Count the beans

Do law firms still spend too much time and effort on buying systems that “count beans” (accounts, time recording) when they should focus on systems that will help them make more beans (case management, marketing)?

Law firms rightly spend time on systems to “count the beans”. These systems ensure time is recorded and billed, credit control is tight, cash flow improved and fee earner budgets set. Without this stringent financial control no business can survive – Cash is King. Ignore this at your peril.

But firms do need to widen their focus and view IT systems as end to end systems. These systems should assist the firm in its activities to attract new business, improve the management of files, provide self-service to clients and support compliance. All of this activity should feed through accounting/time recording information thereby providing overall management information.

Our Liberate product set contains marketing (CRM) to support marketing campaigns, seminars and to provide analysis of the success of a particular marketing activity. When a “prospective client” is successfully converted their file can be simply switched to be active within the case system. All historic activity is retained, including a full electronic file with, time recording and a direct link into the accounting records. This tight integration improves billing rates, assists COLP’s and COFA’s in ensuring the practice compliance and risk standards are met and allows the beans to be counted.

An area that has grown over the last 5 years is the uptake of client portals whereby clients can interact with their lawyer. There are many advantages. Clients can view (subject to permissions) documents and emails, latest case progress, exchange information with the fee earner, view the financial status of the case and more. This clearly saves the fee earner time in not dealing with queries and is attractive to clients as a value added service. An exciting extension to this concept of “self service” is the provision of online form fills allowing clients to provide information electronically and even make payments on-line.

And now back to the start – back end accounting. All of the above resides in the same database, one easy to manage, central repository. One client view, simplified tight processes, managed billing and control of all financial aspects including credit control.

Firms providing end to end systems are more likely to flourish in this increasingly competitive market and still be around to count the beans.