Reducing Litigation Cost: Effective Case Management
Case Management – Overview
Case Management is a systematic way to help reduce the cost of litigation and effectively manage cases for the benefit of both clients and lawyers. It is an approach that utilizes efficient management techniques to make the attorney-client relationship better and also determine litigation outcomes within a definite cost outline.
Effective Case Management – Necessity
The legal field has to face challenges like the need to:
- Reduce risk
- Predict outcomes with efficiency
- Satisfy the client
- Take actions under a budget constraint.
Law firms have to compete with technology and constantly adapt into the ever-changing market to stay employed. Hence, they need to come up with cost-benefit outcomes and, at the same time, also make enough profit to keep the best talent. Some firms have been able to keep up, but some haven’t been able to move away from prevalent practices.
The firms that have been able to cut down on accessory and low return practices are doing well. We’ll try to find other ways to achieve similar results.
The interdependence of Litigation outcomes and costs
The fees charged by a lawyer for the services provided to their clients form the major part of litigation costs. The cost can be low or steep, based on the complexity and duration of the case. If the outcome has an expected value higher than the lawyer’s fees and the time value of the client, these costs might be justified but may still be onerous.
Once in motion, litigation takes its course, and the cost to turn it back and restore the parties to their previous state becomes counterproductive. Sometimes in due course, the outcome is lower than estimated costs, and the purpose of the litigation becomes burdensome. The ratio hence should be tilted towards higher outcomes than costs.
Input by lawyers and clients
- A Preliminary Plan – One of the most crucial things is to lay down a probable road map at the very beginning. The room must be left for change in strategies due to the future turn of events, but without a road map, outcomes will not be aligned with the intended cost objective.
A road map should be in place even before a suit is filed because important strategic choices made at the start of a case result in better outcomes. Both the lawyer and their client should have a clear idea about the desired outcome and the cost attached to it.
The lawyer should state whether it will be possible to achieve the goals set by the client under the budget put forward by them transparently. If the amount is too low, the lawyer may put forward a new budget with the necessary activities, the number of persons required, and the time needed for the whole process. The client may then negotiate and quote an amount acceptable by both.
- Alternative options – A lawyer may approach their client with a choice of settlement as an alternative of going to court. When the client is not opposed to the idea, there still may be certain obstacles as to why the settlement should not be pursued at that particular stage. Also, even in the absence of cogent reasons for a settlement, the lawyer should at least come up with a structure so as to meet the outcome objective through settlement.
- Choice of the lawyer – The client should spend some time to choose a lawyer who has the expertise and is adept in the particular field of law. The case and the lawyer should be compatible for a better outcome.
- Clear communication – Most clients do not define expected outcomes, and even if they do, they do so without considering the cost. Hence, the lacuna formed makes the client have an unnecessary expectation and no idea about how expensive the process can be. If the lawyer lacks knowledge about the budget allocated, they may spend more than the basic necessities and result in the rise of costs. Hence, the client has to communicate openly.
What is the probable solution?
- Outcome-based approach –The client has to decide whether they want a good settlement from the suitor to establish a precedent that will deter potential litigants. If the client wants to lay down a precedent, the lawyer needs to weigh in the case and identify the presence of a possible win, and should then go ahead. Otherwise, they should suggest alternate options.
- Allocate Resources – After the client approves the estimated budget, the lawyer must make a detailed report concerning project requirements – Human resources, procedural costs, and other relevant aspects. The report should also state whether an expert of any kind needs to be brought in like a financial of technical expertise and the cost of the same.
- Alternate Dispute Resolution – This scheme is way more cost-effective than lawsuits that require multiple court appearances and lengthy arguments. Mediation and arbitration are two ways to solve a dispute out of court. In mediation, a neutral third party tries to negotiate a deal by going back and forth between parties. In arbitration, parties put forward evidence to a neutral third party who decides the fate of the case. It is less formal than a lawsuit and is less expensive too.
Alternative approach – Use of Technology
The client and the lawyer must agree to bring in useful technology to manage their case efficiently and make it easy to communicate and access information from both sides. Below is a case study of software created to manage legal cases better.
- Zola Suite
Zola Suite is a device to help judiciously manage legal cases. It is a cloud-based platform that offers email, efficient billing, and coherent legal accounting features. Advanced and high budget versions also provide an unlimited cloud space, which is good for bulk storage without the chance of losing important documents.
The platform is user friendly and uses only a single series of log-in IDs, which is easy to manage. The data is stored centrally and can be accessed by the lawyers, their staff, and even the client. Their calendar feature helps organize activities involved in litigation and provides a clear timeline. One of the features enables us to track significant contacts for a particular case and also provides for automatic filing. This is a good example of how technology can help achieve efficient case management.
The United Kingdom has a plethora of case management software and companies like Thomas Reuter, that provides consultation to law firms to manage cases better. Firms in the USA also use legal software and special services, but instead of advice, case managers are assigned to particular cases. Singapore, on the other hand, has a robust eLitigation system adopted by the court to help in the management of cases, filing of forms, and access to information.
The success of a case depends on the groundwork done at the outset of a legal dispute. When we make conscious choices and take important strategy decisions at the start, it results in an outcome that aligns with our objective. To achieve this, the client and lawyer have to work as a team and not take a typical approach but an approach best suited to the issue at hand and the needs of the client. They should communicate with each other in clear terms and try to settle the matter before moving the court. Lastly, technology should not be seen as a competition but should be used to optimise result.
About the author: Swarneeka. R. Iyer is currently in the last year of her law school journey. She is from Kolkata, where she lives with her family of 4 humans and 7 dogs. Her interests lie in IP law, public policy, and IT law. She identifies as a feminist, a coffee enthusiast, and a lover of dancing and writing.