Law firms are faced with a plethora of challenges when it comes to billing practices. A lack of transparency with clients leads to skepticism around the amounts they have been charged, often resulting in demands for fee discounts and write-offs – both of which are on the rise. Meanwhile, fee-earners are continually pressured to ensure that targets are met and revenue maximized.
This exclusive industry webinar looks at the challenges firms and fee-earners face in implementing effective billing practices, how to overcome those challenges, and we speak with a firm who has faced these challenges head on to achieve success.
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Mallory Hendry [00:00:00] Hello everyone and thanks for joining us today. I'm Mallory Hendry, Senior Content Specialist with Canadian Lawyer Magazine, and I'm pleased to introduce today's webinar Better Billing Practices for Law Firms. Today we'll hear from Anand Ablack, VP of North American Legal Markets at Advanced who has over 20 years experience in the Legal Technology space. Astrid Bowser, Senior Product Manager for Advanced Time Capture Product, Carpe Diem, and Neil Oberman, Lawyer and Shareholder at Spiegel Sohmer in Montreal. Over the next hour, these industry experts will take a deep dive into the challenges firms and fee earners face in implementing effective billing practices and how they can best overcome them. At the end of the presentation, the panel will participate in a q&a period, so be sure to type any questions or comments you may have into the q&a box within the webinar software. I'll turn things over to our panelists now to begin the presentation. Take it away on it.
Anand Ablack [00:00:54] Thank you Mallory, and thanks to our partners that Canadian Lawyer for putting on this event. And most importantly, thanks to you for taking the time out of your busy busy schedules this morning to join us. So as mentioned, I'm Anand Ablack, I'm the Vice President of North American Legal Markets for Advanced, and today we'll be discussing the topic of better billing practices for law firms. We'll be talking about the biggest challenges and opportunities law firms face in this critical area of the business of law. We'll discuss best practices that we hear from our customers both globally and locally. And we'll be diving into the key role that technology can play to deliver both top line and bottom line business benefits for law firms with respect to time capture. So maybe it's just a useful to take a step back and say a quick word on why advanced is putting on the session and what perspective we bring to the table around best billing practices. So for context advanced is one of the UK is largest providers of cloud based business software and services. We have annual revenue of over 400 million US and serve over 4000 law firms globally. So for North America advanced entered the market through the acquisition of the former owners of Carpe Diem back in 2020. So while the name may be new to some on this call, we've got a long track record and a large footprint in the legal sector. So for time capture, the advanced flagship product is Carpe Diem cloud Carpe Diem cloud is a culmination of four years of investment and redevelopment by advanced Carpe Diem cloud is a SaaS based cloud based time recording solution. It's used by over 25,000 to timekeepers and law firms, legal departments and professional services firms globally and combined. Just to give you a sense of it, we see nearly 900,000 Time postings daily in carpe diem. In terms of global customer footprint. Our clients include Slaughter and May, tax and advisory giant CMS Seyfarth Shaw, Finnegan, Motley Rice. And South America clients include global 100 firms like Mattos Filho, Pinheiro Neto Advogados and here in Canada, our customer base includes firms like Lenczner Slaght, Lax O'Sullivan, Thornton Grout Finnigan, Henein Hutchison, Loopstra Nixon, Lang Gwas, Spiegel Sohmer, and many, many others. All of this to say that advanced brings a broad perspective to this discussion from our clients, across jurisdictions, across practice areas, across firms of different sizes, and for both litigation and transactional areas of practice. Our intention with today's session is to share with you the key insights that we found discussing issues with these customers, and provide information that will help your individual firms billing practices, and moreover provide you food for thought as you as you tackle this issue. So in terms of how we'll cover the session today, I'll turn it over in a second to Astrid Bowser, our global head of Carpe Diem Product Development, she'll kick off the session with a brief summary of some of these key business trends, challenges and best practices that we hear from our clients globally. We'll then switch to a discussion with Neil Oberman from Spiegel Sohmer in Montreal to discuss how his firm has approached best billing practices and how he views technology as a key enabler. And lastly, because we've got a lot of you on the webinar today, please do enter your questions. We will save five to 10 minutes at the end of the session and we'll hope to get to as many of those as possible. So once again, thanks again for joining us this morning. And I'll turn it over to Astrid Bowser.
