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Next Legal team - Reaping the rewards of matter management

Next trades from more than 500 stores in the UK and Eire and around 200 stores in 40 countries overseas. Online, Next Directory serves customers in around 70 countries outside the UK.  The in-house legal team at Next looks after the interest of all of the companies within the Next group.
Prior to going live with Linetime’s Liberate software, the legal team was too reliant on printing and filing documents.  The support team of secretaries and PA’s were being overwhelmed with admin and a change was needed.  It was felt that a more efficient and streamlined system would be beneficial not only to the team but also to the company. With an increase in workload and a real need to improve response times, an improvement in efficiency was not only desirable but necessary.
A project management team was put together by the Next legal team to specifically look into this and to find a new solution. The project management team lead by Anil Raja, Next’s Assistant General Counsel, wasn’t necessarily looking for a matter management database solution, it was just looking for something that significantly improved efficiency without creating frightening new working practices because too much of a change in working practices would create its own inefficiencies and barriers to change. 

The project management team set out a number of key benefits they wished to achieve through the use of technology without any regard to what was actually out there in the market place. They knew this was the right approach because the needs of a business and its legal team should dictate the technology rather than technology dictating how a business should operate.

Why Liberate
The decision to use Linetime’s Liberate was in fairness an easy one because when compared with the other products available, Liberate was the most intuitive, flexible and straight forward system for the Next in-house legal team which could be implemented without an expensive and time consuming scoping or customisation process. Although Liberate has many features which are ideal for private practice firms, the attraction to using Liberate was that it can be tailored to provide to a more simple solution ideal for in-house legal teams.

The project management team had considered and seen a number of other competing products before looking at Liberate and was discouraged by the complexity and rigidity of those other products.
Liberate works seamlessly with Outlook and this was a key factor in choosing it. The fact that users are able to log onto their computers the day after go-live and be met by a familiar user interface (i.e. Outlook) has far greater advantages than you can imagine. Users are far more likely to take to a new system that doesn’t look unfamiliar.

The Need for Greater Efficiency
Lawyers are trained to keep their files up to date with a record of all instructions received and advice given. This inevitably means that lawyers’ files are filled with printed emails and numerous other documents. For lawyers who have been printing emails and having them physically filed over many years it may be difficult to think of another way of keeping files up to date.  However, the amount of time wasted in these tasks is alarming: physically creating a paper file; printing emails and documents; walking over to the printer; collecting the printing; obtaining the paper file; punching and filing printed documents; returning the paper file to the cabinet and of course looking for the occasional misfiled physical file. These are hugely inefficient tasks no matter who does them.
Saving time. With the new system in place, now, instead of the lengthy process of updating paper files with printed documents, fee earners simply drag and drop the email into the relevant file. Those emails (and attachments) are then instantly available to all other members of the legal team with access rights.

Costs savings. In addition to the wasted time, if you think about the costs of printing (toner costs, printer maintenance, paper, files) it is an easy decision to abandon this old way of working in favour of a modern paperless system – provided that you have a reliable alternative.

Improved team collaboration. The immediate time saving and the long term cost saving benefits of Liberate were the key benefits for the Next legal team. In addition to these benefits, under the new system, multiple fee earners can view a case at the same time and if a fee earner is on holiday then there is no need to look for a physical file as everything is online.

Company Specific IT issues. The Next IT team wanted to ensure that email attachments were stripped out of the emails for the ease of storage onto a file server separate from the Outlook server. This has also been achieved by a bespoke change which means that email attachments are stripped out of the email and stored in a separate location but still visible next to the email in which it was sent or received. 

Remote Access. The Next legal team has also retained the ability to work off site. Members of the legal team can still work remotely as Liberate is compatible with remote access working.

Version Control. The document version control function is an integral tool for any legal team, this feature is particularly beneficial when two or more fee earners are working on the same file. This is a really useful feature of Liberate which shows the user which is the latest version of the document.

Commonly Used Data. Another useful feature of Liberate is the ability to store commonly referenced data which, once set up, allows commonly used data fields to be stored in one location and used in various documents by multiple users.  Examples include party names and contact details commonly used in correspondence and contract documents.

