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Case study

Sullivan and Graber

Creating and Maintaining a Competitive Edge with ProLaw

For litigation firm Sullivan and Graber, ProLaw®, the comprehensive business management solution from Thomson Reuters, plays a critical role in its operations. With two offices in New York and New Jersey and five attorneys on its staff, ProLaw helps the firm compete for work against much bigger players, which was a key reason for its initial selection and for upgrading to a newer version in 2019. Sullivan and Graber counts several Fortune 500 companies among its clients, representing them on cases often worth tens of millions of dollars. Much of its work is in the field of insurance fraud.

The firm has long viewed that being tech forward is a matter of survival in a highly competitive business environment. When it first heard about ProLaw, it thought the solution was a great way to digitally organize its office and streamline case and file management. It has not disappointed. “ProLaw is an amazing system when used to its full potential,” says Lee Befeler, the partner who is responsible for the firm’s IT.

Powerful search for faster turnaround

One of the key attractions of ProLaw is its powerful search functionality. This enables the firm to cross reference every file in its system so attorneys can easily bring up each document linked to a particular name, address, or type of claim at the touch of a button. This means that when clients call with a specific query, attorneys can locate all the up-to-date or historic information they need and access specific files right away. They can even pull out exhibits and evidence — such as signed affidavits — straight from the system and email them out without delay.

It also means that Befeler and his colleagues can rapidly and accurately act on more challenging tasks, such as identifying specific fraud indicators across different cases, with no trouble at all. Befeler explains that such search capabilities are extremely valuable in helping identify commonalities across files — something that would otherwise have to be done manually, taking far longer and with greater risk of error.

“I can open up the common elements of every file in our entire office in the space of one phone call,” he says. “If I can do something for a client in minutes rather than hours — thanks to ProLaw — then the client benefits.” In one example, the firm was able to identify that 16 individuals had claimed to have had more than 160 “accidents” between them in one year, helping a client detect fraudulent claims.

Sullivan and Graber makes good use of the document creation system within ProLaw, which accelerates the process by formatting templates and populating them with all the necessary basic details; all the attorneys have to do is fill in the specific information. The firm’s calendar is also in ProLaw, enabling the team to see all cases and tasks assigned by date and it provides alerts to ensure nothing gets missed. With court appearances happening most days — sometimes several per day — this is vital.

Overall, Befeler describes ProLaw as a very intuitive solution that is straightforward for attorneys to use and does not require much training once the basics have been learned.

Professionalism at attorneys’ fingertips

The organizational capabilities of ProLaw are a major plus and Sullivan and Graber has customized the program specifically to suit its requirements in terms of how files are categorized and stored. Befeler explains that the firm allocates everything into specific sections (what it calls “event classes”) so that each attorney or admin knows where documents should go and where they can be found.

“I can just go into ProLaw on my laptop while I’m doing a deposition and bring up each document as I need it,” says Befeler. “There’s no need to flip through a huge paper file full of hundreds of pages in front of me.” For a firm where attorneys routinely take depositions and appear at hearings three or four times a week, that paperless environment makes a significant difference when it comes to helping them prepare in advance, as well as looking more professional in front of a judge or jury.

Befeler is clear: this responsiveness impresses clients, potential clients, and judges. It even impresses insurers that provide the firm’s own liability insurance because it gives them confidence that the risk of human error and technical problems is minimized. “People love it when I show them how it works. It’s a selling point to clients that we’re well organized and we have what we think is the latest and greatest solution that a lot of other firms don’t have,” he says.

ProLaw is so embedded in the firm’s operations that now, when clients provide information to the firm, it’s organized to align with the setup of ProLaw. This means files can be slotted seamlessly into the system, making it quick and easy to get a new assignment up and running, saving the firm significant amounts of time, which in turn saves clients money.

Reliability and recoverability

Befeler highlights the importance of being able to create “privileges” in ProLaw, so that only certain members of staff — usually paralegals and support staff — can change settings or alter customizations of how files are stored or what templates contain, ensuring consistency. He points out, “There’s no miscellaneous tab in ProLaw as there is in most programs, and I think that’s a brilliant thing because it means you have to figure out where something should go. Everything is in a category we’ve created in ProLaw, so you know you can rely on it absolutely to find what you need.”

Data security is also a key consideration. Having everything backed up in ProLaw has proved priceless for the firm in the past. Befeler cites an occasion some years back when an electrical problem caused the firms’ entire IT system to crash, taking out its onsite server. Thanks to a rapid response from Thomson Reuters in conjunction with its IT consultants, Sullivan and Graber was able to get a brand-new server back up and running and restore all its documents within just five days. It only lost around an hour’s worth of work that had not yet been backed up when the crash happened.

“It could have been catastrophic,” Befeler says. “Thomson Reuters worked with our IT people to reload everything into the system very quickly. They also help us if we ever need support, for example, with customizations. Overall, I’m very impressed with the customer service and support they provide — it’s at an extremely high technical level. The advisers understand the product and the issues and for most companies these days that’s not the case. When you depend on a system for your livelihood, Thomson Reuters is there to back it up and help you get the best out of it. That’s so important.” 

Benefits over time

The benefits of ProLaw have served Sullivan and Graber well over the years. “Our business would probably not exist if it wasn’t for ProLaw, because it has allowed us to win work we wouldn’t otherwise have gotten from major Fortune 500 insurance companies. They used to want big names with lots of manpower, but now they are looking for more bang for their buck,” says Befeler. “We’ve shown that we can handle major briefs competing against much larger firms and ProLaw is a big reason for that.”

Having ProLaw has also ensured that the business continued seamlessly throughout major life events of its staff, such as having children. Befeler explains that the firm’s attorneys do not have to worry that things will slip between the cracks when people are not around, because they have ProLaw to keep everything together in one place. This is even more important since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“It makes it so much easier to do your job in and out of the office,” is how Befeler sums it up. All in all, he says: “I’m a huge fan of ProLaw.”

Sullivan and Graber

Established in 1984, Sullivan and Graber provides expert advice across insurance law, criminal law, business law, immigration law, and personal injury law, specializing in litigation and dispute resolution.

Business challenges

The firm wanted to digitize its systems and have access to a database that would enable it to operate more efficiently and effectively so it could compete with much larger firms for big-ticket work. Those goals remain the same today.

Why ProLaw?

ProLaw offered everything the firm needed for practical everyday use and met the firm’s complex, sophisticated requirements, enabling Sullivan and Graber to customize the solution to its needs and preferences, professionalize its practice, and work smarter with less manpower.

Benefits

  • All documents are backed up in one place, creating a secure, paperless system
  • Excellent file organization with powerful search functionality
  • Increases efficiency and accuracy, impressing clients and saving them money
  • Fully customizable, with high-level technical expertise on hand from Thomson Reuters
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