Legal firms strive to help their lawyers work more efficiently. Efficiency means lower bills for clients, which keeps them happy. And it also means more time to devote to other matters, which keeps the firm’s management happy.
One of the large international legal firms decided to make more efficient one of the most cumbersome activities within the legal industry: a new client matter intake.
This process is about reviewing and processing new clients or new business from existing clients. It is a process of making sure that new client is on sound financial footing and doesn’t present any conflict-of-interest problems as well as setting up billing and giving departmental approval to proceed with the new client or activity.
The procedure requires numerous activities and volume of forms that have to be passed back and forth between originating lawyers, department heads and staff members in the conflicts, and accounting and time-and-billing departments.
At this firm, it took several days to produce a client or matter number, the golden egg that enables the collection of fees.
A solution built with the BPM system provided the company with the architecture for automating cumbersome and paper-intensive processes.
Here is how it works. All of the new matter intake forms reside on the company’s server. When an lawyer or a secretary wants to originate a matter or bring a new client on board, he or she simply fills out an online form and clicks an on-screen SUBMIT button. At that point the new process is started. An e-mail is automatically sent to the next person on the assembly line, alerting them about the new process.
All subsequent activities – exchange of forms and information, requests for additional information, decisions approval – are carried out as defined by the process model devised for company’s specific way of doing the business.
Access to company’s numerous databases has been mostly automated.
The system ensures that there is no waste of time when processing the matter intake. If the forms aren’t filled out correctly they bounce back to their originators. So recipients don’t have to waste time sending incomplete forms back and forth. If the recipient doesn’t action his or her task promptly, an alert is sent initially to him and subsequently to his superior.
Improvements and Benefits
Time in which the matter number is generated reduced by 80%. With the automated process, it now only takes about one day to generate a client or matter number. The creation of the new client number is now measured in terms of hours, not days.
As a result the savings add up quickly. When lawyers get their matter numbers quickly, they either can start working on the case much sooner, to the greater satisfaction of the client, or capture more time by being able to use the billing system immediately.
Lawyers and clerks spent less time producing the matted number. This is achieved through automation of tasks and avoidance of work disruption. As a result lawyers productivity has been increased and the company was able to cut down on the number of personnel devoted to new matter intake.
Automatic update of files reduces administrative effort. Legal files can be given an account number within seconds, and as each action is completed, the data is automatically entered into the firm’s disparate systems. This saves the firm at least one week per year of administrative time on data-entry, while also allowing the firm to electronically distribute the information integral to its business policies
Acquisition of extra clients through greater responsiveness to changing market situation. Company can deal with the influx of new intakes quicker. In cases where a new partner joins the firm or unpredictable events take place new matters can be taken on very swiftly. This was the case with the sudden influx of so called ‘asbestos cases’.
Instant productivity by the new employees. When new employees join the company they do not have to go through an intensive training. The system drives them through the process easily and they can be productive almost immediately.
Increased internal information sharing. With more than 500 employees in offices across the world, the company is using the BPMS system to send alerts to users anywhere in the organisation and to ensure new policies and procedures for assessments are followed.
Partners receive early warnings in case an account requires additional attention.
The system will pay for itself after one year. The cost of implementing the BPM system (server, licenses for 50 seats and various other fees) was upwards of $30,000. Yet with all the projected savings it is expected that the investment will be fully returned as early as after one year.
Reduced cost of future improvements. The firm plans to use the BPM platform to automate human resources functions such as holiday requests, new appointments, and timesheet reporting. As the license for the platform have already been paid, the overall cost of development will continue to go down.