Linetime Support. We have received support and guidance throughout the whole process of implementing the new system.  Linetime’s flexibility and on-hand training and support have been outstanding.  Linetime spent time with members of the project management team helping it to put together a cost benefit analysis and helping to understand and document the efficiencies that the new system will provide.

The Linetime team continue to support the Next legal team post go-live with individuals from both organisations having developed great working relationships throughout the implementation and training stages. The Linetime support team are always on hand to assist Next and have helped to ensure that the new system has been successfully implemented resulting in the Next legal team benefiting from the efficiencies that were the driving force behind the change.

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HCB Solicitors has contracted with Linetime to implement the market-leading DebtimeSQL system to support the firm’s growing Debt Recoveries team.
With 260 staff operating from 25 branches, HCB offers a wide range of services for businesses and individuals and the move coincides with a significant upturn in debt recovery work. Debbie Beet, Head of Debt Recoveries for the HCB Network, said: “We have an experienced Debt Recovery team with a proven track record, providing an excellent service to PLCs, SMEs, sole traders and Insolvency Practitioners.  Having used Linetime software in the past, I believe that it is second to none in terms of streamlining the recovery process to meet and exceed clients’ expectations.  Linetime was an obvious choice to support our expanding team and use of the latest technology enables us to operate more efficiently and maximise recoveries for our clients.”

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Using technology to improve service delivery, work load management and improve client satisfaction

Plot sales at Scottish firm Gillespie Macandrew is all about delivering volume activity and having status information immediately available for both national and small scale developers. A team of four full-time paralegals led by a young qualified solicitor manage this high-pressure work stream, processing over 1,100 sales per year – and making up 6% of the firm's £10m turnover.

"Like a lot of firms, between 2008 and 2013 we had to batten down the hatches," explains Chris West, chief executive officer at Gillespie Macandrew, "but we've emerged into today's extremely competitive ABS world reinvigorated and restructured, and more than ready to embrace technology to support the growth of our business." Plot sales is high-volume, lower-margin work area that is often fixed price but, says West, it also enjoys a relatively short debt cycle so it helps powerfully with the firm's cash flow. "We need to support rapid and effective delivery of this work – to say it's critical to maintain competitive position is not an understatement."

The firm's existing practice and case management solutions were unsuitable for the plot sales unit, so there was little technology in place to drive more efficiency in this process-heavy work stream. A number of team changes led to increased client pressure on service and made the existing way of working untenable. Consistency, plus the ability to work as a team rather than a group of individuals, was needed – urgently.

"We needed to mitigate the impact of team changes and show clients our commitment to their goals," says West. "Plot sales is a busy area – if people are away, backlogs can be quickly created. That means pressure on our people and the client relationship." So, the firm needed to find technology that would improve service delivery and increase efficiency to improve client satisfaction, workload management, completion timescales and financial forecasting.

"We were looking for a solution that would give us the ability to make workflow and document changes within the team, with no special IT skills, just reasonable aptitude that the team innately has to create and produce the system they need, not one designed by IT." 

The design tools inside Linetime Liberate are easy to use, and it's simple to create forms and workflows within the software with no technical knowledge – one of the key reasons Gillespie Macandrew chose Linetime to work with. "Changes can be accommodated by the team quickly and easily, with no delay and we can be confident the changes have actually happened – because we're in charge of them."

However, to get a software implementation delivered quickly you need proper commitment from both sides of the table – provider and firm. This meant allocating people to the project and finding a partner with the same serious commitment. "We created a process model for all plot sales, and worked with Linetime to tailor the system specifically to the plot sales team's needs. In the development phase for the Scottish legal process, the Linetime people must have been learning some of this as they went, but it didn't show."

This committed and proactive approach reduced the implementation time from five to just three months. "Linetime made this happen. Their training and development teams in particular have been excellent. They know the system, work well on site, and manage communications between technical and non-technical people expertly. The rapid installation was outstanding and is a real tribute to Linetime’s commitment and approach and to the engagement of our team members."