Astrid Bowser [00:04:41] Thank you for the introduction Anand and Mallory and good morning, good afternoon and in some cases I hear good evening to you all today.
Astrid Bowser [00:04:58] As the Senior Product Manager for best of breed, time capture and validation solution Carpe Diem, an intensive amount of time has been spent working with and listening to our global customer base, while understanding the evolving micro and macro economic factors impacting law firms, and the challenges faced around billing. I'm pleased to be able to share with you today our findings to help you as a law firm consider those best of billing practices. And so let's set the scene and think about those challenges first. So while the there are myriad of challenges impacting law firms around billing, they broadly fall into three core areas. The first, once a client is engaged with your law firm. As with any customer for any business, the importance of client satisfaction cannot be underestimated. Dissatisfied clients can trigger queries for all parts of invoices issued adding delays to the billing cycle to agree disputes or accommodate changes to invoices, not to mention the erosion of a relationship and breakdown in trust as a result, and the impact to any future engagement. Continuously dissatisfied customers may choose to engage with another law firm, which will impact future fee earning opportunities with that client. Perhaps you will have stories of particularly challenging cases or clients who just naturally scrutinize the detail of all build activity, whereby both law firms and our clients are navigating through the same challenging economic times, where revenues profits and performances are critical. This can be understandable, but we still need to achieve transparency and better billing. As partners and decision makers in the firm is of utmost importance to understand the organization's profitability, cash flow management and revenue predictability to shape growth strategies if the invoice is produced, and not entirely actualized. In reality, this presents a challenge to understand these key metrics on the health of a firm. And finally, imagine being a fee earner, knowing you've been working for a few clients throughout the week, know from the clock that you have more than exceeded your working hours and targeted time for the week. But in the busyness of the week, the haste to deliver quality work to please the clients as ultimately that's what you are in your element as a lawyer only to look back on the day or the week and you simply cannot accurately remember all the detailed activity and events that make up your billable hours. You then need to document interesting one new customer I spoke to said that the decision to adopt Carpe Diem was driven solely by the partners who are fed up of logging into their case management solution on a Saturday to remember and manually record their time missed or forgotten time or inaccurate time entries contribute to that profit leakage. Although I may say perhaps are lucky clients as a result. So what does this translate to in statistics, the advanced of Commissioner annual business trends report, we've received responses from over 6600 senior decision makers, as well as responses from over 100 experts working within Advanced have a look at the some of these key statistics that we pulled out for today. And think if any of these do resonate with yourself, so looping back to that client satisfaction, particularly in challenging economic times. 38%, who responded have seen invoice complaints increased by over 50%. And with 8% of those respondents saying that invoice complaints have doubled since last year. Accurate found and completed time entries unlock additional, unexpected revenue, especially as 60% of responding firms blame missing or inaccurate recorded time entries, or most profits leakage. So what's the net effect? Well, 71% of law firms actualized less than 60% of their billable time targets. So what does this mean in real terms? Well, we have hardworking Fiona's and able to capitalize on the full amount of billable work they've completed. That's impacting the revenues in the cost to run the law firm and hindering the performance of the law firm and ultimately adversely impacting profits. It's all okay though. So we're aware of those challenges faced and challenges do vary from client to client, fee earner to fee earner, department to department and of course law firm to law firm. There are ultimately actions and direction that we can take in line with best practice to achieve better billing for a better performing Law Firm. We'll dive into these a little more detail in the following slides. The five pillars of working towards best billing practice begin with, firstly having a thorough onboarding process. So communicating with your client, setting expectations and building trust from the start accurately finding, capturing and validating time through a time capture solution. Throughout the relationship, it's very important to be transparent with the clients, especially with the billing, as it maintains that trust, transparency and strong relationship supported by having a robust billing solution to support a smoother, faster billing process at the end of invoicing and collection. And of course, finally, evaluating