Integration….Why everyone should do it!

The 2018 legal market. Everyone has heard the word “integration”. Perhaps so often in fact that it has lost all meaning? What is integration? Why is it being highlighted so often? Is it really going to help us or is this another age-old gimmick?

Integration: noun – the action of integrating. Synonyms: combination, amalgamation, incorporation, unification, consolidation.

The key part of an integrated case management and accounts system is to keep everything together, organised and easily accessible. Business culture in 2018 revolves around simplicity and ease of access. The faster we can get things done the better. I have found that practises who save small amounts of time in lots of areas are able to take on more instructions and increase turnover whilst making their own lives considerably easier. I am going to be looking at certain areas within integrated software in this article.

The Digital File:

The use of technology such as laptops, tablets and phones has increased the need to replace the paper file with a digital one. Clients in 2018 expect to be able to be given information about their case upon request. With the increasing use of digitisation for all documents and paperless everything in our lives, the expectation to acquire documents via email or download portal almost immediately is very high. Clients also demand on a regular basis to know their current case status straight away with no delay. Leafing through paper files takes an inordinate amount of time, especially if the fee-earner has a long running case with lots of paperwork. The digital file therefore eliminates all of that and the required document can be found in seconds and if necessary, sent in seconds, thus meeting the client’s demands. An integrated case management system has a complete file structure designed within. Integration can also be taken further by making use of common software such as MS Office (Outlook, Word Excel) and unifying them within the software. Meaning all documentation & correspondence can be saved instantly to the file. This allows a fee-earner to create a fully digital version of the file with no need for outside paperwork. Having this level of integration hosted in one place saves significant amount of time for the fee-earner and serves the client better leading to increased turnover and a more successful practise.

Relationship between case management and accounts:

The close relationship between the case itself and the accounts department is crucial. The SRA is scrutinising qualified accounts reports more than ever so information delivery to the accounts department needs to be seamless. Integrating the account and case management is they way to ensure that everyone is looking in the same place for information required to maintain an up to date and accurate ledger.

Using the software’s requisition/chit system is by far the easiest and fastest way to give the cashier/accounts department the information they require. The request is instant, clear & legible, cannot get lost and is already linked to the file using the software. This ensures that the entries are accurately being recorded and provides a direct link between cashier and fee-earner through the file. If there are any queries regarding a requisition, these can be discussed via email which with the Outlook add-ins will mean that correspondence is also automatically saved to the file. Keeping everything together in one place makes ascertaining file status much faster and easier for both the cashier and the fee-earner.

Time recording on the case management software is also key to not only to help with the billing, but to measure performance of individuals and the company as-a-whole. With integration, time recording can be taken from its raw form, through the accounts via the cashier who uses it to raise a sales invoice. Then it can be reported on in a-number-of different ways. This helps the fee-earner view their own performance and target tracking, helps the accounts department raise those all-important bills and helps management assess the performance of the company. Without the integration from time to bill, none of that would be possible and off system spreadsheets and reports would need to be generated. Off system reports inherently carry their own risks as the data is entered manually, increasing the possibility of human error.


Having supporting documentation on a file is the height of importance for any audit. Auditors need to be able to find a document at a moment’s notice to aid in their investigations. Solicitors practises are some of the most heavily audited companies in the UK and therefore having the documents in one place is crucial.  These need to be accessible by the fee earner on the file, management, the cashier and the auditors. With integration handling the document management, this process can also be seamless. In the same way that we can give our clients the information they require immediately, we can provide the cashiers and auditors their information immediately too. The cashier and the fee-earner can then refer to the same document from the same place and discuss without having to revert to sending copy documents back and forth.

Shortcuts & Further Time Saving

The aim is to have minimum time spent for maximum gain whilst serving the best interests of the clients. The critical part is to be confident in the software choice you have made when it comes to integrated systems. Mostly this is down to the relationship you have with the people who are going to use it and the relationship you build with the provider. These are the people who are going to be integral to the setup. Investing some time in the setup of the system you choose is the height of importance. Make sure you fully understand what it is capable of and what parts you can make full use of for your staff. There is no point in having a fully kitted out case management package if you are only going to use half of it. It is better to ask all questions at the start and make sure that from the beginning it is set up correctly for your company.

Once the system is set up, make the most of the shortcuts within it. For example, some systems will automatically time record upon writing a letter. Some will automatically archive emails within the case management upon sending. Some will automatically save documents generated in Word & Excel into the matter history. If your software allows you to use pre-defined/customisable templates for emails and letters, use them. All these shortcuts can add up to a significant amount of time which can mean more instructions taken, turnover increased, and a more successful practise.

If you have integrated software already, make the most of its functionality. If you don’t have integrated software yet, now is the time to get it!

Alex Simons – New Business and Outsourced Accounts Manager – The Law Factory LLP

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