we received. Perhaps the pilot was too small. But it does show that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. It also shows the challenge involved in developing solutions for individuals who have, compared to the general population, high degrees of autonomy and scepticism. Rightly or wrongly, we added the ability to enable or disable the functionality based on personal choice. Out of circa 850 case handlers, we have 802 using the functionality. So, despite some of the negative comment we have had a 94% adoption rate. A testament to solving the right problem. For most people. In terms of ROI, across 802 case handlers we save, conservatively, 1.4 million incoming emails a year. Saving 30 seconds of time per email saves, across the firm, something in the region of 12,000 hours. If you multiply that by your average recovery rate, it is fair to say that the system pays for itself many times over. So much so, the solution is being implemented via Enabl AI to other law firms using MatterSphere.

We built it. They came. Most of them, at least.

Learn more about our award-winning innovation team.

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