Gillespie Macandrew were also sensible in the adoption of their new approach, says West. "For the first phase, we looked at what we needed and we achieved everything. Now we can look at some 'good to have' extra functionality, which is above and beyond the initial requirement." The firm's decision team also made the choice to allow existing plot sales to run their course, only using Liberate for new plot sales.

How the firm uses Liberate is entirely structured to manage cases on a team rather than an individual basis. Any team member quickly knows the status directly from information immediately available on the work done to date, not from secondary reporting. And having great visibility into how work is going provides vital management information.

"Ad hoc client requests can now be fulfilled rapidly and accurately, with no extra work. We have the ability to plan, balance and allocate work. Understanding team pressure levels and under/over-capacity areas helps us use resources more efficiently and fairly and that's very valuable.

"We now have a very clear workflow. The system is used day in, day out and under pressure, and we haven't used Linetime support since go-live. We can do it alone and we're in control. The end-user interface is well designed and intuitive, making it well suited to people with all levels of experience of a case management system. The application looks fresh, modern and is easy to navigate. Even two new users not involved in the development are as happy as the original team. It's certainly contributed significantly to improved team morale. We're almost shocked at how well things have gone."

Given that Microsoft Outlook is the firm's key communication application, links to and easy integration between Outlook and Liberate were very important, but as West explains, Liberate does this without ever having to leave legal's staple email client. "Allowing operations to be carried out within Outlook without the need to move to and from the main application makes for a very positive user experience." 

The system's prompts and alerts drill into a wide range of sources, ranging from personal diaries and notebooks to review documents and even notes from memory. "It's all in one place – we can add target dates and set reminders, or colour code screens to help make sure we're on top of the workload. It has helped the team a great deal in coping with the volume and client needs."

Cutting down on paper has also been an important part of the new process. "Electronic history within the application allows users to have a full document record without the need to print, which was a major objective of this project. So far we are very pleased with the outcome. Granted, we need some paper documentation for compliance reasons, but we've had a rapid and significant reduction in the use of paper, leading to multiple benefits, from reduced paper storage and usage to improved findability."

The firm hasn't yet done formal return-on-investment analysis after moving to Liberate, but West says that's because this was a business essential – you can't always work out ROI on a basic need.
"We had to get a system that we could use without IT support extremely quickly to sustain our client relationships. We could foresee a potential for major issues within the team – we'd lost some important knowledge in the staff changes and two key clients had year ends approaching. In terms of those drivers, we have most definitely achieved ROI."

The combination of better knowledge management and workload management has improved responsiveness to clients. "We've changed from being reactive to proactive, and we are now controlling the processes. The team leader was frustrated with the situation but is now very comfortable with what has been and is being achieved. The lack of a good case management approach meant it was harder to attract and train staff, which put the service under more pressure. Implementing Linetime with this team has changed this materially.  The residential conveyancing and private client guys are going to look at how Linetime might also work for them."

Next up, West is keen to better understand in more detail the contribution plot sales bring to the firm. "Not just in overall team margins and rough contribution to overheads, but to understand which customers are more profitable and how team members contribute. Liberate will help us deliver work more efficiently and allocate work more fairly, enabling our people to work more productively."

West says the firm is likely to consider Linetime's solution beyond the plot sales people. "We'll be looking to change our PMS in a couple of years. We like the Linetime product roadmap, the lifecycle and of course the approach to implementation. Linetime's development plans are important, and their commitment to this is likely to help grow the application's use within Gillespie Macandrew." 

The reason for this is capability plus a good dose of ease of use for everyone using the system, says West. "It's been easy with Liberate to start from a blank position and develop a system of forms and workflows that meet and exceed requirements, without any technical knowledge and in a short timescale. There is too often a big difference between what you are sold by technology people and what developers implement, but in this case we got what we were sold and it works for us."