the end to end billing process, being able to produce accurate management information to help analyze and shape decisions to improve the law firm for continuous enhancements. So focusing a little bit more on that first point, it's always strange to consider that billing starts at the very start of the case. But it's true for the successful and efficient onboarding process can drive an equally efficient billing process. It's during this initial phase that the foundation is laid for clear communication, mutual understanding, and a harmonious working relationship between the law firm and its clients. Unfortunately, the current client onboarding process in many law firms also often falls short of these deal ideals. We recommend engaging candid discussions with clients about billing terms invoicing schedules, and potential intricacies. These discussions preempt misunderstandings and set the stage for a harmonious billing process and clear communications of expectations from the outside. outset, apologies. tailor the onboarding experience to address the specific requirements not only enhances the client satisfaction, but also minimizes the potential for disputes to arise in the future and by aligning with individual preferences with the client, then strengthen that client relationship promote a smooth correct collaboration as a result. By adopting onboarding software law firms optimize efficiency and accuracy in the early stages of client engagement. And by discussing and integrating agreed compliance and billing rules, the owners understand these rules from the start and reduce the likelihood of billing errors, enhancing operational efficiency and construct a robust framework underpinning precise billing and raising confidence in the firm's compliance.
Astrid Bowser [00:12:56] By satisfaction, invoice actualization and profit leakage are all impacted by the adoption and process of capturing time within a law firm. The ROI for the adoption of a dedicated time capture solution is realized from the moment to time is found that would otherwise have been forgotten or missed. It develops the right habits across the owners with features that support that fear and is preferred way of working. I think it's helpful to share as one example I interviewed a fee earner who lives in and on her mobile phone, and it's always on her desk. She therefore naturally records time entries via the calf ad and mobile app solely. So whether that's recording time, as in when she remembers She's always got her mobile phone on her. She's either hitting the start and stop timers when the phones on the desk next to her laptop while she's working on multiple matters during the day, or recording time while on the move during her commutes. So she's really optimizing her day. I must however, admit those who I see really optimizing their time, simply select Show found time in Carper Diem's time finder feature that presents Missed billable time that has been trapped while the fee earner has been working throughout the day, allowing them to review and record the time within a few clicks. Ultimately, adopting a solution to capture and validate time also streamlines the process further to billing, as it can work in harmony with a billing solution through an integration and that further automates and speeds up the process. Anecdotally speaking to another customer, he said each fee earner only needs to find one additional minute of billable time a day and the investment of the time recording solution has paid for itself while making the firm more profitable.
Astrid Bowser [00:14:55] Moving on to transparency in today's competitive legal landscape clients expect a clear breakdown of the services provided and associated costs to create a transparent and therefore trusting relationship. However, the current state of invoicing practices often fall short of meeting these expectations, leading to questions, strained relationships, misunderstandings, and potential disputes. Detailed invoices with thorough narrative show transparency, a snapshot to the level of care for the work undertaken by that Fiona and demonstrating the value from the law firm, reducing the likelihood of questions disputes and write offs. Billing solutions are an initial investment that are designed to help you by streamlining and automating the process and present the bill in the most suitable way to aid comprehension by the client. an enlightening story I'd like to share with you is from an innovative customer of ours. Over in Denmark in Europe, the firm who attended a user group with us in London, shared amongst other peers, and that they've used the Carpe Diem API's to build an integration in their bespoke client portal, so that their clients can log in at any time and see what work has been conducted against their matters in real time. This ultimate form of transparency fosters a culture within their fee earners have up to date and accurate time recording in real time, next challenge work or time entries in the bud before it reaches that billing stage with the client, as they can see the work that's being conducted and recorded, and therefore helps the billing process and increases client satisfaction. The net effect of this law firm is a high performing growing organization with satisfied clients and a strong reputation.
