SYSTEM SELECTION AND REVIEW
We have developed a methodology and key templates for system review and selection which enable us to be thorough without being bureaucratic. Our process includes initial requirements gathering, creation of a supplier brief, supplier and scenarios led demos, a template-based tender document and a balanced review of responses to help clients make decisions which are best suited to their specific needs.
We have used our seasoned approach to provide successful outcomes in many different areas including:
Practice management, where our extensive experience of the market helps us to provide the due diligence necessary to satisfy Partnerships otherwise wary of committing to long and expensive projects. Our unique blend of legal and technical skills helps our clients to understand how best to change existing processes and policies to meet the demands of evolving businesses whilst maximising the return on IT investment. This extends to innovative thinking in areas such as file opening, time capture, billing and information delivery.
Document management, where our long standing familiarity with products and techniques have enabled us to assist firms not only with selections but also with implementations. This has included the transition of the masterfile from paper to electronic format, bringing emails, documents and scanned items together in a single, coherent, chronological file. We have also assisted with providing client access to documents and in designing repositories to support know how.
Case and matter management, which requires a pragmatic approach to platform selection to ensure that the needs of lawyers and case handlers are met. Ideally, this would be provided by a single platform but it may be hard to reconcile fully guided low-margin case flows with light touch matter guidance systems. We therefore balance requirements, costs and ongoing maintenance to ensure our clients get an overall solution which meets their key requirements.
Recent engagements include:
Working alongside a number of large and medium sized law firms in the UK and Europe with the replacement of ageing or soon to be retired practice management systems. In each of these projects, we have helped our clients to identify improved ways of working that provide genuine returns on investment such as reducing lock-up, increasing time captured and simplifying the billing process.
Assisting a large, national law firm with the selection of a document management system to replace repositories in case solutions as well as file shares. We have also assisted a global law firm with the planning of its implementation including consideration for data migration, looking at how its lawyers will see items in the repository and catering for the needs of knowledge management.
Helping with the selection of case and matter management tools in national and regional firms with a range of requirements from high-volume, low margin work such as personal injury through higher value repetitive transactions in real estate to light touch, partially guided flows for more ad-hoc work.
PROCESS EFFICIENCY AND LEGAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT
We have worked with several law firms in reviewing how they deliver legal services to their clients and identifying ways in which their processes could be made more efficient. Our consultants have experience of business transformation projects in areas including Corporate, Real Estate, Personal Injury Litigation, Employment Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Health Litigation, Inquests, Wills and Probate, Insurance Litigation, Family, Financial Services and Banking.
Our approach is to analyse and unpick current processes and help the firm to reconstruct them in a way that better meets clients’ needs, often by a combination of technology, know how, staffing profile and pricing strategy. The outcome can be a “win-win” for firms and clients.
Leaders of law firms are well aware that clients have become unwilling to fund inefficiency. When things go wrong and mistakes are made, costs overrun or deadlines slip, it is often not the quality of the legal work that is at fault, but the way the work was planned, the staffing of the job and the resources made available to those carrying it out that in retrospect could have been handled better.
Project management (“PM”) techniques are nothing new – a whole PM industry has evolved over many years. Indeed larger law firms have developed PM tools and approaches for their back offices. Whilst not all of it directly translates into law firms’ legal work, there are parallels and it is a good start when considering how a firm should respond to the challenge.
Some firms have addressed this need by hiring project managers. Others use PM trainers to equip the lawyers with generic PM techniques. Both are valid approaches. Our approach is always to seek out examples of best practice in the firm – there will inevitably be some excellent examples - and, having agreed what excellent PM looks like in the context of the firm, to design project management methodology and training around that. The outcome uses generic PM tools and techniques but tailored for law firms in general and for that firm in particular.
IT STRATEGY AND PROJECT DELIVERY
Our team has worked on a vast range of IT projects and with our experience of managing IT teams and supplying legal software, blended with the legal experience of our consultants, we can provide a unique viewpoint in assisting a firm develop an IT strategy.
We can work in collaboration with internal teams, as an additional resource or completely standalone if the IT resource is unavailable. We have recent experience of working with businesses in the following areas:
Planning the future of IT and the creation of an IT strategy, focusing on producing a realistic proposal aligned to the firm’s business plan,
System selection and review,
IT supplier selection and review,
Master data management,
Data security procedures and practices,
Infrastructure and the cloud.
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT, ONLINE SERVICES AND INTRANETS
Knowledge management. With the application of knowledge at the core of the delivery of professional services, firms need to harness their knowledge and expertise in order to deliver services without ‘reinventing the wheel’ at the clients’ expense.
We help firms to devise practical ways to do this, often focusing on culture and working practice as much as technology. This can include advising on the creation of or reviewing an existing knowledge management strategy, but also extends to the selection and implementation of knowledge systems and search tools both to retrieve knowledge and to identify expertise within the firm.
Intranets. Intranets are often the platform used to surface up knowledge and provide a single access point to integrate several systems. They also continue to provide a key channel for internal communication and collaboration and a focal point for keeping up to date with news about clients and matters.
