Fee earners: 22 Support staff: Three Areas of work: Private family Systems in place: SOS Connect, Microsoft Office and Citrix platform Went live in: 2008
Cited as the world’s first virtual law firm, it was only natural for Woolley and Co Ltd to be an early adopter of SOS Connect. Five years later, the firm continues to discover innovative ways to enhance customer service and streamline operations.
Andrew Woolley, Chairman of Woolley and Co Ltd shares tips and best practice insights on his use of SOS Connect, and considers the benefits the system brings to his firm.
What were the original reasons for investing in a new system? “We had a hosted system that was unreliable; it ran very slowly and continuously crashed. Customer support was also poor. The software was holding us back and we aspired to do more things than it would allow; for example, we wanted a system that could properly integrate with Outlook.”
What were your short, medium and long term objectives? “In the short term, we wanted to find a more reliable provider. In the mid term, we aimed to automate our processes further. In the long term, we planned to fully manage our compliance within the system.”
Why did you choose SOS? “On our shortlist were a few providers that we rightly feared might be swallowed up by the big brands. In such cases customer service suffers and products often go into arrested development. We were convinced of SOS’ stability, and their commitment to remain independent and evolve their software.
SOS was also an early adopter of .NET, which was important, and could be hosted. The system was also evidently very flexible and we planned to tailor it to our needs.
The purchase was not based on price it was based on the quality of the product and customer services; we trusted SOS to help us do what we wanted. ”
How does the system underpin the way you work? “SOS Connect enables us to work as a virtual law firm but with top level compliance and supervision based solely on the software. We use it to manage our entire business process management, including accounts, CRM, document management, case management and time recording. We also rely on the system for our management and performance reports for each lawyer and for the entire firm including billing, work in progress, number of leads, sources of leads and conversion rates.”
How has your client journey been with SOS? “The data conversion and implementation were extremely good – better than expected; this was an anxious early step in the process for us. The initial training could have been more interactive, which SOS took onboard. The support team have always been very helpful, often going the extra mile. I feared this might decline as SOS wins quite a few new clients each year; however, the company are evidently managing their growth by expanding the workforce accordingly.”
Why have you chosen to stay with SOS? “The software is reliable and does what it says. Once we had paid for it all, it doesn’t actually cost us much and is very reasonable for what it is.”
Have you any tips for others rolling out a major system? “Remember to ask yourself ‘why’ and involve the users. Don’t just transfer your offline, online; have a complete look at how you can do things better. It you’re trying to replicate a process because that is how it has always been done, it is likely to be outdated, pointless or wrong. Make sure you identify someone internally or employ a Project Manager who has experience of rolling out a major system. We invested in SOS creating custom reports for us – these are fantastically useful and meant we saw value in the new system from day one.”
What have been your biggest challenges? “Agreeing with the lawyers what should go on the system, such as standard letters. Compliance management has been automated with scripted workflows, which they have to use; but, they can use the case management side of the system as they need to.
We also hoped we could tailor the system ourselves with scripting, however, this is something we generally have paid SOS to help with. We work in an unusual way and were early adopters of the system in 2007 so SOS did the initial advanced scripting for us. As frequent early adopters of technology we relish helping to establish new solutions for the industry. If you start from scratch I believe others manage the scripting side of things. We did set up our compliance scripts ourselves.”
What are the biggest benefits?
Streamlining: “We have radically streamlined our organisation, alleviating the need for large premises and an administrative tier of workers; in fact we have just three support staff for our 22 home-based lawyers. I believe you cannot streamline to this extent without the right software.”
Continuous progress: “We feel safe with the system and know we are with a reliable company. We are firmly established on the software and intend to keep moving forward. All the lawyers know and understand many of the nooks and crannies of the system, yet we still have so much potential to unlock.”
Compliance: “We have complete confidence in our compliance procedures, which have been automated on the system.”
Reporting: “The reporting is one of the best things about the software. We can evaluate the overall performance of a firm, as well as that of each fee earner. We also measure the success of our marketing and business development on a monthly basis.”
More income: “Through the automated processes we have set up, the lawyers are reminded to charge for work at certain stages and of course time record. It cracks the stereotype that lawyers need to be reminded to bill – and not to under bill – but they do, at least in family law.”
Do you have any examples of best practice in using the system? “As we have specialised in private family work, and because we employ senior specialist lawyers, we have been able to develop a method of peer supervision on the conduct of files as part of our automated compliance procedures. Our lawyers review a selection of their colleagues’ files, which are selected by us at head office. The reports feed into the SOS system to be kept on file, and they also feed into management decision making on training needs and on whether the compliance process needs to be changed. This provides the evidence we are reviewing files and also saves us a lot of time. Lexcel have praised our supervision method and use it as an example of best practice.”
Has your reliance on IT changed over the years? “I do not believe we would have achieved our Lexcel accreditation without putting the software in place to manage our compliance. We have also moved to the cloud.”
Plans for the future in relation to technology? “We aim to gradually automate everything that ‘can’ be – but more importantly what ‘should’ be – firmly keeping in sight how this will improve customer service and liberate the lawyers from the boring stuff so they can communicate more with clients. We are also discussing a potential enhancement with SOS to create personalised opening desktops for each lawyer. We’ll also continue to forge ahead with our web and social media strategy – this has been a relentless exercise, which sees two thirds of our leads coming from the web.”
What advice would you give to a firm looking for a new supplier? “Decide what you want to be able to do for your business and ensure the software fits this – rather than the other way around.”
What three words best describe SOS to you? Solid, dependable, independent.