Exclusive: Uría Menéndez selects Elite over SAP after 18-month evaluation process

santiago-gomez-sancho-uriaLeading Iberian firm and SAP accounting client Uría Menéndez has selected Thomson Reuters Elite 3E and associated time and billing solutions after an extensive 18-month evaluation process that put SAP, 3E and Microsoft Dynamics AX through their paces. 
The Madrid headquartered firm, which has 600 lawyers across 17 offices worldwide, in December signed up with Elite to implement 3E alongside integration platform Workspace and eBillingHub – but Uria will retain its SAP general ledger.
For the past 25 years, Uria has used a bespoke practice management system and director of information systems, Santiago Gómez Sancha told Legal IT Insider: “Our current time and billing system works perfectly. The great advantage is that the database is so well designed we can get any information we like and Elite has a challenge as it has to be better. But the investment to refurbish it and make it more modern was huge and in two or three years time, we would almost certainly have compatibility issues and problems with it.”
Gómez Sancha and his team first looked to SAP, commenting: “SAP was a very direct choice because we have SAP accounting and thought we would look at time and billing in SAP – it was a no brainer.
“Then we also looked at Elite and Microsoft Dynamics AX. One of the main reasons we chose Elite was because it is 85% correct from out of the box and with Elite’s yearly updates, we will benefit from the input and common knowledge of hundreds of law firms. Those things in SAP we would have to design ourselves.”
With Elite and SAP emerging as the two finalists, Gómez Sancha added: “The advantage of SAP would be that it would require no integration with our accounting system and with Elite we will have to write interfaces. But our internal team is confident that we will successfully design very smart interfaces between time and billing and SAP.”
One of the big factors in Elite’s favour was the number of references from law firms that Uria knows, many of which it talked to directly.
Other factors included the perception that Elite’s software will be better received within Uria’s wider network, which includes a significant share in Latin American law firm Philippi, Prietocarrizosa & Uria. Gómez Sancha says: “We are shareholders in a merged Colombian, Chilean and Peruvian firm and thought Elite would be easier as a common ground in the future. Our partner firms will find Elite’s software easy and be familiar with the way lawyers input time, see what work has been done and whether lawyers are on target – the kind of modern things that help lawyers do their job.”
He adds: “We like very much the mobile part of 3E and the way lawyers can access time and billing from smartphones and tablets. We have a big focus on mobility.”
However, Uria has no plans to swap out its core accounting system for 3E and Gómez Sancha says: “We would not put in Elite throughout because our SAP accounting system works so well and adapts so well to regulatory changes and tax rulings; it changes on a yearly basis and we are very happy with it. In the same way as we selected Elite’s practice management system because it benefits from all the adaptations put forward by law firms, SAP’s accounting system does exactly the same thing and we benefit from all the new features that their accounting clients suggest.”
Particularly given Uria’s size and prestige – it is Slaughter and May’s Iberian best friend – as well as the intensity of the cross-firm evaluation process, the win will be claimed by the bespoke legal PMS camp as significant.
It is certainly a boost for Elite, and vice president of global sales, Bill Burch said: “That Uría Menéndez has chosen a range of Elite products to manage many aspects of its practice is incredibly gratifying. All our solutions are designed to meet the firm’s current needs and provide advanced technology and broad functionality, ensuring that it has the best-in-class capabilities to promote growth and future-proof itself for the changing legal landscape.”
That will be felt all the more keenly by Elite after K&L Gates in May 2016 announced an SAP swapout.
However, fans of enterprise resource planning for law firms will be quick to point out that Fulcrum Global Technologies, with its SAP Fulcrum GT Pro Series for Legal solution, provides a time and billing ‘wrapper’ for law firms that would have answered many of Uria’s needs. The question over Fulcrum, which must now deliver on its recent Norton Rose Fulbright win, having been credited with saving Baker & McKenzie’s SAP rollout, is one of scalability.
In the meantime, Elite is quite right to claim that Uria’s choice “is directly attributable to the understanding and commitment of the Elite team to the legal industry and in-depth knowledge of the industry’s requirements.”