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Case Reporting v. Case Management


A preliminary question to ask in selecting a CMS is whether a system that focuses on case reporting or on case management is a better fit for your program. This distinction characterizes an essential difference among various systems or groups of systems.


Time Keeping

 All LSC-funded programs must have some way to track time in compliance with the LSC regulation, [24] and most programs are beginning to use time to track expenditures for other funders as well as for internal supervision, management, and planning purposes.  

All of the case management systems reviewed allow programs to track time in the following ways:

Calendaring and Tickler Systems

More programs are moving to some form of electronic calendaring, such as Outlook.  An electronic calendar that is integrated with a case management system can provide a number of beneficial features, including:

Contact Management

Contact management keeps track of all the people with whom a program interacts. Contacts include persons related to a case, such as clients and adverse parties, plus household members, witnesses, experts, court reporters, case workers, adverse attorneys, and judges. Contacts also include other friends of the program, such as donors, pro bono attorneys, partner organizations and their staffs, and other people with whom the program has a relationship.

Intake, Eligibility, Opening and Closing Cases

Intake is a crucial part of legal services program operations that relates directly to program quality on a daily basis.  It is also a part of the operation that can benefit greatly from automation.  Through intake, you gather the information your program needs to determine whether you should accept a case and what level of services you will provide.  An intake system can also provide tools to assist clients, can help ensure that double entry of information is not necessary, and can gather information in a form that is organized and searchable for later reporting.  In ad

Maintaining Electronic Files (including document management)

Every CMS by definition maintains some form of electronic case file. In the most basic systems, the case file includes the full range of demographic and eligibility information along with initial information about the client’s legal problem. In most systems, including all those reviewed here, there is also space to keep electronic notes about the case (case notes) as part of the file.

Pro Bono Support

Most programs will want to know how well the CMS supports their pro bono program. Does the system make it easy to search for pro bono attorneys by specialty, jurisdiction, and/or date of last case accepted? Does it easily track pro bono attorney hours? Can it calculate total hours on an annual (or other) basis?


One of the most important functions of a CMS is the ability to report out data that comes into the system. Programs need reports for internal management purposes and for funders and other stakeholders. Most of the systems provide some preformatted reports, including those reports required by LSC, but some provide a far more extensive menu of preformatted reports than others.