Getting The Most Out of Elite 3E
This article is written by Scott G. McCarthy (Director of SMS IT Group Inc). SMS IT Group Inc is a company that provides legal services including Elite 3E implementation, enhancement and customizations. Many of the ideas and examples below are from real-world projects and experiences that have proven to increase efficiency and work in the real world.
The Changing Legal Landscape
During Elite 3E implementations, I often see firms afraid to break the dependence on old or existing products. Sometimes it is because the firm does not want to change processes and other times it is because they do not know what is possible with 3E. We are going to discuss some new products and options to get the most out of Elite 3E and remove as much manual work as possible. One of the greatest strengths of 3E is the built-in workflow engine and the fact you can convert manual processes into automated time-saving procedures.
Often, firms will implement Elite 3E and finish the go live process and then do nothing else. They will use the system as implemented and never go back and add additional efficiencies to 3E. One of the greatest strengths of 3E is the ability to customize the system and continue to add efficiencies over time. When Kmart was king, this little know store called Walmart came along and spent a great deal of time making their distribution and inventory systems as efficient as possible. As a result, Kmart would often be out of stock while Walmart always had a full stock of inventory. The rest is history. The point I am trying to make is firms are now competing on price and the only way to close the gap on your competition is to make your firm as efficient as possible.
E-billing, along with other fundamental changes, have forever changed the relationship between firms and clients. Clients now hire and use e-billing companies to get the best possible price and keep their bills as low as possible. This trend is not going away so you might as well use the weapons you have available to make the changing legal landscape work for you. I am going to talk about some efficiencies you can put into your firm. Although this does focus on 3E, the concepts can extend to other systems.
Ideas For Efficiency – Workflows, Workflows, Workflows
Let us say you are a law firm humming along running Elite 3E or some other system. What can you do to help improve your firm’s efficiency to help drive higher profits? Elite 3E has a fully integrated workflow engine that allows you to build any workflow you can dream up. You do not need third party products to provide this level of integration. Let us look at some workflow ideas to help make your firm ultra-efficient:
· New Business Intake
o Every firm has an intake process to bring in new clients or open new matters. A good majority of this process is manual from writing the letters to checking the AR. Why not use Elite’s workflow engine to automate as much of the process as possible? Let us look at a potential NBI workflow:
1. Secretary or Intake Specialist enters information on the intake form in 3E to enter the new client or matter information.
2. Upon entry of a new record, Elite 3E copies the latest information from the latest matching record and enters most of the data for you. All you need to do is change what is wrong and submit the new record.
3. 3E then does some checks including AR balances, WIP and other financial items. Let us say the system finds the client owes over $50,000 AR. The system can then kick off an approval to the CFO to either allow the new matter or to reject until the balance is paid down.
4. Once approved, the system then runs a conflict check and sends out the conflict check to all related timekeepers via email who either click NO CONFLICT or CONFLICT.
5. The matter is then opened once it passes the conflict check and the system then continues to check for the proper documents signed from the client. If the documents do not make it in time, the system puts the matter on hold until the documents are received.
· Electronic Check Signatures
o I am sure a good majority of firms are still manually signing checks by passing them around the office, mail or carrier. Since Clinton signed the electronic signature act during his presidency, electronic signatures are fully acceptable. Why not then automate the check process to have Elite 3E sign the checks automatically?
1. AP enters the vouchers from vendors and then queues the checks.
2. Checks are sent to a list of people who are check approvers. Approvers review the voucher and relevant detail and then either approve or reject.
3. Assuming checks are approved, 3E automatically prints the checks with electronic signatures automatically printed. This eliminates a great deal of time and the need to pass checks around for days.
· Some More Workflow Ideas
o There are literally dozens of ideas I can document in this article but for time sake, we are going to stop here. I will leave you with a list of other workflow ideas I have seen put into practice:
§ Billing workflows
§ Office Payment Request Workflows
§ Trust Workflows
§ Collections Workflows
§ Write Off Approval Workflows
Getting Rid of Manual Input (Example: Scan Logic)
Since you are running an advanced system like Elite 3E, why are your AP people and others still entering manual data? Scan Logic is a new product that fully integrates with Elite 3E and allows firms to import thousands of invoices without manually typing a single invoice (For full disclosure, Scan Logic is owned and supported by my company SMS IT Group Inc). A product like Scan Logic allows your AP Department to import thousands of invoices at one time and have them load into Elite 3E in seconds. Your AP Department simply needs to import the hundreds of invoices you have into 3E with the push of a button and quickly review and submit.
