This week’s article is by Bill Kirby, director of Professional Choice Consultancy, and features our customer Poole Alcock. It originally featured in the May 2015 edition of Manchester Law Society’s Messenger Publication.I go on all the time about management checklists, strategy, structure, performance and the benefits that sensible investment in IT applications and infrastructure can bring.
Law firms are businesses in a very competitive world. More are responding to these challenges and some are still not for numerous reasons – lack of courage, lack of foresight, intransigent partners and so on.
In May I shared a train journey to London with Scott Harding partner of Cheshire firm Poole Alcock and his Business Development Manager – it was her first anniversary with the firm. We were all going to LegalEx at the not easy to get to Excel Arena. Scott was visiting with an open mind to see what others were doing and taking advantage of the conference and exhibition to meet multiple suppliers to the sector.
What emerged was that over the last 16 months, Scott and Managing Partner - David Gaut had been revolutionising Poole Alcock – a multi branch, general practice – by implementing some very proactive foundations.
There is a three year strategy, a strong budget as a result, accountability and responsibility for department heads, monthly operations board with performance presentations, action lists, continuous forecast review and KPIs for all fee earners, business development strategy, plans and actions between department heads and the BDM – even a membership scheme for clients and their families.
What was pleasing for me is that many of the more tangible investments have been with suppliers from the MLS Advantage stable and perhaps more to come.
So what are some of the things that they have done.
Practice and Case Management. This was changed to a new integrated system in January 2014 – it facilitates strong accounting and time recording (real time and automated), workflow through the whole business process from client enquiry to billing and cash collection, good MI and KPIs.
What is also impressive is that as the firm has doubled the size of its conveyancing activity in the last 12months it has just signed for a purpose built conveyancing product that integrates with its back office system. IT will mean even further growth with existing resources and a quicker and communicative process with its clients and work referrers.
The firm also uses the compliant property searches from MLS Advantage supplier ETSOS. Because of this it has the added advantage of the automated quotation system evidenced on its web site and in effective use from the teams desktop.
Hosted IT. The firm’s IT is now in the cloud supplied by Converge TS (MLS Advantage and legal specialist). It provides very high availability and performance at all locations, 24 x 7 working securely and from anywhere – so any of the offices, from home or indeed client premises.
Business continuity and disaster recovery is fully available meeting compliance requirements and commercial common sense – increasingly under scrutiny from potential commercial clients.
Recently because of the growth of cyber attacks and viruses additional security through Mimecast has been installed. The great thing for the firm is that they pay per user per month, the solution is scalable up and down and in line with their strategy the addition of new offices is straight forward.
Another benefit seen by the firm is the ability to hot desk and adapt to the changing personal circumstances of key staff in terms of retention. There are even potential savings in space costs.
Hosted Telecomms – This installation came from MLS Advantage supplier Matrix247 (specialist legal). This is a new system, hosted with all the business continuity and disaster recovery benefits and it also integrates with the case management solution where the client can be automatically identified and files opened on the desktop and of course time captured more effectively - efficiency for Poole Alcock as well as a heightened experience for the client.
The Ian Cooper report on law firms conversion of enquiries into business and Mystery Shopper exercises conducted by both Matrix247 and Concert Networks in the north west have demonstrated how poor the majority of firms are handling inbound calls from distressed clients and distressed prospective clients. The technology with secure and specialist routing capability afforded by the new system only leaves in house culture to be sorted.
Video Conferencing – This installation comes from MLS Advantage supplier ViewpointAV
The latest technology available from this system offers multiple benefits. The ability to have firm wide team discussions real time without people having to travel to be in one location – it keeps costs down and allows more fee earning time as well as the same message in leadership, motivation and performance being heard and seen by all. This has been used very effectively in conveyancing.
The system allows mobility and enhanced flexibility, one can face to face with a client or indeed a prospect over a secure link and there was even an occasion when Scott was indisposed at home but able to participate fully in a monthly Ops Board meeting with his fellow partners.
Scott addressed the Conference at MOSI on “Video Communications is transforming the legal sector” which I reported on in the March edition
Project Management – Basecamp – Poole Alcock has become a managed and targeted business. After having meetings and agreeing actions, dates and responsibilities these are held centrally with access available for those involved and individuals can record the activities and results achieved.
Scott and David have certainly adopted the needs of management in a legal business in today’s market place and are effectively deploying IT to support this.
Bill Kirby is a director of Professional Choice Consultancy offering advice to firms on business issues from strategy, planning, business development, the effective use of IT applications and IT hosting for compliance, business continuity and DR. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org