Articles filed under Practice systems

Angelo RilloBased in Enfield, AVRillo is a family-run practice specialising in Conveyancing. The firm, established in 1989, is still setting the standards within the legal sector with its multi award-winning services. In addition to being an Investors in Business winner and a Sunday Times Award winner, AVRillo’s reputation for quality and expertise has been rewarded by the Law Society, which has granted the company the prestigious “Quality Conveyancing” accreditation, as well as the “Legal Excellence” award.

Angelo Piccirillo, Partner and Co-founder of AVRillo, explains his choice of Practice Management Software.

Small law firms have a significant competitive advantage – you can get things done! Large law firms like any large organisation have complex systems and layers of management. They are complicated. Small firms are not.

Despite conventional wisdom, technology use in small law firms is typically more sophisticated than in large law firms for one reason; most large firms charge on a time basis with large corporate clients. Inefficiency is rewarded. Small law firms may and should charge on a time basis, but their clients are you and me. Hyper-price-sensitive people.

To do well, a large firm needs to record a lot of time.

To do well, a small firm needs to be super-efficient.

You need great technology.

Julian Bryan represents Quill Pinpoint

Some of the most successfully run practices are introducing outsourcing as a core component of their business strategy. In direct response to regulatory changes in the profession and competitive movements in the legal marketplace, law firms are increasingly adopting a businesslike management approach, resulting in offloading back office functions, such as cashiering and payroll, becoming increasingly popular amongst business-savvy service providers.

Through outsourcing, firms cease to perform the function in house with their own resources. Instead, they instruct an outsourcing company with notable expertise in the business area to perform the task on their behalf. Outsourced support is usually charged on a variable costs model (more on this later) which adjusts to the peaks and troughs in demand for services, which is proven to be the lowest cost option.

As overall profitability is ultimately a product of long-term healthy cash-flow, it is crucial within a law firm, as within any business, to be able to monitor this cash-flow accurately. At the same time, tracking your fee earners’ efficiency and assigning their time a financial value is equally important as it is their work that ultimately makes or breaks the business performance of any law firm.

But how do you ensure that you have the right mechanisms and systems in place to manage and monitor these critical factors? Legal accounting and case management software products are examples of solutions that can deliver this capability and these two are arguably the most important ones that a legal business should be taking advantage of.

More than 2,200 UK legal practices and ABSs now use a hosted practice management system (PMS) with their system and data held (hosted) in a secure, remote location, accessed via the internet, in preference to keeping servers and software on-premise in their own offices. That is roughly 20 per cent of all law firms and ABSs, adding up to more than 13,000 seats. In the small and mid-size legal practices where we operate most, legal practices and ABSs using hosted PMSs range from one to more than 500 users, so there are attractive options for all legal practices.

For anyone who hasn’t come across DropBox, the strapline on their site is as good an introduction as any: “Your stuff, anywhere.”

In (slightly) more technical terms, DropBox is a cloud-based storage service which maintains a copy of one of more folders on your computer. The clever part is that it also ensures that the local copy (on pretty much any computer, tablet and phone you may have) and on the DropBox server are automatically synchronised.

The coming of the much-vaunted information age, improvements in digital and internet technology, and the increasing requirement for law firms to diversify and innovate over the last ten years has led to a series of interesting experiments in business models for lawyers. Law firms (as demonstrated by the success of such firms as Excello Law, Setfords Solicitors and Keystone Law) are increasingly moving to a virtual (or dispersed) business model at the expense of bricks and mortar (where a firm would have an established office).

Julian Bryan represents Quill Pinpoint

If you’re a partner in a small practice or a sole practitioner, the challenges of business management take many forms.

First, there’s the likelihood that you’re managing all areas of your practice on top of earning fees. The cost of employing dedicated staff for specialised tasks such as legal cashiering can be prohibitive in terms of recruitment, training, salary and office space fees. Continued financial pressures on the economy as a whole, and solicitors in particular, mean that many small firms struggle to meet the ongoing commitment to direct and indirect costs of cashier employment.

Aside from the financial implications of employing cashiers in-house, actually finding qualified bookkeepers is challenging in itself as there’s currently a shortage in supply of quality legal cashiers.

My new Microsoft Surface RT was delivered on 31 October 2012. Not since I was a young boy opening the box to a Dragon computer or a BBC Micro had I so anticipated owning a new computer. (I never got a Sinclair ZX Spectrum or a Commodore 64.)

The things most people want to know are:

  • Is it possible to go completely paperless?
  • What do you do with the paper?
  • What were the obstacles/problems?
  • How much did you save and what did it cost?
  • What are the benefits?

A meeting held by video conference uses dedicated video conference equipment. Typically this is a “room based” system which is designed to accommodate up to 6–10 people. The equipment allows for “real time” or live audio and visual communication.

Microsoft Office 365 is a suite of securely hosted (“Cloud”) online applications available now direct from Microsoft that has potential to radically improve use of IT for a wide variety of law firms, not just small firms. However, it may have an Achilles heel for users in the UK; nothing to do with the technology but down to US legislation designed to give their government powers to combat terrorism.