Fowler White Burnett, P.A. Leverages Handshake Software, ‘DIY’ Approach to Provide Firm Financials


Download the Case Study (PDF)

Handshake’s Relationship Framework, JumpStart implementation methodology and Microsoft SharePoint used to showcase financial dashboards

Fowler White Burnett, P.A., a Florida-based law firm of 80 lawyers, has made the most of its Microsoft SharePoint investment through the use of Handshake Software products. With limited resources, the firm has been able to deliver a high-impact financial dashboard in SharePoint for use by lawyers and staff. Using Handshake Software’s legal application integration’s and libraries of law firm web parts, the firm was able to ‘do-it-themselves’ and create a customized, firm-specific portal.


By taking advantage of the Handshake Software Relationship Framework and Handshake Toolkit, the firm opted to leverage Microsoft SharePoint powered by the Handshake tools to develop a series of financial dashboards for the firm’s timekeepers including associates, attorneys, and partners. Led by David Tobin, the firm’s Applications Development Manager handling IT, financial reporting and litigation support among various other duties, the firm built a dashboarding solution now widely accessible via the firm intranet and used daily by lawyers.

fowler taleWith the help of the Handshake Toolkit, collaboration with Handshake Software portal experts and SharePoint expertise, as well as a ‘get it done’ attitude, Tobin was able to develop a financial dashboard portal in addition to his system of daily PDF financial reports distributed to firm users.

According to Tim Kenney, Handshake Software’s VP of Customer Success, what Tobin and the firm have created for financial dashboarding is truly impressive and starting to receive acknowledgement from firm peers. “I have traveled the country extensively within the last 18 months; showing law firms how they can use SharePoint and Handshake to create effective portals, search solutions and extranets. I repeatedly show off Fowler White’s dashboards because they are so cleverly created and well received…and developed by a ‘one-man-band’ with ‘as-needed’ support from the Handshake and SharePoint ecosystem.”

Getting a JumpStart

Handshake’s Relationship Framework and Toolkit gave Tobin and the firm access to resources including a framework and templates that he was able to rely on and build upon despite the fact that the firm had no prior SharePoint experience.

 “Handshake’s graphical display helped sell the firm due to its ability to easily show who collected the most, who billed the most, and for which client and matter.”

David Tobin, Application Development Manager 

“We met with Handshake experts weekly to brush up on template creation and how everything worked. After about a month time, I really understood the beauty of the Handshake toolkit and Handshake Content Designer,” noted Tobin. Now, harnessing the power of SharePoint via the Handshake Toolkit, SQL writing is a lot easier plus you can look at codes for custom fields and harvest a lot of examples that way as well.”

Handshake now offers JumpStart 3.0 to rapidly deploy pre-defined integrations giving firms full capabilities within SharePoint including matter centric, client centric, department/office-centric views into their data coming from established line-of-business systems. By providing JumpStart, firms have something tangible to work with and make comments on versus starting the design phase from scratch at the outset.


Financial Reporting

As part of the early stage evaluation of Handshake Software, Tobin shared how many display options the firm would be able to leverage based on Handshake’s robust out-of-the box graphical displays for law firm financial information. “Handshake’s graphical display helped sell the firm due to its ability to easily show who collected the most, who billed the most, and for which client and matter. It’s like gamification of the financials. Attorneys and partners can see in real time where they stand compared to their colleagues. People like to see how they compare with everyone else.”

While the firm can provide hundreds of financial reports at any given time, the most popular ones include billable hours; realization rates compared to others; historical fee tracking, AR and WIP metrics and graphs as well as which clients are the most profitable to the firm.

While the wow factor is due to the gamification angle that Tobin and his team have created, there is still a cultural aversion to showing financials and putting timekeepers on the spot by exposing their information. “While we do not share sensitive information and always keep billers’ identities confidential, we have found the better financials you give them, the more they ask for. Plus, our firm really likes seeing the comparisons on various metrics. “

Before users could access dashboards via the firm portal, Tobin and his team would receive last minute ‘end of December’ questions about financial data and metrics. “The true ROI of using Handshake and having the financials displayed is based on the overall premise that having information is good. Now, we are able to provide the firm with more information and give timekeepers more to work with when it comes to financial insights,” stated Tobin.

Future Moves

While Fowler White Burnett’s users are currently content with their financial dashboards and the metrics and comparison financial benchmarks they receive, the Handshake Software SharePoint Toolkit and architecture will enable David Tobin to easily enhance the firm’s offering over time. With his ‘DIY’ attitude and the proven technology tools at his disposable, the sky’s the limit when it comes to future portal and financial dashboard upgrades.

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The Case Study can be downloaded here.



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