A recent survey of over 800 corporate clients finds that many big law firms are failing to deliver value for money or stick to their quoted budgets. These sentiments and observations on law firms aren't new – time and again we hear of them, they don't come as a surprise. But what astounds is that firms aren't taking advantage of technology to overcome these client related issues.
Focussing on high value, result orientated activities by relegating low value tasks to automation is a sure way of ensuring client satisfaction. Similarly, adopting matter planning and management capability within the case management system can help ensure that fee-earners stick to cost estimates.
To illustrate, let's look at the recently launched Visualfiles Matter Planning / Budgeting Accelerator. Several forward-looking firms are using this out-of-the-box Accelerator to help them bid and quote for work, at a profitable rate – in addition to using it to track budgets against live cases. The Visualfiles Accelerators are best practice workflows built on an Application Framework that simplifies the creation of business solutions utilising the Visualfiles platform. Once deployed, they can be fine-tuned to automate ever evolving processes and meet changing business needs.
The Matter Planning / Budgeting Accelerator breaks down any piece of work into its component parts with a corresponding budgetary time and cost allocation against each element of the case. Linked directly to the core Visualfiles time recording system it delivers a real-time check against budgets, as time is captured.
This allows firms to take proactive action, based on their business rules and guidelines. For instance, if a piece of work is close to exceeding the planned budget, the department head or the finance team can warn the fee earner helping to keep all elements of work on track. Alternatively, they might simply want to track overspend by major milestones to allow for the peaks and troughs to level out, before informing the fee earner or the client.
Furthermore, the Accelerator can be linked into the Visualfiles Risk Management system for indication on the risk profile of the case, if it has gone significantly over budget.
Some firms are also taking automation to another level. They are configuring the Accelerator in a way that Visualfiles automatically generates correspondence to alert clients of potential changes in the matter and inform them that the changes are likely to result in an increased bill. And no, this isn't Artificial Intelligence, Visualfiles has always intrinsically offered this kind of granular configuration capability!
The Accelerator also allows ‘duration tracking'. Firms can ‘plug in' the expected duration of the various components of tasks across the lifecycle of matters. These can be based on the firms' expectations or national averages. Again, it gives firms the ability to take the appropriate action if a case is running behind or ahead of schedule.
By utilising both the budgetary and duration tracking in Visualfiles, firms can easily identify bottlenecks in processes, which can help ensure the right levels of skills and staffing on matters. More importantly, the insight can be used for more accurate budgeting, modelling of future processes and fine tuning the firm's overall business model.
With sophisticated technology available, law firms can demonstrate to their clients that they are indeed delivering ‘value for money' – thus changing the perception that they are only interested in looking after the "number one".