Fieldfisher this month announced a record H1 revenue performance of £76.8 million, representing growth of 20%, having rolled out LexisNexis ERP solution LexisOne across its UK, Amsterdam and Silicon Valley offices in June. We caught up with managing partner Michael Chissick to talk about the rollout, the bumps and why he thinks LexisOne is better than SAP.
The new system, which initially saw the firm experience significant delays in billing, replaced Thomson Reuters Elite Enterprise practice management system; an Aderant PMS in Birmingham (where Fieldfisher merged with Hill Hofstetter in 2016); Chrome River for expense management; and its Cascade HR and payroll System among other systems. It integrates with Lexis Interaction, Fieldfisher’s CRM system.
LexisOne, which will be rolled out across Fieldfisher’s European network in 2018, is underpinned by the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform and Fieldfisher has said that cost savings from using it are estimated to be £1.76m over five years. So far, the three offices above have gone live on core time and billing and are in the process of rolling out Power BI. Fee earners can’t yet bill or add time from their mobile but that is next on the roadmap.
The ERP was deployed in 15 months on schedule and to budget and according to Chissick (pictured), Fieldfisher billed more last month than ever before and captured more time. However, the first stage of the roll out received negative press in the mainstream legal media amid complaints from lawyers that they were unable to bill thanks to teething problems with the new system.
Speaking to the Orange Rag, Chissick says: “I’ve lived and breathed this project for three years and I was a technology lawyer before I became managing partner. People don’t realise how complex these ERP projects are. They think it’s like taking an iPhone out of a box and it leaps into life. It’s not like that and it’s not without its challenges. I can’t believe anyone could implement an ERP across multiple offices and 800 users without its challenges.
“We had a bumpy start but it takes a while to get the business change right, the tech change right and data across from the old systems.”
He adds: “Yes, inevitably we had hiccups in getting bills out – people were getting used to new system having worked for 25 years on Elite. That’s a huge change. But I’m confident it was just a timing issue – we’ll be fully caught up by the end of the year.”
One of the issues was that “some of the time recording at the beginning was a bit clunky” but Lexis ran a series of workshops with Fieldfisher and have released a new version of the time recording software. Chissick says: “We had some challenges at the beginning but we had 70 people-plus in Leeds working hard to support us. They were bloody good because they need us to be successful. They invested a huge amount of money and we’ve invested a huge amount of time because it’s a ground-breaking project that the legal industry needs.”
Fieldfisher has still around a year to go to fully roll out LexisOne and Chissick says: “It was always the contractual plan that we would have a long period of optimisation. We never intended to be at this point a finished product. The firm couldn’t have coped with every functionality on day one because it’s such a complicated product – there was always going to be a period of change and optimisation.”
He adds: “We’ve not yet got the mobile phone functionality. That will enable us to record time, sign off expenses and do everything you do at your desk including get WIP reports from your phone: it’s a key reason we chose LexisOne.
Of Power BI Chissick says: “Now we are just getting our heads round some of Power BI stuff it can do, which is mind-blowing.”
Lawyers notoriously struggle with finance and Chissick adds: “Anything that presents data in pie charts and visual forms could revolutionise the way lawyers work.”
In terms of the LexisOne user experience, Chissick says: “The Windows 10 type feel is so much better than 3E and Aderant. We obviously use Office 365 Business and we’ve consolidated round Microsoft. The look and feel, the interface of LexisOne is quite wow.”
Fieldfisher selected LexisOne after also evaluating Elite 3E, having received encouragement and support on a fairly grand scale from Microsoft and its senior executives. Chissick says: “If we can get a product that can produce user-friendly data for lawyers it’s ground-breaking. It was an opportunity to not just upgrade to 3E but do something truly transformational for the firm.”
Chissick says he didn’t consider SAP – the system used by Linklaters, Baker McKenzie and more recently Norton Rose Fulbright (the latter two in conjunction with Fulcrum Global Technologies), commenting: “I wouldn’t touch SAP. It’s not the right package for a law firm. It’s great if you’re manufacturing cars but it’s not a law firm package and it’s incredibly costly.”
Chissick’s testimonial will be music to LexisNexis’ ears, given that Browne Jacobson, which selected LexisOne in 2014, is understood to be yet to go live. That is in spite of the fact that, half way through Fieldfisher’s implementation process, Dynamics brought out a new version with a different licensing model, which Fieldfisher opted to move to.
Others already live on LexisOne include Channel Islands firm Collas Crill and My Home Move.
Fieldfisher formally announced that it had selected LexisOne in May 2015 and Chissick says: “You get fatigued: we were at it for three years and we had to decide whether to go live – it’s a big call for any managing partner. If it’s a disaster or you can’t bill, you’re dead. Most managing partners don’t want to take a risk but I was a technology partner for 25 years and I knew that there would be issues but that we would get through them. And we have resolved those issues.”