Client document safety is a top priority for any legal firm. In an era of escalating terrorist threat, Mersey based Solicitors Maxwell Hodge turned to Invu document management to provide a robust backup solution for the 11,000 original Will documents stored in its vaults. The firm has since extended its use of document management to include all client identification and is exploiting Invu’s ease of use and rapid but secure search functionality to provide instant access to information.
In addition to delivering the audited document backup required to ensure compliance with the Law Society Standard of Excellence (Lexcel), the speed of search and rapid document retrieval is enabling Maxwell Hodge to provide a better service to clients.
Maxwell Hodge is an independent firm of solicitors that was established on Merseyside over 150 years ago. Offering a full range of legal services for the lifetime of the family, at home and at work, as well as a strong commercial team, the firm has a network of eight offices across Merseyside.
Over the past decade, the legal profession has seen a number of challenges, from increased competition to pressure on prices and rising regulatory demands for client information security. This has led many legal firms to push hard to exploit technology to drive down costs, safeguard information and improve the quality and timeliness of service to clients. For Maxwell Hodge, a key component of this change has been the adoption of document management technology from Invu.
Maxwell Hodge first considered the use of document management almost a decade ago to address concerns regarding the staff storage of client Wills. As Carol Head, Business Services Director, Maxwell Hodge explains, the firm’s enormous bank of original Will documents is stored in vaults at its Liverpool City office. “At this time there were heightened terrorist fears in England and the Directors at Maxwell Hodge were concerned that, should there be any type of terrorist attack in Liverpool, these Wills could go up in smoke.”
In common with all law firms, Maxwell Hodge is required to comply with the Law Society Standard of Excellence (Lexcel). While original copies of Will documents must be retained for legal purposes, Lexcel requires backup procedures are in place to ensure client records are safe – even in the event of fire, flood or terrorist event. The firm decided a backup system was required and opted to use the Invu solution to scan all the Wills into a centralised system. “By scanning thousands of signed Wills into Invu, Maxwell Hodge ensured that the documents could be recreated at any time if and when required,” she confirms.
Scanning over 11,000 Wills into Invu took time – especially considering some of them are over 100 years old and are on parchment paper. “Each Will had to be scanned individually; and it is not permissible to remove any binding holding the document together because it is a legal document – the scanning process had to be done very carefully,” Carol Head explains.
One of the benefits of the Invu solution was its ease of use. She says, “Maxwell Hodge considered three or four solutions before opting for Invu, and some were far too complicated to use. The Invu solution delivered the ease of use, flexibility, reliability and a good support system that is essential. Invu’s ability to interrogate the recorded data and the search functionality are excellent.”
This initial, tactical, adoption of Invu’s document management solution was, in fact, just the beginning of a transformation in the way Maxwell Hodge manages client documentation. As Carol Head explains, “To comply with a number of regulatory changes, including Anti-Money Laundering, clients must provide a number of identification documents, including utility bills, driver’s license and passport. Maxwell Hodge now uses Invu to scan all this client identification, to ensure information is held securely but can be easily accessed.”
All client documentation is now held centrally, ensuring staff can rapidly access information irrespective of location. For example, this means that if a client comes into one of the Maxwell Hodge offices, rather than waiting for a Will to be retrieved from the vault, a copy of the Will can be instantly retrieved on screen and printed out for the client if required.
“The whole process can be done instantly at the local office, until the original signed will is sourced and delivered from our head office,” she says. “Indeed, if the client just wants to check a Will, this can be done immediately, with no need to retrieve the original from the vault, which is a real time and cost saving.”
One of the benefits of the Invu search technology is the ease with which Maxwell Hodge solicitors can locate the relevant document. Many of the Wills in the vault have not necessarily been produced by Maxwell Hodge, but stored for safe keeping. Sometimes the client might forget what is included in the Will – so the ability to search the database for keywords is key. Carol Head says, “It is useful to be able to search on multiple terms rather than just the client’s name. If someone bequeathed an amount to a dog, for example, it is easy to search on the dog’s name and find the Will very quickly.”
Indeed, she insists, Maxwell Hodge would not have been able to offer this service without instant access to the scanned document image via Invu. “It would not have been possible to search through all the records,” Carol Head says.
The rapid search has also enabled Maxwell Hodge to discover important logistical information. For example, if one of the firm’s Directors has acted as a signatory on a number of Wills it is a simple process to find all those related documents with that Director’s name attached to it, in case a change is required.
Maxwell Hodge now has over 51,000 documents stored within Invu and has recently upgraded to the latest version as part of its on-going IT evolution. As Carol Head concludes, “Ensuring client records are safe is a number one priority for any law firm. Without Invu we could not demonstrate that our records are backed up – or comply with Lexcel. Not only is Invu a fundamental component of Maxwell Hodge’s disaster recovery strategy but instant access to information allows us to provide a better service to our clients, which is of paramount importance to us.”