1 August 2011 – Legal Practice Intelligence Article
Attwood Marshall Lawyers operates from three locations in southern Queensland and northern NSW, with its largest office at Coolangatta. Four years ago the firm began implementing its new IT strategy.
Now four years into its IT journey, Attwood Marshall has reduced the time spent on administrative tasks in the firm by approximately 10,000 hours per year. In addition, its ongoing adoption of technology has enabled significant productivity gains for the firm’s lawyers and paralegals.
Attwood Marshall is a broad general practice covering areas such as wills and estates, conveyancing, family law, personal injuries and commercial law.
One of the first goals of its new IT plan was to significantly increase efficiency in creating documents. The firm began an ongoing process of converting thousands of its most commonly used documents into its own library of automated precedents.
To create the precedents, Attwood Marshall used HotDocs document assembly software.
HotDocs is one of the most widely used document assembly systems in North America. In a survey of law firms taken three years ago by the American Bar Association, approximately half of those firms using document assembly software used HotDocs(1).
In Australia, the software company Softdocs uses HotDocs for its precedent suite which it currently supplies to more than 350 clients nationally(2). One of those clients is Attwood Marshall who benefits from Softdoc’s automated and updated court forms.
HotDocs-based precedent suites are also offered in Australia with PCLaw practice management software.
Approximately 2½ years ago Attwood Marshall entered the second major stage in its software plan – the selection and implementation of a new practice management system.
Kerry LeStrange, Practice Manager of Attwood Marshall, told Legal Practice Intelligence that for a practice management system to be considered for selection it had to be able to integrate with the firm’s document assembly system. It also had to facilitate a paperless office – another major goal of the firm. Attwood Marshall selected LawMaster software as its practice management system.
The importance of LawMaster to the firm is revealed in a description of its IT systems published on its own website:
“All incoming electronic documents are captured and allocated to the appropriate file. The LawMaster system is a relational database and has an excellent filing system for electronic documents. We can easily find any document within seconds by searching either its content or its description. Every person has access to the central database and all documents contained within it. Lawyers can access the system remotely from anywhere in the world and at any time. All incoming physical mail is scanned into the system and stored electronically. Wherever possible, our lawyers and staff communicate electronically and we generally avoid compiling paper copies of files where this is possible.
“The net effect of these systems is that corporate clients achieve a huge savings in relation to their soft disbursements including cost of photocopying, postage, facsimile fees and storage costs. Communications are more often than not instantaneous from the time they are received and this promotes the time actioning of client matters.
“Should you require hard copies of any correspondence we are happy to oblige but, wherever possible, we encourage our clients to utilise the electronic systems.”(3)
Attwood Marshall has built remote-access into its IT infrastructure by establishing a terminal services environment. Recently it has benefited from LawMaster’s iBench mobile application. iBench is compatible with almost all mobile devices including the iPad. It provides access to matter information, documents and contacts. iBench derives its name from LawMaster’s matter management module which is called Lawyer’s Workbench.
Embarking on a new technology journey is never an easy task. It usually starts with a productivity drag while people learn the new ways of doing things. Many firms never get over this hurdle and end up with failed implementation projects.
In 2010, Attwood Marshall Lawyers ranked in BRW’s list of the 50 Best Places to Work. With cost savings, productivity improvements and a BRW award, the signs are clear. In the implementation of new IT systems, Attwood Marshall is winning.
Links and Notes:
(1) American Bar Association survey link
Attwood Marshall www.attwoodmarshall.com.au