Legal Ops Essentials: Matter Lifecycle Management 101 Guide

2 min • 30 Jun 23


The process by which a support request (or matter) is initiated, managed and resolved is generally known as the matter lifecycle management or MLM process.

Most in-house legal teams have failed to identify an institutionally adopted MLM process, despite many claims to the contrary, so this Blog seeks to provide some 101 Basic coverage of the MLM.

When done properly, management lifecycle management can become the engine room of efficiency for the in-house legal team so getting it right is increasingly mission critical for moist in-house teams.

Four Key Stages of MLM

The matter lifecycle management process framework involves 4 key logical phases that most in-house legal teams will be familiar with. They are as following:

  • Intake: where the support request ingresses the MLM Process
  • Planning: where you plan on how to execute the support request
  • Delivery: where the matter is delivered per defined standards, plans, etc.
  • Review: where you harvest opportunities for improvement and betterment

We add a little bit of color into each stage of the process below.

Legal Matter Intake

The matter ingress or intake stage sets the stage for overall matter management efficiency.

As the adage goes - "garbage in tends to equal garbage out". Although for in-house legal performance optimization, the importance of intake goes well beyond this common adage.

Good quality support requests from the internal client are essential to correct work identification, task allocation, work planning, holiday scheduling, core data insight capture, etc.

Support requests should ideally come to the in-house team via a central point - via a system if you have one of via an online form, central email address, etc.

The key at this stage, is having a standardized Legal Services Request Form, no matter how you host it, to get the data you need from your internal client to manage the request successfully.

Legal Matter Planning

Planning involves collecting the information obtained during the initial stage to develop a strategy for providing legal assistance.

It is important to establish a definite set of tasks and responsibilities for a project, including the individuals responsible for each task, the projected timeline, the expected level of communication with the client, the allocated budget, and whether external legal assistance is necessary.

This aspect of the matter lifecycle management process seeks to establish establish clear expectations for everyone involved, with activities that can be monitored and evaluated.

For in-house leaders like the General Counsel, Chief Legal Officer or Head of Legal, this stage of matter planning allows them to exert effective oversight of each stage of the matter.

Legal Matter Delivery

As you would expect - this stage is all about delivery - and where transparency around status, and how the matter is performing is very important - so ideally - performance data should be captured.

The matter delivery phase need to be able to deal with the usual bends in the roads that in-house expect - matter scope changes, escalations, roadblocks and the like.

Legal Matter Review

The final stage of MLS is devoted to continuous improvement - that is how can the in-house team do better each and every time.

As such, your MLS process should factor in an appropriate form of review for specific matter scenarios and conduct a matter post mortem.

Negative findings should be reflected on and steps identified to avoid such issues going forward, and successful outcomes should similarly be identified and worked into enhanced MLM procedures.

The idea of this stage is effectively to ensure a constant feedback loop is put in place to permanently improve your MLM process infrastructure.

Next Steps on Your MLS Journey

With this basic understanding in hand of MLM to hand, it is incumbent on in-house teams to build up their own view of how each stage work and what supporting infrastructure (templates, policies, etc) are needed in the context of their own organization.

In future Blogs we can unpack more on each stage of the MLM although we would flag that CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) has published an in-depth eBook on the topic, which you can access here.

What we would flag up is that it is highly beneficial for an in-house team to defined a robust MLM strategy before they seek to source legal tech to support this process.

Many in-house teams are actively looking to buy-in a matter management lifecycle system (e.g Clio, Litify, etc)or a contract management lifecycle system (e.g. Icertis, Ariba, etc) but this is a high risk strategy unless you have mapped out clearly what you need from each of the above 4 MLM stages.

We flag this as it is hugely important to decide what your ecosystem needs well in advance before you try and find a MLM or CMLS that is capable of supporting it.

We will be covering the pitfalls of MLM implementations in another Blog very shortly.


Please check out the GLS solutions and know-how resources listed on the right side of this page – they might assist your legal team with the issues explored in this Blog. 

Of course, if you would like discuss your transformation needs – please book a 30 minute FREE CONSULT WITH GLS 

In the interim, here are 7 resources and tools that may assist you as you transform the performance capabilities of your legal team:

1. GLS's Ultimate Guide to Legal Operations: download this HERE, and read it thoroughly and regularly. It is a wonderful transformation companion

2. GLS Transformation Boot Camp: for our free and hugely successful, 10 week long, email-based boot camp on how to effectively transform your legal team you can SIGN UP HERE

3. GLS Knowledge Centre: click HERE to access lots of informative and instructive white papers, blogs and training resources etc. - all focused on helping to improve your legal team's performance

4. GLS Legal Operations Community: join the GLS Legal Operations Community and collaborate with other in-house leaders as they seek to tackle many of the same performance issues that you face, click here to JOIN NOW

5. Visit GLS Connect: visit the GLS CONNECT PAGE and select the information you would like to receive from the GLS Legal Operations Community

6. GLS Legal Team Transformation Plans: mitigate the risks of transformation failure by taking a GLS TRANSFORMATION SUPPORT PLAN 

7. Register: GLS Legal Operations Centre: REGISTER HERE to access the GLS Legal Operations Centre for free and to receive more than US$20,000 worth of legal team performance resources

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