Our starting point for intranet projects is to find out how people are performing key tasks and processes and think of how the intranet could better support them in this. Our aim is to make the intranet an essential part of the working day. The findings from these discussions will become business requirements for a new or revived intranet.
Online services. Clients’ expectations about the information that will be made available to them are increasing. This might include access to up to date billing information or documents relating to a particular matter. These kind of “value-added services”, have, in the past, often been reserved for specific clients, but now, as demands change, are seen as a core part of client relationship delivery across the board.
We help firms to address these issues by making their internal platforms contribute to overall efficiency and effectiveness to meet or exceed client expectations. This might extend to advising on the selection and implementation of new software in the form of an extranet or client portal to help achieve this.
BI, MI, DASHBOARDS AND REPORTING
In recent times the legal industry has seen a steady change in its approach to MI and BI projects. In the past the primary focus was always on MI, looking at the business in hindsight, analysing and reporting on what was recorded (e.g. what time did we record, what did we bill). More recently the push is towards true business intelligence, with firms looking to analyse data from multiple sources, creating models and scenarios that help identify and develop new opportunities and provide controls that underpin the firm’s strategy with improved consistency and predictability.
Access to large amounts of data is all well and good but we are passionate about ensuring that data is used effectively and have taken a lead in promoting dashboard designs that intelligently combine matter management, MI and BI components in a single user interface. We firmly believe that usability and simplicity is the key to adoption, and adoption is the real key to MI/BI project success and ROI.
We all appreciate that any given task is easier with the right information, presented in the right way, in the right context and with the right purpose. We also know that in any law firm the number of combinations of these basic principles, and the number of different personas they will be applied to, is enormous. Control and clear definition is required and the benefit of a strong MI/BI strategy will be appreciated throughout the business.
At 3Kites we use our multi-facetted team to undertake all aspects of MI/BI strategy development and project delivery. For instance, we work with teams from all areas of the firm to ensure that requirements are captured, interpreted and prioritised. Requirements are not just about content, they must also deliver a multitude of decisions such as timeliness (frequency), security and exactly how the information is be presented to the end user.
We work with the IT teams to select the right technologies and we work with the project delivery team to help architecture a solution that meets the needs of the business both now and in the future. Manageability and the long term cost of ownership is often overlooked and we can help the project team to consider effective designs that encompass master data management (single version of the truth) principle to support the objectives.
LAW FIRM STRATEGY AND MANAGEMENT
Several of our consultants have backgrounds in senior positions in law firms including as partners, directors and in Duncan Ogilvy’s case as managing partner of Mills & Reeve. Duncan has built on his practical experience with an MBA at Nottingham Law School with whom he has retained links.
We frequently work for firms at Board level, and we are well placed to advise Managing Partners and Boards on topics such as:
Policy Review. We are firm believers in well thought-through policies which clarify what is expected. Whilst
there is plenty of generic “best practice” on which to draw, and our experience of what works elsewhere can be helpful, there is no substitute in our view for tailoring policies to the unique setting of your firm and, mindful of the need to enforce those policies, getting buy-in by appropriate consultation before finalising them. We can assist and an external, objective voice such as ours can help to give credibility to the policies which emerge.
Client Consultation. Law firms exist to serve their clients. Matching effort precisely to what clients require, and anticipating what they will require in future, is far from simple. It is often helpful to involve outsiders such as 3Kites to interview or poll clients, anonymously or not, to strip out wasted effort and focus on what is actually required. Our proven methodology achieves this in a cost effective way.
Partner Appraisal. There is no more significant and influential resource in a law firm than its partners, and these days that resource can be a mobile and fluid one. The prize for harnessing and developing the collective firepower of a firm’s partners is considerable. There are many different approaches to partner appraisal, depending on the culture of the firm and whether the process is aimed primarily at development or remuneration. Above all it must be perceived to be fair and it must not be too time consuming. We are well placed to help firms to design and (if required) implement partner appraisal programmes.
The way a firm is configured will depend on a number of factors including its history, tax and profit sharing arrangements and compliance requirements (particularly for firms in multiple jurisdictions).
Whatever the formal structure there may well be a structure for management reporting purposes below it and experience has taught us the significance of these on the behaviour of those involved. In the current competitive environment when driving the best possible performance and motivating key players is even more important it pays a law firm to consider carefully what behaviours it wants to encourage and ensure that the structure of the firm drives that behaviour. Having backgrounds in senior positions within law firms and having worked for over 70 law firms we are well placed to help.
PROJECT AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT
Our blend of legal and IT backgrounds helps us to provide genuine insight into the strategic and practical barriers to bringing about change successfully, and how best to anticipate and address these.
We can manage projects from inception to completion and beyond, ensuring that goals are clear from the start and that the impact of any change is analysed and addressed.
We have a robust project management methodology which avoids undue bureaucracy and keeps the big picture in mind.
We bring a practical focus on the impact of change to ensure that those affected understand and are ready to adopt new ways of working.