Matter Management Matters – Improving Quality and Efficiency

I’ve delivered dozens of workshops on this topic and always get the same reaction to the question ‘Who is responsible for what aspects of a matter?’ There are blank faces, because there is typically no clear answer.

The implications of this lack of clarity are significant:

  • There are bound to be some overlaps – which mean that some tasks will be duplicated, either leading to clients being over-charged or margins being squeezed if the time is written off
  • There will probably be some underlaps – where we might hear ‘I thought you were doing that!’. If this happens, it risks having an unnecessary delay in progress and potentially compromises work quality

So it’s clear to me that we need clearer roles for matter management purposes. Here’s my default list of roles for Matter Partners and Matter Associates.

Role for Matter Partners

  • Assemble an appropriate team and select an associate to be Matter Associate
  • Generate a project plan, with assigned tasks and deadlines and keep this updated
  • Provide leadership and supervision
  • Agree fee estimate with client, issue invoices, and collect cash
  • Agree principal point of contact with client
  • Debrief team upon completion
  • Capture and disseminate useful knowhow
  • Undertake a client satisfaction review

Role for Matter Associate

  • Assist the Matter Partner in fulfilling their responsibilities (see above)
  • Produce and maintain a list of documents and key issues
  • Take responsibility for the day-to-day communication within the team and with any external parties (surveyors etc)
  • Arrange regular team meetings
  • Ensure all deadlines are met
  • Monitor costs of the matter against the original estimate and brief the Matter Partner regularly
  • Arrange the completion meeting, preparing the agenda and post completion steps

Looks like there are a lot of key tasks for the Mid-level or Senior Associate.

Most firms will benefit from having greater clarity on matter management roles. If Associates are ever unclear, I highly recommend that you suggest roles for yourself or at least ask the Matter Partner. The potential implications if you don’t are serious!

Have I missed out any key roles? Or assigned them wrongly?

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