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Case Study

For solo attorney Cheryl Bergian, life is easier with Firm Central

Cheryl Bergian spent years manually backing up her email and important documents to an external hard drive, and realized that she was wasting time and energy—and money—performing unnecessary administrative tasks and trying to keep up with her workload using a cumbersome, ad-hoc system.

The challenge: Finding a more efficient way to manage client communications and documents.

“I have a bankruptcy practice, which is paper-intensive by its very nature,” Bergian says. “My goal was to be able to manage email and various documents I receive from clients via email. I'm not trying to achieve a paperless office, but I did want a more efficient way to manage the information coming in and going out.”

Bergian is no stranger to technology; she prefers to troubleshoot tech issues on her own, as understanding how and why technology works helps her to use it more efficiently. She likes to stay current on the software she already uses, including a specialized bankruptcy e-filing program. She attended a local Firm Central® seminar because she knew she would eventually be migrating to a cloud-based system; it was just a question of when. After seeing Firm Central's practice-management capabilities for herself, she was impressed and decided to take the plunge.

“I'm naturally curious about the capabilities of new software,” Bergian explains. “I can train any of my staff on any software we use. I'm not generally an early adopter, but the attorney I shared my practice with had retired, so I had to make a decision.” Firm Central was what she needed to step into her new future, she decided - a future where the demands of the practice were going to fall on her shoulders alone.

Firm Central. Easy to get started, easy to use.

To help small law firms and solo practitioners like Bergian, Firm Central connects and integrates documents, communication, time and billing, calendar, legal research, and other administrative functions for greater efficiency and ease of use. It's a securely hosted, mobile-enabled, cloud-based system, which means practitioners can access documents from anywhere, anytime. The matter-management functions can be customized to fit each individual or firm's workflow processes, and all of the program's other functions have been designed with an attorney's workday in mind.

Bergian's legal assistant, Nicole Moronez, uses Firm Central to manage the practice's day-to-day interactions with clients and conduct legal research. “It's a very handy application, and it's very easy to use” she says. “I'd give it a 9, maybe even a 10.” Firm Central's integration with Westlaw® is one of her favorite features, she says, because it allows her to start a legal research query from the Firm Central homepage without having to enter a password, and she can easily save research to the appropriate client or matter file right from Westlaw. The ability to create and use custom forms also saves her time, she says. “All our forms, letters, and documents - anything having to do with a client - are in the system,” says Moronez, “and it's all very easy to keep track of.” Having tasks and calendar features on the homepage is another convenience she appreciates.

Expert customer support

Despite the obvious benefits, there are still those in the legal profession who are reluctant to try any type of practice-management software because they either don't want to learn anything new, or they are intimidated by the technology. Bergian's experience couldn't have been more different. She found Firm Central surprisingly easy to use right out of the gate, she says: “It's very intuitive, the help topics are clear, and it's easy to understand.”

One of the reasons the transition to Firm Central was so easy, she explains, is that the Thomson Reuters technical support team made the onboarding process as painless as possible. “The tech support people were very good about getting it installed correctly,” she says. “It went about as smoothly as one could possibly expect.”

Once the program was implemented, TR's techsupport team made sure she understood the log-in protocols and what sort of information needed to be uploaded and labeled in order to automate the process in the future. Ongoing support has been superb as well, she says: “When I do have a question, tech support is extremely responsive. They clearly understand the issues, and can tell me what the program can and can't do.”

Responsive to customer needs

Indeed, one of the most important benefits of all Thomson Reuters software products is an engaged and active user base. Thomson Reuters products are constantly being improved and upgraded, and user feedback is essential to that process. Since Bergian started using Firm Central in March of 2016, for instance, Firm Central has added numerous features and functions requested by its user community. Enhancements are prioritized by the number of requests from the user base, so maintaining open lines of communication with the user community is crucial.

Firm Central also has a variety of instructional videos available for users who want to better understand how to use the program. Instructional Webinars are scheduled regularly as well, and Bergian is a big fan. “I appreciate the Webinars, and I participate in or watch them when it's convenient for me,” she says. Bergian also makes it a point to read the product-enhancement emails sent to all users, and subscribes to Firm Central's quarterly newsletter, which keeps users informed about coming upgrades and other issues.

The result – smooth sailing

Although tech support is extremely responsive when she needs it, Bergian says she rarely needs to call for technical support because the program “runs so smoothly.” It's also transformed the way she manages her business and her time. Before she began using Firm Central to help manage her practice, for instance, she had to manually back up email and documents and other correspondence, and keep track of her time and billing separately. Now, backup happens automatically, and her favorite feature - complete integration of the matter-management and time & billing functions - saves her hours of time and hassle each month.

Having seen what Firm Central has done for her practice, Bergian's advice for attorneys wondering whether such a cloud-based file-management system is “worth it” couldn't be more straightforward. “Yes, it is,” she says. “My practice is small, so it's critical that I operate as efficiently as I can, and Firm Central helps me do that.”

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