Arthur Chapman Kettering Smetak & Pikala enriched front office with ProLaw
Arthur Chapman Kettering Smetak & Pikala, P.A. has specialized in insurance defense litigation since 1974. Today it has approximately 50 lawyers in two offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Hudson, Wisconsin handling both large and small disputes, including personal injury, workers’ compensation injury, insurance fraud, and product liability claims.
The firm’s approach to technology is pragmatic: solutions need to enable lawyers to deliver leading-edge legal expertise but also be easy to use. It has been using ProLaw®, the comprehensive business management solution from Thomson Reuters, for all of the firm’s front-office requirements.
An important feature for the firm is portability. The nature of Arthur Chapman’s business means that lawyers are often in court, so it was important for them to be able to take digital documents with them using the “check-out” feature without jeopardizing internal version control. Another key benefit of ProLaw is its centralized docketing capability that allows anyone in the firm to access diaries and calendars and assign tasks appropriately to specific individuals without having to check permissions first.
The firm also plans to take this to the next level by rolling out an online portal from which documents can be accessed and edited both in the office and remotely — and they also plan to implement mobile accessibility to help users access ProLaw in the field more easily from any device.
Customization is key
Kellie Klein, paralegal and ProLaw administrator at Arthur Chapman, is responsible for overseeing the firm’s use and optimization of the solution. For her, the ability to customize ProLaw is key.
For example, Klein customizes user-defined “tabs” for different practice areas to carefully control the input and tracking of data or case/matter information and to filter searches. For instance, the tabs required to organize information relating to auto accidents will be very different than those for workplace injury compensation claims, making this a highly valuable feature.
Not only does tab customization make it more efficient for lawyers to organize and access information on current and historical matters, it also enables the marketing department and individual business teams to respond faster and more accurately to prospective new clients on the scope and cost of work. They can search for the information they need to price work centrally, rather than requiring data to be gathered individually from different lawyers.
Being able to customize rule sets across document templates or dockets is another major plus to ensure uniformity and standardization and to avoid the potential for errors. For instance, the docketing system and its associated sets of rules are configured on the basis of critical deadlines across different jurisdictions. Alerts can be customized too, in terms of when and how they are sent to lawyers — critical in the firm’s specific line of business where missed deadlines can result in malpractice lawsuits.
Arthur Chapman is now developing different sets of rules for different clients so that users know exactly which form or template to use to meet a client’s unique requirements, whether it’s to fit in with their preferences or to comply with court rules. This gives lawyers comfort that everything is set up to meet clients’ needs and also enables documents to be created or dockets to be completed by other users if need be.
“Customization was definitely a determining factor in the choice of ProLaw,” says Klein. “Once you know how to do it, it’s easy, and it makes users get more on board with the product. The scope for customization in ProLaw is endless. There are so many opportunities to make it fit your specific needs,” Klein adds. However, customization is centralized within Arthur Chapman, so that individuals cannot make their own changes to the system — vital to maintain that all-important consistency and oversight.
According to Klein, when it came to implementing ProLaw initially, “Once we could demonstrate the robust nature of ProLaw and what it could do for our firm, it made a ton of lightbulbs go off in people’s heads.”
The firm’s lawyers, paralegals, and legal administrative assistants have become more comfortable with ProLaw and aware of its various benefits. The organizational culture has been transformed, becoming far more interconnected in its ways of working.
Klein explains, “ProLaw has helped to create a very collaborative platform across the firm. Before we were very team-based, but now ProLaw allows for anyone to step in and assist on or have access to any kind of case. There’s a lot more firm-wide interaction.”
Processes have become more streamlined and everything has become aligned with the Arthur Chapman brand. Being able to customize ProLaw to the firm’s needs has helped users understand exactly how tools can help them. Users have embraced the solution and they can see that the tools are there to help them become more efficient by automating certain elements — so they can focus on the job of practicing law.
Klein adds that ProLaw is now integral to the firm. “We’ve brought it so much into our culture as our main case management system as well as a docketing warehouse. We would be at a real disadvantage without it.”