MDLs are a growing area of law, with nearly half of all federal cases now filed in multidistrict proceedings. But many lawyers are still struggling to find the best ways to manage tasks, provide top-tier service to clients, and create a profitable practice. Large caseloads, complex legal questions, and a vast array of other lawyers and law firms involved can all lead to rapid burnout for legal professionals.
But new tools hold tremendous promise to streamline, personalize, and improve the MDL process. Here are 4 ways lawyers are using new tools for improve each aspect of mass tort management:
1. Get help with your leads
Marketing for mass tort cases can be tremendously expensive, with campaigns across all forms of media searching out those who have been injured by one specific substance or product. Surprisingly, many firms that invest in those costly marketing campaigns fail to adequately follow up on leads, making much of that spending completely useless.
That’s why the most successful mass tort firms are investing in better lead tracking and intake systems. Here are key features to look for:
- Cloud-based software that tracks all incoming leads and facilitates follow-up
- Taskflows that guide intake specialists to follow up on every promising lead, appropriately screen for potential clients, and provide a seamless onboarding process.
- Metrics that show what returns you’re getting from different lead sources, taking into account the entire life cycle of the case, to guide future marketing decisions.
Systems like Lead Docket automate the workflow for intake specialists, ensuring a greater ROI for your marketing expenses and expanding your ability to help more clients get the remedy they deserve.
2. Gather signatures electronically
As your caseload grows, you’ll need tools to help you procure signatures for all your forms. The fastest option is accessible, intuitive e-signature software. These tools let you email or text documents to clients, guide them through the signing process, and send it right back to you.
Look for options that can automatically personalize the documents you’re sending out. You want each form to be tailored to the recipient, without the need to make every change yourself.
You’ll also want tools that show you the status of each document you’ve sent out, for easy follow-up. You should be able to see whether the form was sent, received, opened, and signed, so you can tailor your follow-up accordingly.
Other features to look for include: the ability to procure multiple signatures in one document, automation of preset signers for when countersignatures are needed, and the ability to send to a sequence of multiple signees.
Also look for eSignature software that integrates with your legal operating core, so signed documents are automatically archived in the appropriate case file, connected to your task flows.
3. Manage mountains of documents
The largest MDL, dealing with arsenic exposure cases, involves more than 192,000 cases and has lasted 3 decades. At this level of complexity, traditional document management techniques fall short.
When lawyers were first putting their arsenic cases together in the 90s, they were relying on filing cabinets, snail mail, and fax machines. Fortunately, you now have advanced tools to meet your access, storage, review, and collaboration needs.
Look for the following features in modern legal document management tools:
- Cloud access: if you can access your documents from any device, you’ll be better able to find anything you need, as well as collaborate with your team.
- Document sharing: complex cases require a platform that allows you to share documents, add notes, and assign tasks among your legal team members. Secure share links are a popular option for sharing with other firms, witnesses, clients, or others outside your firm.
- PDF editing tools: you’ll want to be able to annotate, redact, compile, and comment on PDFs without leaving your document management platform.
- Robust search capabilities: make sure these include OCR (optical character recognition) so all PDFs, scanned documents, and pictures are indexed and searchable.
- Automatic document generation: this can take data directly from your case files to create professional and personalized documents.
- Intuitive organization: your work will be more efficient if you can easily upload, download, and share an entire folder and all its subfolders, without disrupting its organization. Look for options that let you move and copy with simple drag and drop maneuvers.
Check out Filevine’s Docs+ for more examples of the latest document management technology for lawyers.
4. Communicate more often with clients
A recent study on MDL clients came to a sobering conclusion: 75% said they didn’t know what was happening in their case while it was being litigated, and 59% said they received no or few status updates. (The study, entitled “Perceptions of Justice in Multidistrict Litigation: Voices from the Crowd” was published in Cornell Law Review.)
The authors point to lack of communication as one of the main drivers of client dissatisfaction in MDL cases. And they recommend looking to technology to alleviate the problem.
One popular tool for lawyers is the ability to send and receive texts directly from your case files. This allows clients to reach your legal team in the way that’s often most easy and accessible for them, without you giving out your personal cell number to everyone. Any member of the team can see and respond to the message, which will be preserved in the case notes.
Text messages can also be automated to provide regular status updates for your clients. You can send out ‘nudges’ to remind clients about upcoming events or needed actions, give links to online hearings, and in general ensure a steady two-way connection with the clients you serve.
As multidistrict litigation becomes more common, it is important that lawyers embrace new tools. Not only will it improve the outcome of their cases and enhance client satisfaction—smart case management tools will also give them the peace of mind they need to continue their work for the long-haul.