Deep dive

Understanding matter management: A guide for in-house legal teams

December 20, 2023
Melody Chen

Table of Contents


To keep up with the pace of the business, in-house legal teams need to find ways to stay organized and efficient at scale. Matter management is a crucial factor for the smooth efficiency of legal teams.

What is Matter Management?

Matter management is the systematic process of overseeing all legal matters within an organization. This includes managing litigation, contracts, compliance issues, and various legal workloads. Matter management is a comprehensive approach to organizing, monitoring, and reporting on legal activities and documentation, guaranteeing effectiveness and timeliness. 

Why is Matter Management Important? What are the Benefits of Matter Management?

2021 Gartner survey highlights that 72% of legal departments are focusing on internal workflow improvements, with matter management being a focal point. Effective matter management is vital for several reasons:

  1. Boosts Efficiency and Productivity: Streamlined processes lead to more efficient case handling and increased overall productivity. According to the 2023 Legal Department Operations Index by Thomson Reuters Institute, most law departments are experiencing an increase in the volume of legal work but are trying to handle that increased workload in-house. Law departments feel more pressure to do more with less, with their budgets flat or decreasing.  
  2. Mitigates Risks: Effective management aids in early risk identification, fostering proactive strategies.
  3. Controls Costs: It plays a significant role in overseeing legal expenditures and aiding in the legal department’s budget management.
  4. Ensures Compliance: Adequate matter management ensures adherence to legal regulations and simplifies reporting.

Matter Management vs. Case Management

While both matter management and case management deal with legal requests, they are not the same. While both aim to streamline legal processes, matter management offers a holistic view of the legal function within an organization, whereas case management dives deep into the intricacies of individual litigation cases. The choice between these systems depends on the specific needs of the legal department and the nature of the organization's legal work.

Matter management encompasses all types of legal work within an organization, including both litigious and non-litigious matters. This includes various types of legal work, such as:

  • Contract Negotiations: For example, an in-house legal team at a tech company may handle numerous licensing agreements and partnership contracts.
  • Regulatory Compliance: In the healthcare sector, in-house counsel might be deeply involved in ensuring adherence to HIPAA or FDA regulations.
  • Intellectual Property: Companies like software developers or manufacturing firms often deal with patent filings, trademark registrations, and infringement cases.
  • Employment Law Issues: Many organizations face employee-related legal matters, ranging from drafting employment agreements to handling workplace disputes.

Matter management systems help track these diverse legal tasks, monitor progress, allocate resources, and manage legal spend effectively.

In contrast, case management is more narrowly focused on ligation and involves the handling of individual legal cases, focusing on documents, deadlines, and court requirements. Key aspects include:

  • Document Management: Essential for handling the vast number of legal documents, from filings to evidence, associated with each case.
  • Deadline Tracking: Missed deadlines in litigation can have severe consequences, so case management often emphasizes calendaring and alerts.
  • Court Requirements: Each court may have unique filing requirements, procedures, or formats, which case management systems help to navigate.
  • Litigation-specific Workflow: From discovery to trial preparation, case management tools streamline processes specific to litigation.

Key Components of an Effective Matter Management Solution

An effective matter management solution should incorporate:

  1. Document Management: Efficient systems for storing, accessing, and managing legal documents. Effective solutions enhance productivity by reducing time spent on document-related tasks.
  2. Workflow Automation: Tools to streamline routine and repetitive tasks and enable expedited workflows. This takes away time-consuming tasks and allows lawyers to focus on more complex, strategic aspects of their work. Setting workflows on autopilot increases efficiency and reduces the risk of errors such as missed steps and improves response times and service quality for internal clients.
  3. Analytics and Reporting: Advanced data analysis and report generation capabilities to provide data-driven insights and progress on key legal KPIs on demand. This provides insights into legal operations, helping legal leaders and their teams identify trends, risks, and opportunities for efficiency improvements. With organizations becoming increasingly data-driven, it’s more important than ever that Legal can bring data to the table in leadership and executive discussions and planning. This data-driven approach aids in strategic decision-making and resource allocation and demonstrates the value and impact of the legal team to the broader organization.
  4. Collaboration Tools: Features that facilitate teamwork and communication within the legal team and with other departments in one source of truth. Ideally, the tool would integrate with your existing communication channels (e.g., email and Slack) and consolidate communications in one hub for a complete picture. 
  5. Integration Features: The ability to seamlessly integrate with other systems and software used within the organization to share data, enhancing productivity and decision-making processes. By integrating tools and platforms, businesses can streamline workflows, reduce manual tasks, and ensure more cohesive and effective operations. According to ACC and Exterro’s 2023 Legal Technology Report for In-House Legal Professionals, 62% of in-house counsel and legal operations professional respondents identified the lack of interconnectivity across their various software applications as their top pain point. 

What are some matter management best practices?

In-house legal teams face unique challenges in managing legal matters efficiently and effectively. To navigate these challenges, adopting best practices in matter management is crucial. 

Implement a centralized document management system

A centralized document management system can store important legal documents and ensure easy retrieval and secure sharing. For instance, legal teams can utilize modern, cloud-based document management platforms to manage contracts, litigation documents, and compliance materials, enabling team members to seamlessly access and collaborate on the latest documents, regardless of where they are. This approach saves time, reduces the risk of outdated versions and document misplacement, and enhances overall data security.

Leverage workflow automation in legal processes

Another best practice is integrating workflow automation in legal processes. According to Hyperion Research, as of 2023, there has been a significant shift in legal departments embracing workflow automation. Approximately 71% of respondents plan to invest in a workflow automation tool in the next 12-18 months, either as a first-time investment or to replace an existing one. Automation software such as Streamline AI can significantly reduce the time spent on routine tasks, such as contract approvals, document drafting, and compliance checks. If these tasks are high-volume, this can result in significant cost savings. 

For example, a tech company might use automation tools to streamline its sales contract or vendor approval process for contracts over or under a certain dollar threshold, where draft contracts are automatically routed to the relevant parties for review and approval, thereby reducing the turnaround time from several days to a few hours. This not only increases efficiency but also allows legal professionals to have the time to focus on more strategic tasks, such as advising on complex legal issues or negotiating more critical, high-value contracts.

Make data-driven decisions

In today’s modern businesses, data reigns supreme. For legal teams, leveraging data is essential to inform smarter decision-making processes. Software like Streamline AI makes it possible for legal teams to gain real-time insight into legal operations processes and trends, such as request volume (over time, by team or type), SLAs, and time at each step, or exceptions to thresholds and non-standard terms. By analyzing this data on legal matters, legal teams can better forecast volume and improve resource planning. The team can develop targeted strategies to mitigate risks or break down bottlenecks, such as through better compliance training or streamlined contract processes. 

Incorporating data analytics into matter management enhances efficiency and risk management and transforms the legal department from a reactive service provider into a proactive strategic advisor to the business. This data-driven approach ensures that legal strategies are aligned with business objectives and that the legal team is contributing to the overall success and resilience of the organization.


Matter management transcends mere case handling; it’s about optimizing the efficacy and impact of the legal department. By understanding its criticality, differentiating it from case management, identifying vital components of an effective solution, and embracing continuous learning, in-house legal teams can significantly uplift their operations, making a strategic contribution to their organizations.

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