Spotlight: Todd Keeler CEO, FilePro

By Jerome Doraisamy|22 April 2020

Promoted by FilePro

Legal service delivery will look vastly different one decade from now to what it is today, and as a result, practice management solutions must evolve in turn. Here, Lawyers Weekly speaks with FilePro’s CEO Todd Keeler about what the legal profession needs from such tech platforms and how solutions must adapt to changing expectations and needs

Q. How do you see practice management solutions evolving in the legal profession over the next decade, or even just the next few years?

Fully integrated
There will be an increasing focus on fully integrated solutions to minimise logins, increase automation/reduce rekeying. This does not mean one system to do all, but rather a solid practice management platform that interfaces with other new technologies that offer best practice in specific areas. For example, using AI to reduce manual work when bringing on a new client. In saying that, don’t fall into the trap of technology for technology’s sake.

Providers that specialise
There is a preference for specialisation rather than generalisation of software providers. Case in point are the new niche technologies addressing specific inefficiencies or gaps. Overall, there should be a preference for providers that specialise so to avoid the scenario where a software product is a hook to “sell” the providers’ other products. 

Staff retention and client services
Technologies have traditionally been promoted as creating efficiencies for the staff of law firm. Whilst this will remain, progressive firms are now seeing software from a broader perspective – retaining quality staff and clients.  

Our own client survey in 2018 indicated that a lot of the functionality of FilePro was not passed on to new staff members, or that our clients were not aware of new features creating a “disconnect” between our clients and our software. So, we launched our new training initiative recognising that (while FilePro already offered training courses), there were a few obstacles: cost (however small) and accessibility. 

To overcome this, we invested in a Training Unlimited initiative, providing unlimited (surprise) access to courses, 24/7 online learning and regular offsite workshops to our clients. We saw an excellent response, with a 37-fold increase in the number of people attending our training. We expect that this will mean more firms are better utilising their investment in FilePro, with flow-on positive impacts to their staff retention and client satisfaction.

Q. Broadly speaking, how can practice management solution platforms work with legal businesses and teams across the board to ensure that transitional phases are as smooth as possible and don’t impact upon client service delivery?

The transitional phase is such a significant roadblock when firms are considering change. Often, it is not specifically raised by a prospective client, but it is certainly a key factor in their decision process and timing.

There are two barriers to change for firms: firstly, the effort/expectation of disruption and secondly, the initial set-up fee.

Once systems are implemented, ask your provider to come back to visit in three or six months. Ask them what you’re doing well, and what you could be doing better. Discuss the results being seen, or not, based on agreed goals at the outset. Regarding the second barrier, the establishment or set-up fee, it is ideal if firms have choice from their PMS provider. Much like clients requiring legal assistance, who now have choice between time-based vs fixed fee/value billing, firms should be offered a range of alternatives to incurring an upfront fee. 

Q. With data retention and cyber security shaping up as key issues for law firms and legal teams in-house in the coming years, what are the challenges that practice management solutions will have to address and overcome?

The key is finding the balance between technology and risk mitigation. Firms should consider mobility, off-site backups, cloud hosting and all of the other great tools now at our disposal.  However, this should be balanced with careful consideration of where critical data resides, who has access and ownership of it, and how it can be recovered in various scenarios.

We believe that firms should have choice in many areas but with that choice should come recognition of the pros/cons of each approach. This is particularly the case with data storage which encompasses data retention and cyber security.

In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of software providers who lock client’s data, making it unavailable to them should they wish to migrate to another system of their choice. This is all too frequent with cloud solutions. Typically, it is not a software limitation. It is a commercial decision by the provider to make it difficult, if not impossible, for clients to migrate their own data. And sadly, most clients only find this out the day they want to leave.

When going to market to consider your options, it is all too easy to focus on features, pricing, user experience, etc when choosing the right product for your firm. You should never be solely reliant on the current provider to assist you if data extraction is required, as this service is all too often denied if they know you are moving to another solution.

Your data is sacrosanct. It is the lifeblood of your practice, and considerably more valuable than the $100,000 you deposit with your bank. Access to your data and regular backups are equally important. 

Q. With practice management solution platforms – theoretically – streamlining processes and improving efficiency, how best can legal teams and law firms move to converting their organisation into one of ‘high performance’?

In our experience, high-performance firms work with their providers. Lawyers are now driving change, rather than being “disrupted”. Rather than digital laggards, we’re working with firms who continue to evolve using technology as a core part of their long-term strategy – rather than react to buzzwords such as “disruption” and “innovation”. As an industry, the level of ownership of technological change is at a record high as evidenced by the spectrum of legal technology events on offer.

Technology and data aren’t afterthoughts
For a number of the firms FilePro works with, technology is the enabler to deliver strategy and providers are more than just suppliers to their accounts team, they are a part of a mutually beneficial relationship.

This has a secondary effect: firms that properly implement technology start to recognise data as a multiplier to increasing the value of a firm’s client experience and brand value. They start to plan and ask questions about how data is stored, used and shared.

They embrace the concept of continuous improvement
Rather than make radical changes to their firm’s technology, these law firms have learnt that introducing steady and consistent changes with adequate training and management is key.

There is such thing as too much change too quickly, and without proper education, introducing too many new processes and technologies will overwhelm your staff, and in the worst case, increase error and staff churn. Instead, we advocate steady and continuous improvement.

To some, this may sound disruptive. But for your teams and clients, it’s the reality of today’s technology-led world. Clients want to walk into a law firm and see that discussions – although this relies upon a transparent process to monitor progress. This will also create visible improvements in client experience standards.

And, lean on your technology provider. I can’t stress this enough.

Q. What are some of the other challenges and issues that practice management solution providers and legal teams and firms will have to navigate, and how best can parties work together in response to such matters?

It is fair to assume that most firms now have a practice management system and would like to maximise their investment through greater utilisation of the system’s features. We see benefits in following these three steps:

Data entry
Is it consistent and correct across the firm and the various roles? Consider what you want to capture for reporting, templates, notifications, dashboards and workflow. Again, ask your provider to assist with a health check.

Document templates
Review and overhaul to ensure consistent branding and to leverage “to the max” automation features including use of questions in templates to prompt consideration of options/ alternatives.

Workflow
Having completed the first two stages, the firm is now ready to consider and implement the “workflow” feature. This is a big topic, but essentially when we speak about Workflow in FilePro, we are normally referring to automating a predetermined set of tasks that needs to be completed for a specific area of law.

It may surprise some to know that Workflow builds on your own processes and precedents whilst allowing individuality. The benefits are wide ranging, whether for succession planning, best practice and improved productivity, allocation of duties with staff turnover/leave or to increase the value of your practice.

You might also choose to have multiple Workflow “threads” running concurrently, i.e. one for the legal work, and one for your CRM- type activities, such as introducing clients to the firm, keeping in touch, providing updated cost estimates on a regular basis, noting how they like their coffee etc.

In an era of rapid change, improving efficiencies, client service and risk mitigation remain paramount considerations for firms. Workflow is a greatly under-utilised feature that can deliver improved performance across all these areas. 

Choosing the right practice management software is easier with our Due Diligence Checklist which provides a consistent guide to assess practice management systems. Download a copy nowOr to answer your specific questions, contact FilePro on 1300 65 33 80.

Spotlight: Todd Keeler CEO, FilePro
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