Old IT systems will lose you and your clients a lot of money

I hate receiving advertisements offering to improve law firm IT systems.  This is not directed solely at their industry, but when you work in a law firm there are large numbers of people who pester you for works.  Often these will be experts, claims management companies, translations services, tax advisors, etc. 

The need for IT

The main issue is that law firm IT is something that needs to be prioritised. There are clear benefits:

  • you can work swiftly by accessing files at the click of a button;
  • you’re able to employ cheaper staff if running a volume team;
  • off-site storage of archive files is less expensive;
  • knowledge-sharing / templates can be collated, stored and disseminated for firm-wide benefit; and
  • if time is of the essence, you are more likely to be able to meet a deadline with everything consolidated in one place.

Most importantly you can avoid looking like a complete idiot when answering the phone and saying “Can I place you on hold for a moment while I go and find the file”, which is followed by a difficult and disjointed call as you cannot find the documents you need.

Some firms in 2014 are still not scanning all incoming correspondence. This is unforgiveable as instead of being able to look at a case management system and seeing EXACTLY WHAT THE OTHER SIDE IS SAYING, it instead shows a fee earner’s interpretation of what they have read.

The importance of good IT

As you are all aware, hiding amongst many solicitor firms are pockets of negligent lawyers. Some have the double whammy of being negligent AND lazy. When they take over new files they will not take the time to read into the file, but rely on browsing the attendance notes of previous fee earners and carrying on in the same fashion.  This is fin if you have a strong claim, but fatal if the claim was capable of being placed back on the right track.

There is a knock-on effect upon both the law firm and the client.

Law firms are unable to bill as much because general “file reviewing” of a physical file for documents is a non-chargeable activity. It is neither payable by your client or a defendant.  Those 2 or 3 units may not seem much, but when you multiply this by 25-250 fee earners at £150-£300 per hour, over 52 weeks per year, this suddenly becomes a lot of “lost profits”. Which your firm pays tax on for WIP that you have to write-off, idiot!

The client also clearly loses, as you are not servicing their file as effectively as you should be. Aside from the time dumping, you are required to be able to work in a timely manner and have access to all relevant documents in order to assess their claim. Whether you are in litigation or handling a transactional or due diligence matter for them, your IT should reflect the demands of the industry. A lack of documents can result in negligence. Regardless of how strong your PII is, your duty to your client means you should not us your insurance as a first-line-of-defence safety net.

What should be done?

Pay for quality!!!

If you are unable to develop your in-house system then buy a package and pay for the subscription licenses.

I am not recommending any types of systems to use (I’m not on commission, honest guv’) but please use the typical ones in the market. If I am on the phone and the people do not even have a basic understanding of their file, I normally end up taking a lot of money from their client in damages and costs. Shoddy and outdated working practices are normally symptomatic of their contemporary knowledge of the law and litigation strategy.  Think about the image given off by your old IT systems; it’s more than just scanning a letter!

Over and out.

Legal Orange.

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