Over the past several years, law firm clients have talked increasingly about enhancing the value — efficiency, predictability, and cost effectiveness, they receive for the legal services they purchase. Chicago-based Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC (LP), a self-proclaimed “different kind of law firm” and “Big Firm alternative”, has fully embraced this ‘value challenge’ and leveraged technology and creative partnerships with established legal technology partners like Handshake Software to deliver on behalf of grateful clients.
Addressing business issues with the help of technology
Angie Hickey, LP’s Executive Director and member of the firm’s Executive and Compensation Committee, is responsible for the strategic development and execution of the firm-wide business plan. Her technical expertise and innovative management style have been instrumental for many of the programs and processes that LP has implemented. “The firm’s established culture, one of transparency and accountability, was conducive to transforming the business, but the technology to initiate change was not in place. We recognized Microsoft SharePoint could be a catalyst in converting desired business objectives into firm and client-wide realities,” noted Ms. Hickey.
In addition to SharePoint, LP has teamed up with Handshake Software and Handshake’s partner Project Leadership Associates (PLA) to help transform firm goals into technology solutions. Over the last four years, Handshake and PLA have provided the firm with SharePoint-based portals including a dashboard-based reporting system as well as several award-winning custom client extranet solutions.
Enter LP Connect
Back in 2010, the firm was in dire need of a business focused facelift … Ms. Hickey and other firm leaders took note that too much information was being distributed too late – critical documents and mounds of files were piling up and not getting the attention they deserved. This led to a ‘runaway matter’ scenario where the firm lost oversight of critical business goals and the ability to proactively manage clients. Firm accountability and commitment to setting and meeting goals and objectives were alive and well, but the tools and technology framework to create transparency when it came to assessing financial performance and the overall business health of individual clients was lacking.
Shortly after rolling out the LP Connect dashboards, the firm felt the impact of having management tools that reflected its culture of transparency and accountability combined with the right dose of technology.
LP took action and proceeded to develop an early warning system for key performance indicators (KPIs) that attorneys needed to know in order to better manage their matters, their client relationships and themselves. LP proceeded to interview key firm stake holders, executive team members and associates and find out what they knew about their clients, their book of business and their own business goals. The firm then identified key metrics driving each group and mapped out a series of dashboards that would facilitate better internal and client management. By developing a SharePoint-based, Handshake-powered portal, firm attorneys and support staff gained access to a central information hub.
The internally designed intranet and extensive dashboard reporting system was named LP Connect, based on SharePoint and Handshake Relational Framework and Portal products. LP Connect included dashboards for goals, financials (timekeepers), matters, partners, practice group leaders and the executive committee. Shortly after rolling out the LP Connect dashboarding solution, the firm felt the impact of having management tools that reflected its culture of transparency and accountability combined with the right dose of technology. Firm decision makers were now empowered to make informed business decisions based on intimate knowledge about financials and clients and matters. A truly transformative change based on heightened visibility took place.
Collaboration and information access
Back in 2012, LP’s Community Associations Practice Group first took note of the dearth of customizable real-time collections reporting systems and the inability to provide its clients with direct access to collection information. The practice group was challenged to come up with a value-added solution and sought to create a client accessible database for all collection matters.
“We are thrilled to work with a group like Handshake that truly understands our business and what we want to deliver to our clients, and can then recommend the appropriate technology framework for our SharePoint platform to execute our vision.”
Executive Director, Levenfeld Pearlstein
In November 2012, LP Condo Extranet was launched thanks to the expertise of the firm’s third party database/technology consultant, the firm’s SharePoint system, and the use of Handshake’s extranet, integration and portal products. LP delivered a truly customizable tracking solution for firm/client collection matters including:
- Real-time, printable status reports of all client collection matters
- Access to all pertinent documents related to a specific collection matter
- Real-time financial information on each collection matter, including all invoices issued
Earlier this year, LP was selected by the Chicago Chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) as the recipient of its 2014 Premier Award in the category of Technology and Design/Renovation. The first law firm to ever win the award, LP was honored for its development of the LP Condo Extranet.
Transparency … dedicated client extranets
On the heels of the successful LP Connect and LP Condo Extranet projects, the firm again leveraged SharePoint and the Handshake technology infrastructure to help address a business challenge. Based on previous lessons learned and best practices surrounding SharePoint-based deployments, LP recently built a dedicated client extranet, connected to its docketing and billing system, designed to help the client access litigation-related documents and files in one place, anytime.
Creating the dedicated SharePoint and Handshake-powered extranet enabled the firm to push unlimited information through to its client and give them the access and control they needed.
Based on the client’s interaction with multiple LP practice groups and the necessity to work on files from various firm sources at a frenetic pace, the ability to access the most current files was greatly impeded. Creating the dedicated SharePoint and Handshake-powered extranet enabled the firm to push unlimited information through to its client and give them the access and control they needed, again supporting the firm’s transparent culture. More accolades followed, and in May 2014 the firm was included in the National Law Journal’s prestigious 2014 “Midsize Hot List” for its culture of transparency and top-to-bottom accountability.
While file sharing capabilities alone might not be earth shattering, the firm’s ability to work directly with the client to listen to their challenges and frustrations related to communications and transaction tracking issues, led to a custom solution based on SharePoint utilizing Handshake extranet, integration and portal technology. Ms. Hickey added: “We are thrilled to work with a group like Handshake that truly understands our business and what we want to deliver to our clients, and can then recommend the appropriate technology framework for our SharePoint platform to execute our vision.”
On top of the supporting technology, LP’s culture and solution-focused structure has created an environment wherein attorneys trust their support team to directly approach clients to help identify and solve business issues that the legal solution-focused professional may not have picked up on otherwise.
“While we live and breathe transparency and accountability, it’s all about creating value – whether it’s exposing KPIs that keep our staff focused on overall goals, financials and performance metrics or partnering with the likes of Handshake Software to develop new portal solutions and client extranets that literally embed our clients within the firm’s organizational structure and workflow,” said Ms. Hickey. “Like one client recently told us, ‘Now that you have provided all this new value, we’ll never be able to leave you.’ That’s the idea.”