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Next plc in-house legal team select Liberate matter management from Linetime

The in-house legal department at Next were keen to make better use of technology to improve the way they deliver their legal services to support their internal clients. Like many in-house legal functions, they were used to working with traditional paper files and storing emails and other electronic information on personal and shared drives.  

Prior to looking at suitable systems Next set down a number of key benefits they wished to achieve through the use of technology. In brief the benefits they set out to achieve included:

• Greater efficiencies in terms of transfer of administrative tasks from lawyers to support staff
• Reduced cost of paper and files and a desire to go paperless
• Better team collaboration 
• Improved business continuity (files to be saved centrally rather than on personal outlook folders)
• The ability to undertake more accurate searches on matters
• Quicker response times
• A more consistent service delivery and quality control (better version control, standardised precedents)

Having defined the requirements, they undertook a review of the market and considered systems ranging from a purpose built project through to a ready built and legal sector proven system. Following discussions with a number of suppliers Next elected to take a more detailed look in to Linetime’s matter management system. This was undertaken by members of the legal team having detailed discussions with Linetime followed by an onsite demonstration at Next’s head office and a workshop at Linetime’s offices.

“The reasons we chose Linetime were very clear. As a specialist software provider, we expect Linetime to provide a solution that will pretty much work out of the box. The system has many features which make it ideal for improving collaboration between members of an in-house legal department including: automated email filing; organising work in matters visible to all or selected team members; secure work areas for confidential matters; optional time recording for litigation; electronic bundle creation; and accurate search facilities. It works seamlessly through Outlook and is designed specifically for lawyers. We also like and trust the Linetime team - which is absolutely critical for a long term business solution such as this.” Anil Raja, Asst. General Counsel, Next.

About the Next legal team

The in-house lawyers at Next cover a wide area of work including real estate, commercial law, contentious and non-contentious intellectual property law, consumer law, employment law, data protection and privacy, technology law, regulatory and compliance. They also manage external lawyers in many different jurisdictions.   

About Linetime 

Linetime provides case, matter, document and financial management software to the legal sector. Their Liberate legal service platforms flexibility makes it suited to in house legal, top 250 law firms and high street practices. For more information visit  or email

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South west law firm Stephens Scown have selected Liberate from Linetime. 

Dean Mostert, Director of ICT "We have past experience of working with Linetime and have always been impressed with the software’s flexibility and depth of functionality. Another important consideration in our selection process was to ensure we received first class support going forwards as selecting a system goes way beyond the initial system purchase. Our experience of the Linetime help desk has always been first class. When we undertook a review of systems the Liberate software came out as the clear winner."

Stephens Scown is a leading law firm based in the South West with offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell. The Liberate system will be used by the finance team to support their debt recovery and collection business.

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Turner Parkinson select Linetime as their partner of choice
Turner Parkinson LLP believe when it comes to servicing their own clients that relationships are key. Furthermore for their clients to get the quality of service they deserve selecting the right adviser is crucial.

When it came to selecting a new system for their growing recoveries team these same beliefs were used to identify “the right adviser”.

The firm’s review of available systems highlighted Linetime’s Liberate as a clear winner. The systems functionality delivered in all areas, not only in terms of functionality but also in terms of its pedigree in the market place.

The firm’s ambitious expansion plans of its TP recoveries division necessitated a review of internal processes to ensure clients continued to receive the same high standards of service as higher caseloads were handled. The systems SDT interface with the courts was one key element in achieving improved efficiencies without compromising the quality of client service.

Head of Litigation – Ian Fitzpatrick “We selected Linetime as the Liberate software provides specialist support for our fee earners, which is not available from our current provider. The investment will deliver greater efficiencies for the team and also provide clients with an enhanced service via a web portal providing 24 hour access to their live cases. The systems efficient case processing will provide a platform on which to service our ambitious growth plans”.

A bit about the firm
Established in Manchester in 1995, Turner Parkinson is a business law firm with market leading strength in offering commercial advice to businesses and business owners.

“To us everything and everyone matters”.

