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Case management systems have long held the promise of being the best thing since word processing and e-mail. But if that’s so, why doesn’t everyone use them — and use them successfully? Lawyers have high expectations of programs like Time Matters and Amicus Attorney, two of the more popular programs designed to help lawyers manage their cases and their professional lives. But theses expectations are often too high. Let’s explore five myths of case management. 1. Case management is knowledge management. A well-designed case management system could be a subset of knowledge management, but that’s not the whole enchilada. Case and knowledge management are processes, not products. Case management can help to fuel a knowledge management initiative but will never replace one. 2. Only the support staff needs to use it — attorneys shouldn’t waste their time. If the attorneys don’t learn how the system works, then how can they customize it to their particular practice needs? How can one measure a case management system’s effectiveness in a vacuum? What happens late in the evening or on the weekends when you’re working alone in the office, can’t find the paper file, and need access to critical information? 3. If we enter all the information, everything will take care of itself. Case management systems are customized database programs. They need regular backup, maintenance and occasional redesign. As your use grows, how will the system evolve? Plan on regular checkups to catch any database corruption before it snowballs. Make it clear who’s responsible for these tasks and make sure the checks and backups are performed regularly. Take time to develop meaningful queries and reports. Before you upgrade, consider the impact on the rest of the system. A “simple” upgrade can disrupt the integration you’ve worked to achieve. 4. It’s not necessary to enter all of those tiny cases, just the really big ones. This is a common trap. First, don’t underestimate the time it will take for the entire office to learn the new system. It may be impractical to enter all of your clients and cases from day one. One approach is to enter new cases, regardless of size. Also consider entering selected existing cases with larger estimated dollar values or lengthier time to resolution. Eventually, the vast majority of cases will be in the system — without the entire office feeling completely overwhelmed in the process. One caution: Be vigilant in your conflict checks during a transitional period. 5. If case management is so intuitive, only minimal training is necessary. After all, isn’t case management just the electronic version of your paper filing system? How much training does one need to file a letter in a drawer? In fact, a successful case management system should be customized for the individual practice areas and integrated with other systems, such as calendaring, e-mail, document management, time and billing and document assembly. That’s a lot going on, and it will change how the firm practices law. This is where training comes in. Depending on the size and scope of the case management system, plan on budgeting up to half its cost in training. Otherwise, that fancy system will be used only sporadically at best. Case management isn’t a panacea. It’s a tool that can centralize and make data manipulation easier. There are plenty of sources for additional help: conferences, e-mail lists, vendors and consultants. But the most valuable resource is your own staff. They know how your practice works and can help identify the problems. Just remember, it’s a group thing.

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