Levenfeld Pearlstein Takes Legal Budgeting and Forecasting to a Whole New LevelLevenfeld Pearlstein delivers exceptional client experiences with ProLaw & Advanced Financial Services
Mid-sized Chicago-based law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC is committed to delivering exceptional client experience. A major element of this is focusing on innovative technological solutions — such as ProLaw® and Advanced Financial Solutions from Thomson Reuters. The firm uses these tools to deliver the firm’s strategy and increase efficiency as it advises clients across diverse practice areas, including real estate, corporate, trusts and estates, labor and employment, intellectual property, financial services and restructuring, community association, tax planning, and litigation.
Since 2000 the firm has been using ProLaw, the law practice management solution, to deliver streamlined internal processes and business intelligence. In 2020, it added Advanced Financial Solutions from Thomson Reuters — a budgeting, forecasting, and reporting solution — into the mix, something the firm’s Director of Accounting Shannon DeRubertis and Controller Nicole Peralta say has been transformational in many ways.
Levenfeld Pearlstein uses ProLaw extensively, from new matter intake, contact creation, and event management, to billing, accounts payable, payment processing, and reporting. Over the years, the firm has layered lots of different functionality on top of ProLaw. For example, it created its own dashboards to display important information to users and developed reporting and timekeeping capabilities.
With ProLaw so embedded into its operations and working so effectively for so long, when the firm came to explore options for improving its budgeting, forecasting, and reporting systems, it chose a solution that could not only solve its “pain points,” but could integrate seamlessly with ProLaw. That decision has unquestionably paid off.
Law firm budgeting with ease
Prior to deploying Advanced Financial Solutions, all the data and formulas for Levenfeld Pearlstein’s budgeting process was encompassed within a very large Microsoft® Excel® workbook that would often crash, requiring regular input from the IT team to resolve. Moreover, it was not possible for multiple users to access the file at once. This created a logistical headache for the finance team at budgeting time, as it was necessary to orchestrate everyone having the opportunity to input their information without disrupting and delaying the process.
“Advanced Financial Solutions took our budgeting process to a whole new level,” says DeRubertis. “From giving multiple users access to budget amounts and actual information in real time, it also enabled our finance team to push through budget assumptions with just a few clicks. That was a big game changer for us.”
Peralta agrees. “There was a lot of copying and pasting in Excel. Now, core data can be pulled in from our HR payroll system — such as rates and hours — to help with budgeting as well as forecasting. The ability just to have that all linked in one place is great.”
“When new account information is added in ProLaw, it feeds into Advanced Financial Solutions, whereas before, I had to manually enter all of the information into the Excel workbook. When entering, I had to be mindful of the transposition of numbers, spelling, etc. Having the account information feed into Advanced Financial Solutions is very helpful. I just check it for accuracy.”
Having Advanced Financial Solutions connected seamlessly with ProLaw also means that when the finance team is preparing the new-year budget before the end of the financial year, with incomplete information for that 12-month period, the relevant historical data is automatically pulled in. As a result, the team does not have to search for it and they can add it themselves. This also removes the need to perform any manual data cleansing.
Rolling the benefits forward
As the firm approaches its second year of using Advanced Financial Solutions for its budget, the finance team is looking forward to being able to roll over high-level assumptions around revenues and expenditures from year one. DeRubertis notes how important it is to be able to set, review, and change budget assumptions easily and in a way that changes the settings across the entire system, if required. This should make managing all the variables much easier than it was before.
For example, it is easier to set realization levels or make increases to rates without having to input any formulas. The team can be confident that the assumptions will be correct, because the automated system requires fewer manual steps, increasing reliability as well as efficiency.
Peralta estimates that, “For me, Advanced Financial Solutions has saved more than 75% of the time I was previously spending on manually entering data for the budget.” This frees up time to focus on other value-adding activities, such as creating new worksheets or better reports. In time, the firm plans to roll out data inputting to practice leaders, which should make the process even more streamlined.
The firm’s forecasting capabilities also have been transformed, explains DeRubertis. “When we receive questions from leadership around issues such as what would be the financial impact of increasing this bucket of expenses by this amount, for instance, we can easily do some ‘what-ifs,’” she says. “We can change the assumptions and provide a quick response to those leaders based on data we can trust, so they can move forward in their thinking and decision making.”
The value of detailed data
DeRubertis and Peralta also appreciate the level of detail that Advanced Financial Solutions gives them. For example, a variety of methods are available for how data should be allocated, so that when doing expenses, there are a range of options for how those expenses should appear in the system (for example, quarterly, annually, or in a customized format).
The level of detail provided in the data is also important when it comes to visibility over the GL and accounts payable. Peralta says that having the transaction data come through from ProLaw — pinpointing exactly where the data point originally came from — is very helpful in enabling her to drill into an account and perform an analysis of the numbers.
The ability to add “row notes” so that colleagues can comment and communicate with each other more easily about the data in financial documents, such as budgets and forecasts, is another favorite feature. So, too, is the ability to pull data into a separate document for manipulation if required.
When it came to implementing the new solution, the firm was expecting to have to devote some time to training. They scheduled time for the key individuals in the budgeting and accounting team to do so; disruption to the team’s day-today processes was minimal.
“We had a support team from Thomson Reuters to guide us through the process and any time we asked for a deeper dive into an area, they were there to help us, from start to finish,” says DeRubertis. It’s a relationship that remains ongoing, as the firm is currently working with the Thomson Reuters team to develop its deployment as it moves into its second year of using the solution.
Future plans include developing more financial reporting capabilities using Advanced Financial Solutions, for example, to create monthly financial reports for the firm. All in all, “We’re happy that we made the change,” says DeRubertis. “We’d definitely be at a disadvantage without it.”
Levenfield Pearlstein LLC
Levenfeld Pearlstein provides legal and business counsel to sophisticated clients across a broad range of corporate, tax, real estate, estate planning, and litigation matters. They work with clients to understand the full impact of the law on their businesses and proactively address their legal issues. While the firm manages the most complex matters efficiently and cost effectively, it truly differentiates itself through its commitment to “The LP Way” — the firm’s model for creating an unparalleled client experience at an exceptional value. Levenfeld Pearlstein has two offices in Illinois — with 95 attorneys and 20 paralegals as of this writing — and is growing.
The firm’s previous budgeting and forecasting processes were complex, time consuming, and unwieldy. Extensive manual data inputting was required. Moreover, it was not possible for multiple users to access the budget document at the same time, creating logistical challenges at budget time.
Why Advanced Financial Solutions?
The ability for Advanced Financial Solutions to link with ProLaw so that data could be pulled seamlessly across and to automate manual processes were powerful considerations. Plus, it enables simultaneous, multi-user access and has advanced functionality, such as settings for budgeting assumptions.
- Creates simplicity for budgeting and forecasting
- Delivers access to real-time information and historical data
- Makes changing or re-deploying financial assumptions easy
- Saves significant amounts of time
- Improves data accuracy