Dibbs cleans up litigation support with SOAP

CITY firm Dibb Lupton Alsop has launched a computerised litigation support system throughout its 10 offices, which aims to show clients exactly what their money is being spent on.

A seven-member team, led by head of litigation Neil Micklethwaite, developed the system, Style of Approach Initiative (SOAP), over 18 months.

SOAP is a case management system which offers clients daily printouts indicating what stage the case is at, how much has been spent on each task and whether the litigation team is on target.

The system, which is based on Microsoft Windows, aims to simplify the process of litigation for lawyers by slotting it into eight separate categories, including "initial case meetings", to identify the business significance of the problem and the client's objectives in pursuing the litigation.

Dibbs had already tested the system in 120 cases of varying size and complexity before its formal launch this month. The firm claims that the SOAP system enables it to predict costs with such accuracy that it has now developed a policy of capping client costs.

Micklethwaite said visits by Dibbs lawyers to US law firms, which take "a very different approach to litigation", had inspired the system. But he went on to claim that SOAP was "more advanced" than any system in the US.

He added that US firms gave clients more information on the progress of their case than UK firms and that Dibbs wanted to "reverse the culture of lawyers seeing success in terms of court wins".

He told The Lawyer that Dibbs had asked 25 clients and 10 non-clients about how they selected a lawyer and whether they had noticed a difference in the way lawyers communicated with clients.

The survey highlighted that clients wanted more information on the progress of the case and how much each stage cost.

Micklethwaite said: "We have to analyse what the client wants and cut out the inefficiencies in litigation, while remembering there is no substitute for good legal advice.

"For too long, lawyers – particularly litigators – have complained that they cannot cost a job or say how long a job will take. This is unacceptable because other more complex industries do it regularly."

The SOAP system also produces detailed graphs of risk assessment for each stage of the case, which enables the client to judge whether or not to proceed or seek settlement.