Our business is built upon strength in:
•    Corporate transactions
•    Commercial Dispute Resolution
•    Debt Recovery
•    Employment
•    Insolvency and Restructuring
•    Commercial Real Estate

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Freeths Commercial Recoveries team invest in Liberate from Linetime 

Freeths LLP has contracted with Linetime to implement their Liberate litigation software. The system will support the firms growing Commercial Recoveries team.

Freeths LLP have 700 staff operating from 11 cities, offering a wide range of services for businesses and individuals.

Graeme Danby, Head of Creditor Services at Freeths, said: “We already had a system in place handling the core of our day to day caseloads. As part of our plans to grow the business unit, we undertook a review of our supporting technology.  After researching the leading providers we selected Linetime’s Liberate system. It will assist in the provision of a streamlined, efficient and consistent service for our clients.”

The team will benefit from greater systems support and clients will have online access via the Liberate web portal to real time case information.

Freeths Recoveries team acts for Invoice Finance Providers, Insolvency Practitioners, Local Authorities and Finance Companies.

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Gillespie Macandrew Invest in Linetime

Leading Independent Scottish Law firm Gillespie Macandrew has decided to invest in the Liberate case management system from Linetime. The product will initially be used within the Housebuilder department to help manage residential plot sales. The main attraction lay in the specialist portfolio case structure but the firm was also impressed by the quality of the Outlook integration and the user friendly rapid development tools.

Chris West, Gillespie Macandrew LLP Chief Executive Officer, states, “In a highly competitive and often fast-moving market we were looking for a system which would help us continue to deliver and improve our high quality legal service including the ability to meet our key clients’ information needs particularly as our work in this area grows.”

Phil Snee, Development Director at Linetime, commented, “The plot sales element of the Liberate system is proving very popular with a number of high calibre law firms and we are delighted to welcome Gillespie Macandrew into the fold. Linetime prides itself on the continuous development of both products and customer relationships and this endorsement serves to reinforce that policy.”

Gillespie Macandrew is committed to providing expert legal, commercial, property and tax advice to individuals, businesses, charities and landowners.

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Award winning Kent solicitors reaping the benefits of electronic file management

Boys & Maughan Solicitors has contracted with Linetime to roll out Liberate Case Management to all its 90 staff. A long term user of Linetime for conveyancing matters, the firm has expanded its use of the system to cover all its private client and commercial work.

Based in East Kent, Boys & Maughan has five main offices and is a regular recipient of accolades for its services.  Last autumn, for example, the firm was highly commended for its client focused approach to conveyancing at the prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards. 

Peter Rodd, Senior Partner at Boys & Maughan said: “Having offices at multiple locations brings a challenge of maintaining fully centralised records. Using the latest version of Liberate enables us to develop an electronic history of activity on every case. Correspondence is stored, along with copies of all inbound and outbound emails, helping us streamline the delivery of a consistent service to clients no matter which branch they visit or who deals with an enquiry.

“We are also looking forward to the opportunity for residential conveyancing clients to be able to track their house move online at any time of the day. Estate agents will also be able to check progress towards exchange and completion. This will improve our service and it could mean fewer interruptions, enabling fee earners to become more productive,” adds Peter.

“We see particular benefit in using the system to carry out procedural work where it will ensure tasks are carried out in accordance with the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme standards. The system will additionally benefit areas of the business where work is less process driven and be useful for audit and compliance purposes.” 

Peter Rodd is the immediate past chair of the Law Society Property Section and a member of its Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) technical panel. 

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Coltman Warner Cranston implement Linetime’s Liberate practice management
Coltman Warner Cranston LLP, a Coventry based firm and Top Tier Legal 500 firm have contracted with Linetime for their Liberate practice management system. The firm was formed as an offshoot of US giant Reed Smith. As part of the contract the firm will be implementing the Linetime system throughout the practice.  One of the key criteria in selecting the Linetime system was its advanced billing options as this is a key requirement in servicing the firm’s blue chip clients.
Coltman’s Darren Davoile stated “I have worked with Linetime for many years and have found their software provided the flexibility we require to improve our business process. When we reviewed practice management systems the Linetime Liberate system was the clear winner”.
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