Virtual Practices helps ELS International revitalise and improve profitability

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28 February 2011

In the last year ELS International, the London and Poole-based boutique law firm, has completely transformed its image, its offering and management team to deliver ‘fresh legal thinking’ to predominantly high net-worth clients. As part of the shake-up the firm decided to start from scratch as far as IT was concerned and turned to the outsourced accounting and legal software services of Legal Futures Associate Virtual Practices.

As a result, ELS has reduced the time taken for producing the management accounts from a week to just two or three hours, totally relieved fee-earners of administrative tasks, and improved the speed and accuracy of reconciling the financial and client accounts by at least 200%, as well as growing profits.

ELS International, which gained national press coverage for its involvement in a major case at the High Court brought by the administrators of Lehman Brothers, offers a range of services within the property, tax, and litigation sectors. Within these sectors itoperates in some niche areas, for which it has gained recognition for specialist knowledge.

ELS International’s practice manager, Melanie Halleron, said: “We sought out legal software as a service and took the decision that we would also outsource our internal hardware and networks to a third party. We did not want the overhead of IT staff in-house, but a more important driver was to achieve high levels of business continuity in the event of a disaster, and security of data. We realised that the levels available in the cloud were far greater and more cost-effective than we could hope to achieve ourselves.”

Richard Spector, the senior partner, had a vision for the firm to become as streamlined, efficient and paperless as practicable. He had been recommended to Virtual Practices and had seen SOS Connect, the legal practice, accounts and case management software which powers Virtual Practices, in action. The decision to move to Virtual Practices was taken almost a year ago.

Virtual Practices simplifies back-office functions including record keeping and accounts’ updating, as well as supporting fee-earners with integrated time recording, customer relationship management (CRM), matter and document management. The outsourced online legal cashiering service provides the reassurance that the accounts comply fully with Law Society regulations. The service is accessed via the Internet and paid for on a subscription basis.

“Our goal, which we are achieving,” continued Melanie Halleron, “is to use the service to its full potential to provide a highly integrated, end-to-end solution from document and case management, time recording through to the accounts. Virtual Practices has worked with us to adapt the software to meet our very specific requirements, such as in the way we handle complicated transactions and financial undertakings on property transactions. They have also been able to transfer data from the old client system. In addition we have the great reassurance of legal cashiering experts at Virtual Practices watching over us to ensure accuracy in our ledger postings and that we adhere to the Solicitors Accounting Rules.”

The new regime has also had a positive effect on profitability which is up by around 150% on the previous year. The profound difference is the amount of time that has been freed up. Melanie Halleron explained: “Solicitors are now 100% fee-earners We are able to concentrate on managing the practice and building relationships with clients to assist the fee-earners. We also have a system that supports management decisions. We can analyse performance and profitability, compare the actual time spent on a matter with the fixed rate and analyse where our profitability lies. This provides great insight into trends, competitiveness and the direction the business should follow. Working with the people at Virtual Practices has been a delightful experience and the service is proving to be very cost-effective.”

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