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Multiple Matters (separate but interrelated)

I saw some discussion of this as it relates to MyCase, but I wanted to ask more broadly...

How do you organize case materials when a client has multiple matters that will be filed separately but are closely interrelated.

For example, I am representing a tenant who is defending back to back eviction actions. Tenant faces one eviction, we win, new eviction comes in on the heels of the first.

In this example the related contacts, facts, etc are the same, but, the case number changes, there is a need to bill independently for the work on the first eviction and the second, and document organization becomes challenging. In Oregon, landlord tenant cases typically come with attorney's fees to the prevailing party so there is a practical requirement that you be able to distinguish between the two cases in your time keeping (at least if you would like to get paid for your work). On the document organization challenge issue, these cases require very similar documents, there is not much difference between what was filed in the first and second cases.

I am using Clio for practice management and am paperless. My solution has been to create separate matters in Clio and use separate folders on the hard drive. This seems to be the best I can make of an awkward situation. It allows a clean distinction in time keeping and document organization but is not without substantial draw back.

For each new matter in Clio the new matter has to be properly created and related contacts have to be added to the new matter. This is time consuming. There is some back-end accounting (Xero) that might be wonky as a result of multiple matters/invoices for a single client as well. The biggest issue is what to do with client general information. If the client gives me some update that is somewhat relative to both matters where do you record that? This organization adds time and what often feels like duplicated effort.

I think to generalize the challenge there are some reasons why multiple matters makes sense and some reasons why that creates challenges. I feel like trying to keep multiple cases in a single matter feels lazy and like it would create dangers down the road if a need for separation becomes essential. On the other hand, separate matters feels very inefficient at times.

What do you think? Does anyone feel strongly that they have a solution?

Comments

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    I think separate matters is probably right. And while it would increase the clunkiness, maybe one general matter for the client that holds the general information?

    I'd probably use a general matter to hold the bulk of the information related to the ongoing representation, and minimal individual matters for information and billing specific to those matters.

  • I have a criminal defense practice and it is not unusual to have multiple overlapping cases, sometimes in different counties. If I need separate matters (for billing or convenience reasons), general information relating to all matters is recorded to the first open matter. Sometimes double entry is needed to have something convenient in each matter.

  • rwfairclothrwfaircloth Charlotte, NC

    Do you have the ability in Clio to create a new file based on an existing file?

    I have similar issues with real estate matters where I may represent a developer who then sells multiple units in one project/building. The base contacts, documents, etc. stay the same for the subsequent matters but new contacts etc. get added. Our solution has been to create a "Base File" that includes all of the general matter information that will be the same across all matters (Client contacts, base docs, etc.), this file isn't used for billing or timekeeping but only as a template file. Then in our practice management system (Amicus Premium 2014) we have the ability to create a new file based on an existing file, this pulls the default information (from the base file) to the new file (e.g., Primary Client, File Type, Billing Category, File Billing Rate, Responsible Lawyer, Client ID, and People on the File with a Role classified as a Client Role).

    We have occasional issues on the back-end that are caused by using legacy software (Amicus, PCLaw and Worldox), but that's another topic.

  • GregClaessensGregClaessens Salem, OR

    The base file template strategy sounds like a great idea. The ability to create a new file based on an existing file sounds like a great feature. I do not believe that Clio has anything like that; if that feature does exist it is well hidden.

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