In conversation with Andrew Guile
Technology in law has been more in the spotlight this past year than ever before. The challenges posed by home or hybrid working have caused law firm managers to assess and upgrade their technology.
Following our ‘Secrets from real partners on the tech you really need’ webinar in May, we caught up with guest speaker, Andrew Guile, Partner at GN Law, to find out which technology solutions make this practice tick.
Andrew is a specialist in legal aid, family, wills and probate, police actions, and mental health law as well as a long-suffering Brighton & Hove Albion fan and part-time author of children’s books. After growing his practice from ten to fifty employees in the space of fifteen years, assisted in this task in no small part by technology, Andrew shares his insights on all things hardware and software…
Let’s begin with hardware. Tell us about your physical technology.
We have an office-based mail server. We were actually considering Office 365, the online Microsoft Office suite, but recent reports of data breaches put a stop to this idea. We’ve decided to remain physical for now.
Our employees used to have desktop PCs and were 100% office workers. Luckily, we’d actually moved the majority of staff onto laptops pre-Covid. When we were forced to suddenly shift to working from home last March, we only needed to purchase six extra laptops because we were well kitted out. Buying forty all at once would have been a huge outlay so we were grateful for our earlier laptop investment.
We’re in the process of upgrading from physical to VoIP phones, having streamlined from fifty to three so far. The reason we didn’t do this earlier is that we experienced outages which caused the internet to go down intermittently. We fixed this, have no outages so switched to VoIP.
On the subject of software, what are your go-to systems and why?
Along with VoIP, we utilise Quill. These are our two software essentials, powered by the cloud. Quill’s case management and legal accounts software integrate fabulously with Outlook. Law firms must have a matter and file management, and accounting system. That’s what you get with Quill. We couldn’t function without it. It allows us to do everything, from generating letters to time recording to creating bills.
Are you paperless, paper-light, or aspiring to be?
Before the pandemic, we were still paper-file oriented. This was in large part due to our legal aid work as the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) demanded the entire paper file. When you consider the complex nature of much of our caseload, such as international child abduction, these were necessarily bulky documents comprising thousands of pages.
When Covid hit, the LAA sent everyone home along with the rest of us and immediately cut back requirements so that they only want to see timesheets. This is a big sea change. We upload this data directly from Quill to the LAA’s online portal.
While the LAA will ramp things up again in the future, as they want to see attendance notes for work over sixty minutes, it’s contributed to our paperless quest. The files we have in Quill are now more complete than our paper files as home workers have a tendency to forget to print out case-related documentation. We intend to be paperless by the end of 2022. With Quill behind us, we’re confident of achieving this goal.
For other law firms going paperless, the first step is to invest in a good scanner and document management system like Quill’s. The next step for us, as a Lexcel-accredited business, is to update our policies and procedures to reflect our paperless working processes.
How long have you been a Quill client?
We migrated to Quill two years ago and find its functionality far superior to our prior vendor. Legal aid work constitutes two-thirds of our turnover and, as we’ve ascertained, billing this work is extremely time-consuming and downright miserable. It’s not unheard of to spend more time billing than what we’re being paid for. Quill, however, automates and makes it profitable. Since becoming a Quill client, we’ve never looked back.
Do you use any other technology that’s worth a mention?
The online payments solution, Legl, is a system we use for the safe collection of monies from clients. We simply generate a request for payment, send it in a client email as a link and the recipient subsequently enters their credit card details via the link. It’s a revelation in money management. 80% to 90% of our inbound monies come through Legl. It’s improved cash flow no end.
Legl is in Quill’s integration roadmap so we very much look forward to the enhanced streamlining benefits this will deliver once the Quill-Legl integration project is successfully completed.
With the end of lockdown restrictions, what is your plan for your offices?
Before Covid, we were completely against home working. None of our employees worked from home. We were 100% office-based. During the pandemic, without the level of technology we currently enjoy, it would have crippled us. Instead, we’ve embraced home working and found productivity has improved dramatically, largely due to saving time commuting from home to office. As lots of our staff are scattered around London, this could easily be one hour each way. This time is now spent fee earning and our time recordings have surged to eight or nine hours per person per day.
In May, we’ve spent one day a week in the office. This will rise to two days in June and three days in July. It’s a compromise that our workforce is happy with. Quill and our other technology positively support this architecture.
To get in touch with Andrew, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Download Quill’s ‘Guide to the essential smart law firm technology in 2021’ at www.quill.co.uk/resources/guide-to-the-best-legal-tech-tools-for-uk-law-firms-and-lawyers-in-2021. Discover more about Quill’s case and document management, and legal accounts software by visiting www.quill.co.uk/legal-software, calling 0161 236 2910 or emailing email@example.com.