In conversation with Johdi Hutchins
For anyone who missed our ‘Secrets from real partners on the tech you really need’ webinar, we introduce guest speaker Johdi Hutchins. Johdi traveled an unconventional route into law, having been a concert promoter in the past working with the likes of Michael Ball, Tom Jones, Prince, and Neil Diamond. Leaving the music industry behind, Johdi’s first steps in the legal profession began at Galloway Hughes – conveyancing, commercial, and private client specialists.
Eleven years later, in her role as Practice Manager, Partner, and Accounts Manager for Galloway Hughes, comprising 23 lawyers and 2 offices, Johdi has full appreciation of the financial and compliance-related demands on law firms, and how technology can help.
We caught up with Johdi to quiz her on legal tech so other law firm managers can make the right investments in software and hardware in order to excel…
From your early days at Galloway Hughes to now, describe your tech journey.
Surprisingly, it started with a spreadsheet. In the quest for greater efficiencies, we went on board with another practice management software provider, which turned out to be a Rolls Royce system, meaning it was very expensive and we only actually used 10% of it. Subsequently, we moved to another pricey software provider which also proved disappointing, and finally to Quill six years ago.
Quill works. Law firms are constantly evolving. Quill listens to its clients and develops its software to meet the sector’s changing needs. It’s totally future proofed.
In hindsight, a completely bespoke system would suit 100% but start-ups just don’t have the money or time to devote to creating this type of setup. Quill is the perfect solution to the problem.
Aside from Quill, what other tech do you utilise?
Where tech is concerned, we rely heavily on recommendations. We switched to Microsoft Office 365 five years ago and we migrated to VoIP phones around eight years ago after they were recommended to us. These two systems are integral to our drive to electronic working. We’ve invested in our own fibre to prevent outages as our dependency upon the internet has grown.
Our other essential tech is actually hardware – a fax machine – which is used for certificates of titles and replies to requisitions. You see, you can’t fax to 0800 numbers via email. Although an older piece of kit, it’s still got a clear role to play.
Would you describe your law firm as paperless or paper-light?
We’re entirely paperless. Always taking note of the people around us, our accountants went paperless some time ago and championed it. In our paperless crusade, along with Quill, VoIP and Office 365, we scan everything as soon as it arrives. Important documentation is then stored in a cupboard and shredded if it’s still gathering dust after six months.
All our employees have two computer screens – some three – which assists hugely with paperless working as it’s possible to perform multiple typically paper-based actions simultaneously.
The majority of our caseload is conveyancing. The registration process with the Land Registry is electronic now too. Previously, registration documents and cheques were done by paper and post, taking six weeks altogether. Instead, it’s scanned and sent electronically, so can be done in a day.
In order to achieve our paperless vision, we documented our processes, including defining naming protocols for Quill’s bespoke folders so that we avoid needle-in-haystack situations when locating files, and we ensured our staff are well disciplined. Plus, we enforce it strictly.
Did paperless working prove beneficial during coronavirus?
Absolutely. If we have the internet, we can work from anywhere. We permitted working from home pre-Covid anyway. In lockdown, we accommodated staff preferences for home or office. We furloughed one-third of employees, one-third chose to work at home and one-third opted to work in the office. We kept desks five metres apart for safety.
VoIP allowed us to give the office number to clients thereby protecting staff’s mobile numbers.
On the subject of security, Quill’s SMS tool is extremely useful for sending bank account details to clients. When you’re dealing with the sums of money we handle for conveyancing matters, it’s an additional layer of protection to make sure monies are transferred correctly. We can text updates via the SMS facility to clients on completion day too, as it’s often an occasion without a landline or internet.
Undoubtedly, it’s our tech that powers paperless working.
Can you share a few parting words with other law firm managers reviewing their tech requirements?
Tech makes life simpler and easier. Embrace it! Keep an eye out for tech innovations. It should flex in line with your business. If thinking of introducing change, speak to everyone in the business to ensure the change is worth it and the new procedures improve daily working for all.
There’s also compliance with the SRA Accounts Rules and other regulations to bear in mind. Software should provide compliance assurance with regards to managing the day-to-day financial transactions of all matters being acted upon. That’s what you get with Quill.
Finally, speak to other practices to seek out recommendations. My recommendation is… join the Quill community. Being a Quill user has contributed to Galloway Hughes’ success.
To get in touch with Johdi, 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. Read about Quill’s case and document management, and legal accounts software at www.quill.co.uk/legal-software. Alternatively, call 0161 236 2910 or email email@example.com.