Based in the heart of Liverpool, Goldsmith Williams Solicitors specialises in personal injury, property, equity release, financial claims and wills and probate. Goldsmith Williams has been operating in the city for 27 years and works alongside all of the leading building societies, banks and centralised lenders, as well as acting for a wide network of mortgage advisors, packagers and networks.
In 2002, having outgrown its existing premises, Goldsmith Williams moved into the Grade II listed Mersey Chambers building, which was formerly the prestigious headquarters of Harrison Line Shipping Group. Although the move created much-needed space, many of the firm’s 250 employees quickly started to accumulate ever-expanding piles of paperwork beside their desks.
The processes of post allocation, filing and maintaining also made retrieving client files extremely laborious and prevented solicitors from prioritising case work. Delays in receiving the appropriate documentation could also significantly lengthen the time taken to resolve a case.
Taking control of documentation
Goldsmith Williams’ Head of Compliance Maria Rodman identified that there must be a more efficient way for the solicitors to sort, distribute and manage documentation. “The existing process was extremely time-consuming and it was easy for important paper files and records to get misplaced,” she says.
On average, the firm receives between 7,000 and 8,000 incoming documents per day, including property contracts, legal charges, invoices, court documents, office copy entries, building insurance certificates, medical records and statutory declarations.
“As the post came in, each document was manually opened and sorted before being passed on to the appropriate manager, who would then attach it to the correct case file and distribute it to the relevant fee earner,” adds Rodman. “The whole process was extremely labour intensive and took up valuable time across the business.”
With the number of cases and associated correspondence increasing, Goldsmith Williams began investigating a document capture system to reduce the number of non-productive hours that were being spent each day on administration tasks.
In 2007, Capital Capture implemented a flexible, business-focused solution that was based on Goldsmith Williams’ exact business requirements and existing infrastructure. “Rather than simply proposing an off-the-shelf software system, Capital Capture spent time talking to staff and developed a process that suited our individual business needs,” says Rodman.
Digitising the mailroom
The digital mailroom solution resulted in an immediate improvement to the incoming mail distribution and management process. Whereas previously, documents were sorted into various pigeon holes and then physically transported around the five storey building, the new solution enabled approximately 8,000 pages of incoming paper-based correspondence to be scanned and categorised on a daily basis.
“Previously, it could be as late as one o’clock before a document was received by the relevant person,” says Rodman. “Now, 90 per cent of all incoming paperwork is automatically attached to the relevant case file electronically and approximately 70 per cent of all incoming work is with the correct fee earner by 9.30 am. Mail is on the system as early as 7.15 am.”
With the distribution of documents and general communication across the firm made easier, since the implementation of the solution in 2007, Goldsmith Williams’ fee earners have been able to handle higher numbers of individual cases and reduce some case handling times. As a result, the firm has succeeded in managing additional growth through increasing the capacity of existing staff.
The digital mailroom has succeeded in delivering efficiencies across many areas of the firm. Administration times have been reduced by 33% overall and 98 hours of non-billable fee earner’s time is saved per week. Time saved through document process efficiencies has also enabled administration staff to take on more routine aspects of case management to further assist fee earners.
“At one point, we were considering taking on additional office space – despite having already moved to bigger premises,” says Rodman. “The digital mailroom has reduced the need for huge filing cabinets and, as we no longer send archive material off-site, we don’t have to pay document retrieval costs or wait to retrieve files.”
Goldsmith Williams’ digital mailroom operates in tandem with the firm’s bespoke ‘GWLive’ secure software solution, which enables users to view their cases and progress or update documents in real-time, 24 hours a day. As the mail is scanned on to the system, it immediately appears on GWLive and can also be safely and securely accessed by clients and authorised third parties.
“The digital mailroom has brought much greater transparency to the system,” says Rodman. “Specifically, it has made our compliance with the OFR obligations of our regulator, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, easier to demonstrate. For instance, we can now access and show audit trails electronically. The new system has also enabled supervisors and managers to instantly monitor the quality of the file conduct and re-allocate work immediately in the event of absence which helps with the efficiency of our management of the business.”
In all, the most significant advantages of the new Capital Capture solution include better business continuity, a more transparent audit trail, easier document traceability and greater file accessibility.
Essential documents are distributed and with the relevant person far quicker than before, and the dependence on paper-based documents has greatly diminished.
Implementing the digital mailroom has also enabled the firm to bring in flexible working arrangements and enabled fee earners to operate from home using remote access, an important and lasting capability for the business. “It’s now possible for people to see at home exactly what they would see in the office, and there are no posted documents waiting for their return,” says Rodman.
“Files no longer need to leave the building and therefore aren’t at risk of being lost. Feedback has also been particularly positive about the remote working capability, which has important advantages for current and future employee satisfaction, productivity and retention.”