Rethinking Matter Centricity

Rethinking Matter Centricity

An alternative approach to workspace design and workspace security.

In the era of Matter Centricity and the electronic matter file, we need rethink how we work together and how we use the technology that supports that work. As part of that process, we will also have to make very specific changes in how we manage our legal processes to facilitate effective collaboration inside and across offices. Workspace design is a critical part of that process.

Traditional workspace design is front loaded, which requires the practice group to decide on a perfect structure. This process takes too long and produces suboptimal results. An alternative workspace design concept Prosperoware calls “on-demand foldering” allows law firms to minimize the upfront business processes and rapidly make adjustments as lawyers begin to map out their workspace structures. This approach starts at matter opening with a simple, common core—working drafts, correspondence, and matter administration—that can be added onto as standards, practices, and adoption of the electronic matter file evolves.


      • Puts the responsible lawyer in charge of the matter
      • Ensures adherence to practice group standards
      • Improves adoption of the electronic file with an easily understood structure that can be quickly rolled out

Two dimensions of control

On-demand foldering provides two dimensions of control:

      • The ability to control the “who” —who can add/delete/edit folders
      • The ability to control the “what”—flexible naming standards by practice area

The first dimension of control, the “who,” gives control of folder operations to specific people, typically the responsible lawyer, the lawyer’s assistant, or a designee. This approach has a number of advantages, not the least of which is making the responsible lawyer actually responsible. In other words, on-demand foldering gives the matter a file steward who knows the matter well—and knows how it should be organized against practice-group standards better than anyone else. Preventing other users from creating folders stems the chaos that foldering typically creates.

The second dimension of control, the “what,” gives firms the flexibility to create fixed naming conventions with tags, such as Witness with prefixes (John Smith Witness) where John Smith is the prefix and Witness is the fixed naming standard, or suffixes (Witness John Smith), where John Smith is the suffix and Witness is the fixed naming standard.

Fixed naming conventions

Fixed naming conventions with tags allow firms to standardize naming conventions while giving lawyers the flexibility they need to structure the foldering in a way that can be easily understood across offices. A single witness folder, for example, will suffice when a matter has only two witnesses. However, in large, complex matters, most lawyers would like the ability to create a separate folder for each witness. Fixed naming conventions with tags provide the consistency required for collaboration as well as the flexibility to provide additional levels of categorization. This best practice has been put to the test by top 10 law firms and works particularly well for global collaboration.

A similar model for security

Our ticket to practice law requires us to maintain and protect our clients’ files. As an increasing number of data breaches surface, we’ve seen a renewed focus on security. However, working around the clock, globally and collaboratively, requires a deviation from the traditional centralized security model. For example, a lawyer in New York who wants to hand off portions of a matter to the Honk Kong office at 8:00 p.m. isn’t served well if he has to track down who can give the Hong Kong lawyers access to the secure folders in the matter.

A new approach to security uses a model that Prosperoware calls “matter team management,” and it makes security both easy and friendly without sacrificing firm standards. Matter team management puts the responsible  lawyer, or designee, in charge of who has access to the matter. In this model, the responsible lawyer—without IT support—can add and delete members to the matter team and limit access to specific folders or provide full access to the entire matter. The document management system grants or denies access to documents and folders according to this person’s actions.

Another best practice: data centralization

With the exception of “supermatters” like super-large mergers and acquisitions (such as Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury), another critical best practice is for law firms to create a centralized workspace for each matter to eliminate confusion about where all the matter information lives. WAN technology supports this concept, and it is crucial for global collaboration.

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