Founded 70 years ago, Howard Kennedy is a full-service firm that takes a very grounded yet agile approach to the business of law. While paying close attention to finding ways to improve its current operations, it also plays the long game in terms of anticipating future firm and client needs. Its use of 3E®, the comprehensive enterprise business management solution from Thomson Reuters, is central to both those imperatives.
The firm has more than 150 lawyers headquartered in the City of London with international reach across the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa, and the U.S., advising clients in a range of sectors from private wealth to media and sport.
The firm needed a management solution that had equally wide horizons, enabling it to streamline its back-office functions before turning its focus to customer-facing client service enhancements and innovations. In the words of Paul Roberts, Chief Operating Officer at Howard Kennedy, “We wanted an IT solution that would be future proof.”
Clear project principles
Howard Kennedy had several clear objectives and project principles in mind when selecting that solution. One of the most immediate priorities was to improve and standardise many of the firm’s processes. It also wanted to help maximise lawyer productivity—the two aims of course being closely connected.
Therefore, the primary area of focus initially was on moving from manual, paper-based workflow systems to digital ones, in order to make billing, payments, and the management of trust accounts much more efficient and accurate. For example, by implementing a more streamlined, automated billing system overseen by the finance team, the need for fee earner input is dramatically reduced or, in many cases, eliminated, and bills can be processed faster.
The firm was looking for an out-of-the-box solution that would be relatively easy to “get right,” as Paul Roberts puts it, but one that was flexible, too. It needed to have scope to be customised where required to meet changing internal and external requirements—like regulatory changes—and to support future innovation in client service.
Howard Kennedy was concerned on the one hand with risk avoidance—in particular, that the product would continue to be developed and supported in step with (or ahead of) market needs over the long term—and with cost certainty, ensuring that it would remain within budget.
A robust selection process
The firm has been a long-time customer of Thomson Reuters, having previously utilised Enterprise® as its business management solution. As part of the selection process for that product’s next-generation successor, Howard Kennedy considered both market-leading providers such as Thomson Reuters and its major rivals, as well as smaller market players.
From a risk mitigation point of view, it decided to narrow its search down to the bigger providers, with the theory that they would be better placed to maintain investment in their products over the years ahead.
It chose 3E because it had the more established, stable platform that offered the full range of functionality the firm needed. Some of the internal implementation team members had used 3E already and liked it, and initial testing worked well. Overall, when the firm deployed a wide-range scoring system to evaluate different options available on the market, 3E came out way ahead of the competition.
Slicker operations and enhanced services
3E has certainly lived up to the firm’s high expectations. For example, the billing process is now centralised. Bills are routinely submitted to clients within 48 hours of month’s end (and before month end where appropriate), rather than up to two weeks later as was sometimes the case previously. Not only does this have a positive effect on cashflow and working capital as client payments are received more quickly; it also reduces the administrative burden on lawyers, enabling them to focus on fee earning and client relationship-building activities.
“That increased efficiency and productivity is a big win for us,” says Roberts.
Howard Kennedy now uses 3E as its core reporting tool and finds the automated dashboards invaluable for providing easier access to real-time information to fee earners and heads of teams. Not only can they get a clearer overview of activity, but they also can drill down into areas of interest, such as how much is being billed and when, and teams’ and individuals’ levels of productivity, thus helping to manage capacity. This aspect is especially appreciated by lawyers and will be a continued area of focus for further enhancements going forward.
Bringing sophisticated budgeting and forecasting capabilities on board via implementing Advanced Financial Solutions from Thomson Reuters, is another planned next step. Now that lawyers are recognising the advantages of 3E’s “business as usual” improvements in the back office, Roberts says the next stage is to look toward how the solution could provide more forward-facing, front-office benefits.
Further customisations, upgrades, and add ons such as financial reporting and time recording functionality are being considered. Moreover, the firm is looking at artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for document automation, which Roberts says the firm sees as the way forward. Enhancing data warehousing capability and exploring the possibilities around Big Data are on the agenda as well.
“You’re always going to get some initial pushback when introducing a new solution, but if you can show people that it works well and easily, you can convert them much more quickly,” he explains. “Now that we have 3E embedded across the organisation, the next move is to focus on how we can use it to improve client service delivery—both in terms of further efficiencies and in terms of new ways we can help clients or innovative products that we can offer.”
A convincing deployment
The process of convincing lawyers of the benefits of 3E was accelerated by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing lockdown, which happened approximately six months after Howard Kennedy went live with the solution. “3E has been a game changer,” says Roberts.
“It meant we were already set up to work efficiently in a remote environment, and people have been using it all the time. We had zero complaints during lockdown because we had a system that works. But even under normal circumstances, being able to work seamlessly remotely was always going to bring huge gains.”
Roberts attributes that success to a number of factors; preparedness on the part of the firm was one. The firm’s aims were clearly defined and its specific requirements in terms of functionality identified, involving a range of internal stakeholders and external experts in the process, including first-rate support from Thomson Reuters. It also went through a process of “cleansing” its data prior to conversion—ensuring it was all up to date, relevant, and well-organised—to create a smooth transition, and made sure it had a well-resourced project implementation team on board.
“We had an excellent project manager from Thomson Reuters who was very hands on, and we also had access to several more senior people within the business when issues arose that are inevitable on a project like this,” says Roberts. “It’s all very well choosing the right solution, but the people piece is important too, as you will be working together for quite some time. We also had a first-rate internal project team that worked 100% on the project whilst their day-to-day roles were back filled. This enabled key decisions to be made quickly and decisively throughout the project.”
Training also played a major role in getting the solution embedded and accepted within the firm. Howard Kennedy made sure sufficient training resources were available both pre and post go-live, with experts on hand for three months afterwards to deal with any issues.
Ongoing consultation with user groups and the steering committee set up by the firm to oversee the project play an important part in ensuring the firm gets the most out of the solution. Fee earners and back-office users feel they are being listened to, and new ideas for future development can be brought forward for consideration.
“We see 3E as very much a long-term project,” says Roberts. “The security of having something that is future proof for the next 15 years that we can develop, upgrade, add to, and exploit in new ways over time cannot be underestimated. I’m not sure how we’d operate without it! It’s a perfect solution for a firm of our size.”
To rethink existing processes, moving away from manual, paper-based systems to create workflow efficiencies and foster greater productivity. To support change within the business over time by implementing a solution that could develop with the needs of the firm and external market drivers.
3E is a market-leading solution offering all the functionality the firm needs now and additional features it will implement and customise in the future. It provides flexibility to adapt to change, certainty on costs, and confidence around the level of ongoing support and investment by Thomson Reuters.
- Well-designed, out-of-the-box solution for seamless integration
- Scope for customisation to firm’s specific needs
- Wide range of functionality
- Creates clear efficiency gains by streamlining processes
- Delivers greater visibility, enabling better decision making
- Excellent support from Thomson Reuters