by Associate Editor Caroline Hill

Never one to follow the crowd, top 50 UK law firm Weightmans is undertaking an extensive overhaul of its IT systems and underlying business processes to coincide with the roll out of Thomson Reuters Elite’s Enterprise Business Management Solution this time next year.  The 526-lawyer firm, which announced in March that it had signed up both for best-in-class finance and practice management system Elite 3E and matter management package MatterSphere, is at the same time undertaking extensive business process reengineering on the basis of the managerial concept Lean Six Sigma.

Managing partner John Schorah said “Under Lean Six Sigma, anything you do can constantly be improved using data. We have over 100 change champions and part of their role is asking how we can get better. It’s not just about doing things cheaper but looking at what the client wants; how can we surprise and delight the client not just tick the boxes. We are looking at everything from how long it takes to do a task to how we can improve and do it better.”

The roll out of 3E is scheduled to take place this time next year followed by MatterSphere shortly thereafter, although that timeframe is typically ambitious, according to information systems and operations director Stuart Whittle. Any changes to the firm’s underlying business processes, such as its billing and file opening mechanisms, will be rolled out around the same time. Whittle said “The client doesn’t care how we open a file, they care that we’re getting on with the work. It’s about cutting the amount of time it takes from when we receive the instruction to the case handler being able to start working and getting there with the least amount of effort, while complying with all the necessary regulations.”

Tech doesn’t give you anything on its own

Schorah added: “Tech doesn’t give you anything on its own. The important thing is how you use it and how you use it to improve your systems and processes.”

Weightmans saw its revenue rise by 6% to £87m during 2013/14, with profit per equity partner up by 5% to £309,000. The fast-growing firm boosted its numbers with the hire in September of three local partners in its Glasgow office and earlier this year took in a family law team in Birmingham from collapsed firm Challinors.
Earlier hires include a 14-strong team in Manchester from the now-defunct Semple Fraser, while in 2011 Weightmans took on 200 extra staff with the acquisition of Vizards Wyeth’s London insurance practice and North West firm Mace & Jones.

The firm previously piloted LexisNexis Axxia dna but in 2012 decided the fully-hosted practice management platform could not be scaled up to meet its expanded needs. Having initially explored the LexisOne next generation, Microsoft-centric case management and enterprise resource planning solutions, in March 2013 Whittle began a tender process to replace the firm’s case management and practice management systems, which Elite won on the basis that it best met the firm’s long term needs.