New Devon ‘super firm’ to standardise with SOS Connect post-merger

SOS Connect from Legal Futures Associate (SOS) has become the preferred integrated practice and case management system with the merger next month of Hooper & Wollen and Harold Michelmore, two leading Devon law firms.

Wollen Michelmore, as it will be known, aims to become the ‘super law firm’ of the area. SOS Connect, which was selected by Hooper & Wollen three years ago, will now also replace the Axxia system currently used by Harold Michelmore.

Consolidating IT is just one of the challenges resulting from any merger but in this instance the future IT strategy proved straightforward, as Hooper & Wollen practice manager Clive Meredith explained: “Having successfully rolled out SOS Connect, our systems were more up-to-date than our merger partner’s and more flexible to cope with our expansion and the needs of different departments. SOS Connect really sold itself to Harold Michelmore’s IT manager when demonstrated throughout the fact-finding stage of the negotiations.”

During the last couple of years Hooper & Wollen has progressively extended the use of SOS Connect for the accounts, document and case management throughout the firm. The software also enables the Torbay walk-in law shop to be accounted for as its own entity following its rebranding under the QualitySolicitors livery.

“The SOS system was initially quite a culture change with everyone needing to adopt the same working practices, but we are now moving forward in leaps and bounds,” said Mr Meredith. “The implementation of the system went very well, with the accounts light years ahead of what we had before. We reaped benefits from day one.

“On the document and case management front, it took a little longer and we found that a small amount of tweaks to customise workflows made big strides towards meeting our requirements. Conveyancing, for example, is now working very well as we have tailored it to be less prescriptive for, say, senior fee-earners, while retaining a more procedural approach for those who need it. The generic document management is terrific as is the tie-up of historic documents with e-mails. The system has bedded in very well.”

The expanded firm – Wollen Michelmore – will have offices in Torquay, Newton Abbot, Paignton, and Dartmouth, 15 partners and will employ over 100 staff. As well as extending services geographically the new firm will also offer a wider range of specialty skills including those geared around agriculture.

“One of the advantages of the SOS software is that it is growing to meet our needs whatever we want to do,” said Mr Meredith. “The key to maximising the return on investment is training. We have someone who provides everyone with tips and advice on the system which has helped to achieve a consistent approach to business and operational benefits throughout the firm.”

Other benefits that have already made an impact include using the SOS Connect feature to display ‘performance v budget’ figures to each fee-earner on system start-up, which has instilled healthy rivalry and competition.

The system has also reduced the time taken for file reviews and compliance by automating many of the requirements and prompting fee-earners so nothing is overlooked. Management reporting has also dramatically improved – reports are not only comprehensive but comprehensible too.

Mr Meredith concluded: “Despite the recent difficult economic times, we have had a successful year and are seeing consistently good figures each month. We are a progressive firm with expansion in our minds and our experience with SOS Connect gives us the confidence that the software will continue to support that growth and future requirements such as mobile computing.”

David McNamara, managing director of SOS, said: “SOS has always believed that our flexible, scalable software is a good match for progressive law firms. Hooper & Wollen is a great example of how SOS Connect can help improve day-to-day operational efficiency and performance and provide a platform for growth. We wish the newly merged Wollen Michelmore every success in achieving their ‘super’ firm goals and look forward to extending SOS to new users in the coming weeks.”

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