By Legal Futures’ Associates SOS
Dawn Wilson has been a member of Creighton and Partners for 20 years. The firm, which specialises in family law with an emphasis on children’s cases, has been slowly eliminating paperwork from its processes starting in around 2017. At this time, not only was paper a major cost centre for the firm, but also paper storage was itself becoming an issue. Rather than deal with the ongoing costs and compliance issues associated with volumes of paperwork, the firm began to go ‘paper lite’ with SOS Connect – a decision that proved ultimately beneficial to the firm once lockdown was imposed.
Dawn Wilson, Director with Responsibility for Practice Management at Creighton and Partners, shares her thoughts about SOS Legal, SOS Connect, and how Creighton and Partners has benefitted from its partnership.
Project Highlights: Eliminating Cost and Environmental Impacts
- Firm became 95 percent paperless within three years
- Fully standardised on SOS Connect within one year
- Easy for partners and paralegals to pick up with training
- Easy integration into existing processes
A Long Road to Becoming Paperless
At Creighton and Partners, paper files once accumulated like snowdrifts. The cost of paper, the cost of printing, the cost of storage, and the cost of shredding all added up—not to mention the environmental impact, of which the firm was very conscious.
In addition to costs, the firm also wished to standardise its file management to ensure that all documents were saved in one place and easily accessible.
Then there were the looming legal stipulations. “We also had GDPR on the horizon at that point,” says Dawn, “and when I undertook our GDPR risk assessment and identified the various locations where documents were stored it became clear that we needed a file management system that was all in one place and could be securely locked down to avoid any exposure to potential data breaches.”
After hearing about SOS Connect, the directors of Creighton and Partners decided to inaugurate the process of an electronic case management system.
From Paperless Offices to Pandemic Preparedness
An important factor for Dawn was the ability to customise the application. As Dawn had been with the firm for many years as a practising solicitor, she had a good understanding of the firm’s practices and procedures at the time of implementation. Working with support staff at SOS Legal, she was able to customise the SOS Connect workflow so that it mirrored the existing paper file opening process at Creighton and Partners.
What’s more, Dawn was able to simplify the process which made it quicker, more efficient and reduced the risk of inadvertent omissions ie. key dates being missed upon opening, client care documentation etc.
The onboarding process took until the beginning of 2019, and it entailed a lot of work, fine-tuning, and support from SOS Legal. By the end of the process, however, many more efficiencies had emerged. For one thing, paralegals (who have a fast-moving workflow) were able to intuitively grasp the system, which streamlined their onboarding process. In addition, they often had to undertake routine printing and filing tasks, which whilst vital were rather mundane. Paralegals were able to now spend time on more challenging fee earning work.
By the end of 2019, Creighton and Partners were 95 percent paperless—and then the pandemic struck. Dawn and her team began testing lockdown scenarios. “We tested closing each of our offices sequentially,” says Dawn. The firm found that because all their files were available remotely, the only thing they needed to do to prepare for remote work was to ensure that all staff members had access to a secure laptop, a reliable broadband connection and enhanced training on remote access and IT security.
When the country went into lockdown, the firm moved easily to a fully remote working model yet remained connected at a personal level at all times. The firm did however find that they needed additional SOS Licences. Given that the firm would possibly not need them after the lockdown period and the financial implications of COVID were not clear, SOS legal went above and beyond by offering Creighton’s the additional licences on a 3 month basis, as opposed to a full year.
During lockdown, the firm underwent their annual Lexcel assessment. The assessor was able to seamlessly access the firm’s case management system and their files using a time-limited secure VPN link.
The firm has also been able to continue with its quarterly file review process during lockdown as all their files are on SOS connect and accessible via a remote secure link.
Because Creighton and Partners had begun switching to paperless two years before the pandemic, they were in an excellent position to adapt to the new methods of remote working forced upon the country. It is possible that there were firms who were not in such an advantageous position. “I wouldn’t say that we couldn’t have kept working during lockdown,” says Dawn, “but having SOS meant that the move to remote working was easily achievable and seamless.”
Benefits from using SOS Connect
Using SOS Connect, Creighton and Partners were able to streamline their workflow in many ways. First, they were able to add email conversations directly to casefiles, which reduced the time and cost of printing and filing each email. Second, they were able to leverage the case stage budgeting feature, to enable them to have an accurate value of their WIP at all times.
Lastly, Dawn believes that SOS Connect was vital to their ability to smoothly transition to remote working during COVID 19 which enabled them to focus in their clients and help them though a very difficult and uncertain period.
Since the implementation of the system, there have been continuous updates to further refine and enhance the system. Version 11 has recently been released with the extremely helpful ability to preview documents in A4 size as you are scrolling through the file.