Firm size: 120 staff across four offices Areas of work: family, childcare, property, private client, corporate commercial, litigation, marine law Went live with SOS Connect: January 2009
SOS Connect is a flexible foundation for Wollen Michelmore as they adapt and expand in the changing legal landscape
Partner – Practice manager, Clive Meredith, shares how SOS supports Wollen Michelmore’s ongoing evolution.
What were the original reasons for investing in a new system? “At a time when the firm was making bold plans to stand out in the region, we found our old case management package was holding us back. Stagnating in corners of the firm, the software had not been developed and could no longer do what we wanted. It was evident we needed a flexible, firm-wide system to help us move forward and support all areas of the business.”
What were your short, medium and long term objectives? “In the short term, our aim was to rapidly bed-down the system to integrate the entire firm and centralise information; this meant everyone using the contact and document management tools. In the mid term, we wanted to fine tune the case management side of the system for the conveyancing team and then roll it out to the remortgage and commercial teams. In the long-term, we planned to hone the customer relationship management functionality to enhance lead development and client care.”
What process did you follow when looking for a new supplier? “The shortcomings of our previous system had helped to identify what we might actually achieve with the right solution and so we knew what we wanted. With this in mind, we investigated our choices at the annual Legal IT exhibition and in the Law Society’s software solution guide. Three suppliers were shortlisted who each provided costings and presented at our offices.”
Why did you choose SOS? “We chose SOS because of the product and the people. SOS Connect ticked all our boxes and it was evident that it could be moulded to suit us. It wasn’t all about a ‘hard sell’…the presentations by SOS and their communication with us was about meeting our needs and not about how many licences they could get out of us. SOS also rated highly in the Law Society software solutions guide.”
How does the system underpin the way you work? “We went over to SOS Connect lock, stock and barrel to get the most from the system. We use it throughout the entire firm for accounts, billing, time recording, matter and case management, contact management and document management. In addition, the conveyancing team is fully managed by workflows. We also have devised KPI and management reports within the system.”
Have you any tips for others rolling out a major system? “Understand what you want from the system; be clear on how it will improve the way you work and set parameters. Consider how the functionality can assist with compliance, decide what reports you want and identify where workflow scripts might speed up repetitive tasks. Don’t however, over complicate the journey to go-live or try to get everything on the system from day one. Recognise that how you use your system will be an organic, ongoing process; it will take months to realise the full potential of what you can achieve.
Make time and allocate the right people to test your new system thoroughly. Recreate scenarios and tasks that teams go through on a daily basis, as well as less frequent activities such as creating management reports.
Remember, no one system can change the culture of a firm. Alongside rolling out the software, devise a schedule of internal activity to ensure everyone is clear on the new processes, understands the benefits and feels confident and enthusiastic about the change.”
What have been your biggest challenges? “At an earlier stage, it would have been better for us to have identified an internal champion with adequate time and skills to drive the project forward. Subsequently we could have spent more time testing the system and co-ordinating training. With such a champion, challenges such as rolling out the system and training 40 new users since our merger have been easier to overcome.
The flexibility of the software is a massive bonus – yet can present challenges. With the scripting tools there are boundless opportunities to tailor the system. We’ve been careful to plan and implement the workflow needs of relevant departments in a managed way.”
What are the biggest benefits?
Improved client service – SOS Connect enables us to build closer relationships with our clients giving us complete visibility of cases and correspondence.
Slicker processes – for example the speed of billing and our credit control process are greatly improved; the system has helped our credit controller reduce debtor days from 60 to 28 days. The seamless integration with Outlook also saves us a lot of time.
Better insights into business performance – the reporting tools are really powerful and inform decisions by the management team; for example, we can evaluate how well fee earners and departments are working.
Compliance – the processes and workflows we have created mean we achieve high standards surrounding compliance and risk management.
How has your client journey been with SOS? “In the early days we didn’t know anything about the software and had lots of questions. The relationship with SOS has been about them teaching us to make the most of the software and to really understand it; so we’ve got smarter and devised clearer processes with their support, and continue to do so. The support team is superb.”
Why have you chosen to stay with SOS? “SOS is always moving forward. We pick up on what they are doing as a company and this inspires us to continuously challenge and shape how we operate.”
Do you have any examples of best practice in using the system? “Using the scripting tools in SOS Connect, a new Matter cannot be opened nor a client care letter created until a cost estimate has been allocated. This enables us adhere to guidelines surrounding clarity of costs, and in turn improves our profitability. We have also devised an internal training manual on how we use the system.”
Plans for the future in relation to technology? “We will continuously refine everything we do to work smarter and improve the service we deliver to our clients – the contact management functionality will be central to this. We also plan to lever the value of our data for marketing and develop CRM for business development and lead nurturing. Workflows are also being devised around the needs of the employment and PI teams.”
How has your firm been preparing for changes in the legal sector? “As the Legal Services Act 2007 came in we could see that we needed to take some bold steps to stand out in our region and ensure the long-term success of our firm. We’ve undertaken mergers and acquisitions to increase our presence in the county and, under a dual brand, operate ‘Lawshop South Devon’; this has attracted new clients who prefer this kind of environment and we are opening further shops.”
What three words best describe SOS to you? Integrity, adaptability, vision.