This is an article from the July 2006 issue of DM Review's Extended Edition. Click on this link for more information on DMR Extended Edition or to download this entire issue in a PDF format.
Phillips Lytle LLP is a full-service law firm with seven offices across New York State in Buffalo, Albany, Chautauqua, Garden City, New York City and Rochester. Founded in 1834 as a one-person office, Phillips Lytle has benefited from the contributions of countless legal minds that have passed through the doors of the firm. Before he became the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland was a partner in the firm.
Today, Phillips Lytle has more than 425 attorneys, managers and staff organized around five practice groups comprised of more than 45 practice areas and four industry teams. Together, the firm manages a wide range of legal work, from Fortune 500 "bet the company" litigation to family-run business matters and family wealth planning issues.
Phillips Lytle recognizes that the retention of talented lawyers involves three steps: giving them the tools and opportunities they need to grow professionally; promoting balance between their work and personal lives and effectively evaluating and rewarding exemplary performance. Partner compensation is a critical component in our formula for success.
Phillips Lytle's management team, a long-time user of disparate information and time-keeping systems, annually entrenches my finance and administration department in the labor-intensive task of determining partner compensation. Because data has been manually gathered for years from multiple systems to support the process, the introduction of errors has been inherent within the activity as well as the resulting rework. To further complicate this activity, my finance department implements the firm's new budget and files tax returns at the same time of the year.
Given the high level of priority assigned to all of these tasks, I initiated the search for a business performance management (BPM) applications provider with a record of successfully delivering best practices-based solutions that automate key law firm activities.
To address my business challenge, the ideal BPM application needed to:
- Centralize data from our time and billing system into a data warehouse,
- Simplify user access to one source and one application,
- Leverage our existing Microsoft Excel skills,
- Automate the process of driving partner compensation calculations and distributions using variables,
- Operate within the context of our unique business logic, and
- Provide us with an affordable technology migration path.
More importantly, I wanted to build upon our initial investment and automate other BPM tasks, particularly the future deployment of Satori's dashboard-based application, proCube OneGlance, for use by attorneys throughout the firm.
Based on convincing proof-of-concept demonstration with our data and solid client references in the legal industry, I engaged the Satori Group to deliver a business intelligence (BI) migration plan and present a proposal for the multiphased implementation of proCube for Partner Compensation and, soon afterwards, proCube OneGlance.
Satori developed a centralized data warehouse and integrated proCube for Partner Compensation within a period of six weeks. Although substantial gains in productivity were expected via proCube, the level of automation and ease of use exceeded my projections.
For example, the partner compensation task, typically an error-prone, labor-intensive process requiring my team to work 100 hours in a continuous effort, has now been reduced to a six-to-eight-hour task. This level of automation provided by proCube has given my organization 92 critical man-hours at an extremely hectic time in the accounting and budgeting cycle. These bonus hours now allow me to divert individuals to core duties to better support the firm and, most importantly, our clients.
A value-added outcome from implementing proCube for Partner Compensation is that it also serves as the vehicle for basic profitability analysis on a partner-by-partner basis. Based on the positive results to date, I would encourage any firm seeking a BPM application to select a company with products specifically geared to the unique needs of the legal industry. Vendors lacking legal experience are hard pressed to understand the intricacies of the legal business engine.
The benefits resulting from the use of proCube go well beyond general productivity, speed and ease of use. proCube's multidimensional capabilities are providing the management team at Phillips Lytle with various views of how each partner annually contributes to the firm. Rather than arriving at conclusions based on restricted views of static data, we can now review an up-to-the-minute, comprehensive picture of a partner's, and even the firm's, collective performance on an ad hoc basis. I believe this level of immediate business insight is what business performance management is all about.
Phillips Lytle has a history of making the necessary investments in technology to better support our attorneys and their clients, and proCube for Partner Compensation has already allowed us to gain new efficiencies and unexpected immediate returns. Although I am clearly saving man-hours historically devoted to the partner compensation activity, the real value to Phillips Lytle lies in the currency of the information, its positive impact on partner compensation, and our newly realized ability to focus the necessary resources to execute critical budgeting and tax filing tasks during what we would define as our busiest time of the year. It is difficult to put a value on something that has revitalized the way we work.
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