This process can eliminate the need for 3+ AP people to spend their days manually entering invoices and instead focus on more pressing issues. Some firms process 4000+ invoices a month and the time savings alone are tremendous. Scan Logic is a cloud-based solution so it does not require any equipment installation and you can be up and running in days. Why are you still manually entering invoices? In addition, firms are using products like Scan Logic to import receipts, checks and physical mail. Why stop at the import of invoices when you can import and route additional items?
E-billing and Time Entry (Example: Zepto)
E-billing has been one of the most disruptive changes to legal. Firms are struggling to comply with all the e-billing guidelines and losing money due to violations and appeals. Since you are running an advanced billing system, you can make some changes to combat these loses. Time entry is now fundamentally tied to e-billing. How? Every time your timekeepers enter time, your firm needs to make sure they are not violating your e-billing guidelines.
The first step is to make it routine to read and record the guidelines for each client. Afterward, you can then use a combination of your Elite 3E system and time entry system (if you run a third-party system) to implement and enforce your guidelines. For example, you can put billing guidelines in Elite 3E that stop specific words from being used in the narrative to stopping specific costs from being billed at the wrong rate. Most time entry systems allow for rules you can use to further extend the guideline enforcement. Many firms also put guideline summaries in their time entry screens so timekeepers can quickly see the guidelines for each client before entering their time.
In the past, firms could rely on systems with pre-set billing rules. Since billing guidelines are becoming unique to each firm, it benefits the firm to analyze the electronic billing guidelines and put technical solutions in place to ensure your firm is not violating the guidelines. This can be challenging and time consuming but it will save you a great deal of grief when the bills actual go out the door.
There are new time entry clients such as Zepto that are 100% cloud-based but contain the ability to help enforce these guidelines. In addition, a time entry client like Zepto will even automatically make suggestions based on the work performed in Office 365, calls made and emails sent to ensure your timekeepers bill all work performed. It is now important to ensure there is a tight integration between Elite 3E, your time client and e-billing guidelines to eliminate the manual work of handling appeals, write offs and billing errors due to electronic billing. Furthermore, a client like Zepto can work in the background and allow you to use native Elite 3E time entry if you want to avoid a third-party time entry program.
Links To Your Biggest Vendors (Example: BizTalk, SMS Connect, SQL)
Because Elite 3E has such a robust system for importing and exporting data, you should consider automating information to and from your biggest vendors. For example, let us say your firm has a vendor that handles all your legal services including subpoenas, pulling documents, delivery, etc. This vendor sends in a huge invoice every month that contains 200+ pages. Why not use Elite’s robust import/export to build a quick interface to bring in all that data?
Furthermore, if you have third party systems that provide records tracking or request entry, link those systems to 3E via a multitude of methods (BizTalk, Direct SQL, SMS Connect – For disclosure, SMS Connect is a product of SMS IT Group Inc). As an example, if one of your vendors needs to lookup client and matter numbers, you can build a quick secure interface to 3E that allows your vendor to query 3E for client/matter information to present in their application. This keeps all information and systems in sync real-time. You can use BizTalk, SMS Connect, SQL or other products/methods to sync data.
Client Portal & Credit Card Processing (Example: ClientPay)
There are several vendors that create client portals for Elite 3E. These client portals allow clients to login to view/pay their bills, communicate with their attorney, view information regarding their case, upload files and more. Instead of clients having to call Accounting to ask about invoices and make payments, why not give your clients an “online banking” system to your firm? This will further reduce work to your staff and make interacting with your firm easier and less demanding. This is especially true for long-term clients who will appreciate the services.
You should also make sure you have a credit card system integrated with Elite 3E that allows clients to pay both invoices and trust. Accounting can generate a quick credit card invoice and the client can use the system to quickly pay their bills or replenish their trust account. Integration with Elite 3E allows for generation of invoices based on client and matter balances. Once the payments are sent, they can be automatically brought into 3E as receipts, so again, you are eliminating manual entry. For example, if you get 20 payments via credit card, your team can quickly apply payments and have all receipts for payments received automatically generated for quick review and submission.
ClientPay is one credit card processor that has a full integration with Elite 3E that allows for all the items discussed above.
Additional Ideas – Build Them!
Because Elite 3E is built on an entire IDE, there is no limit to what you can build within Elite 3E. If you have ideas not mentioned in this document or efficiencies that will improve your firm, why not build them within 3E? It does not take a tremendous amount of time and the return usually goes on for the life of the system. Remember that you can accomplish most everything with the IDE so next time you consider another third-party product, look at Elite 3E first and ask yourself if it can be built within the system.
The name of the game is efficiency these days so once your Elite 3E environment goes live, it should be the beginning of your goal to utilize the system to make your firm as efficient as possible.