Baker Donelson optimises firm-wide remote working and client service with use of BigHand’s legal specific workflow technology

AM Law 200 firm Baker Donelson has taken proactive measures to ease the transition to remote working and ensure optimal client service throughout the global crisis, by accelerating its deployment of the legal workflow solution, BigHand Now.

The firm previously prepared for and equipped its lawyers and staff to work from home, having stress-tested its networks and systems and, with a great effort by its IT staff, got its teams up and running quickly after its offices had locked down.

Baker Donelson had begun the rollout of BigHand Now in March to better enable its lawyers and staff to handle back-office task delegation. Although just a few weeks into the rollout when the crisis hit, it was evident that the technology would aid the challenges caused by the disruption to their traditional working practices, and the decision was made to fast-track the software rollout to lawyers and support staff across North America. Ricoh Consulting Services has played a key part in handling the project management and change management to help the firm realise its vision from the outset.

The solution allows lawyers to send tasks to a central workflow, where they are automatically routed to the right support resource and can be tracked through to completion while adhering to client confidentiality requirements in a secure platform. These tasks include the administrative work that lawyers need actioning on behalf of clients, that they would normally pass to their support teams in the office, such as billing support, calendar management, and document creation.

Access to the centralised view of all tasks via desktop or mobile, means lawyers can check the status of work at any time to allow them to better communicate with their clients, while support staff can easily seek assistance when specific teams might be overwhelmed or affected by absences. Office administrators will have a clear view of the work in the queue and current resource capacity, and can easily move work between teams to maximise service and utilisation.

By deploying the workflow solution, the firm has ensured that its staff are equipped for effective team working and best-in-class virtual collaboration. The visibility of the quantities and types of tasks being sent by lawyers to support staff, will allow for proactive management of team capacity and reallocation of work based on client demand. The ability to see the quantity of work in the system will be critical in a time where demand trends will vary.

Randy Staggers, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer at Baker Donelson comments, “Our top priority is to ensure our firm’s continued operation and uninterrupted service to our clients throughout the crisis. Smooth provision of support for our staff to effectively work from home is paramount, and BigHand has undoubtedly helped us to better enable our staff, and clients.”

“The workflow solution will provide our lawyers with the transparency they need over outstanding work, while giving our support staff a holistic view of all tasks, and the ability to complete work in an agile way, despite remote working. With the technology in place, our teams will be able to work together effectively to best serve our clients at this difficult time.”

And it’s not only Baker Donelson benefiting from BigHand solutions:

Michelle Crowhurst, Director at Berwins Solicitors shares her firm’s reliance on workflow visibility while transitioning to remote working:

“When the lockdown restrictions came into force we felt well placed as a firm to be able to cope with all our staff suddenly working remotely. The business continuity plans we had honed over the years and tested were suddenly called into play. Although we had never actually planned for a pandemic, we had planned for a worst-case scenario of not being able to access our office.”

“Clients and contacts have told us that there has been no interruption in our service and the transition has been seamless which is good to hear. A key enabler for us was BigHand Now, which we use to sends tasks to our support teams, and for transparency over their workloads.”

“It has given us the ability to prioritise tasks, and for support staff to easily assist each other, as workloads vary across the teams. There is no lost time in discussing who does what and given that some of our staff are working their hours around childcare responsibilities it also doesn’t matter what time of day they are working. Everyone was already used to the technology but having it in these circumstances has given us the edge.”

Tara Layman, Head of PA and Administrative Services at global law firm Pinsent Masons:

“Looking back to 2008/09, many firms decided to significantly decrease the number of support staff. This led to ratios of 1:7 – 1:10 in many cases, and saw a drop in the level of support provided to more junior members of the team – support staff tended to focus their efforts on partners and senior team members.”

“Juniors were then left without the support they needed to make them truly effective and they are often the ones who now have little delegation skills and spend hours battling with Word styles, booking their travel, or pulling together pre-bills.”

“If we let our support staff go now, the senior team members are faced with undertaking more of this work themselves whilst still trying to maintain billing targets – will this mean a higher rate of write offs? Law firms are under continuous client pressure to deliver services effectively and, primarily, cost efficiently.”

“Since the COVID-19 outbreak, our firms are adapting to home working, utilising new technology and implementing refined working practices to enable us to use home-based secretarial resource. By way of example, documentation is still being produced, billing for year end is currently well underway, anti-money laundering support continues, diary management for online meetings is paramount, digital filing and DMS streamlining to facilitate accurate search results, setting up and managing digital data rooms, coordinating information for CRM purposes – all of which we would consider to be adding value to our business.”

“All members of the team should be working together to ensure everyone is adding value regardless of location.”