Astrid Bowser [00:17:00] Onto collection. So collection is simply the action of cash received in the law firms bank account, or accounts. The shorter the time between invoice and collected payments received, the better the health of the law firms cashflow and therefore supporting decision making for the firm. Over three, four law firms questioned in our recent survey, confront the persistent hurdle of payment delays by providing clients with the option to make online payments, and 61% of them reported an increase of earnings by using an online payment method. Communication is crucial throughout the adoption of better billing practice to build and maintain trust. While setting the right expectations at each stage. Clear timely communication supports timely payment in full. Inevitably though, collection of invoice to payment received needs to be managed. And finance tracking tools can support these efforts, such as issuing automated reminders for payment, or providing portals for customer to see which invoices are paid or outstanding. As a couple of examples. These tools also help your finance and operational team efficiently manage the collection process and provide useful data in a timely manner to support business decisions at partner level. And this, this statement that I've just mentioned, provides a nice little segue into our final step of better billing practice, which is the evaluation phase. The data and reporting produced by adopted solutions at appropriate stages in your billing process is crucial for management information and informed decision making, whether that be for a specific project, or to foster a culture of continuous enhancements across the business. As a few examples we see from working with law firms adopted solutions can help law firms understand their resource and opportunities to make improvements with resource. It can help shape pricing strategies to become more competitive on price against the competition. Or it can improve profit margins, particularly with the increased adoption of alternative fee arrangements. And of course, the data can be used for auditing the billing process, making it easier to pinpoint and rectify issues throughout the workflow as the information is more readily available. So what's the impact? Well, of course, it's addressing those three core challenges faced by law firms, improved client satisfaction, promotes long term relationships and fosters new business as recommendations come from existing clients to new clients. Happy aligned and informed clients are less likely to query in Boyce's pay promptly and engage in an amenable manner should queries arise, improving actualization rates and cash flow, adoption of solutions to aid more efficient operations, allowing the firm and fee earners to concentrate more of their valuable time on high value legal activities. I think I can candidly say, for those of you who decided to pursue a career with law you have, you'd like to spend as much time as possible practicing in the art of law, not dealing with administration or administrative activities. Like while we're pleased to share our findings and learnings working with law firms across our global customer pay customer base to help empower you all. We are under no illusion that you will have your own set of variables that may present challenges and barriers within the law firm to consider. So barriers impact the ability to change and evolve, both personally at colleague level and globally at the firm level. So what do we think of these core key barriers? Software, by its very nature is designed to help solve problems, and by utilizing software such as time recording and finance solutions. Barriers stemming from underutilized tools in the process are removed in replacement of better billing processes. For context, around half of law firms have not utilized time recording or finance management systems in their processes yet. The law firms greatest assets are its people, and people need buy in to change and understand its purpose. When considering a change in the billing process. It's important to consider what is required for buy in. For those that we've worked with who have achieved successful firm wide buy in adopting a time capture solution. For example, identify champion user within the firm, acting as the expert, the evangelist and with an objective to facilitate that buy in and help colleagues through individual or department changes and challenges, behaviors and working practices that individual team and service levels do vary, leading to those inconsistencies. Your adaptive processes, and supportive solutions need to understand the nuances that could create inconsistency, and instead work with individuals and teams and understand those processes to ultimately create consistencies uniformity of the transactions to harmonize the data, making it easier for clients and Central and internal functions to work efficiently and effectively with of course by resolving buying inconsistencies and adoption of new tools still doesn't resolve the barriers created from inaccuracies at invoicing stage. And the impact of rejected bills write off reputational damages and trust, validating time against rules that could have been identified at the outset of engagement with a client relationship. providing clarity and transparency with the client before reaching that invoice stage removes such a barrier. And finally, whether they're a newly graduated lawyer who adopts technology across most aspects of their personal and professional lives are highly experienced partners at the height of their career, who may be used to older ways of working and tools to track the work they conduct. Or perhaps you're still lucky enough to have a personal assistant or administrative support to conduct such activities. According to a as a according to a recent Bloomberg report, 53% of respondents cited a lack of tech savvy users as the biggest barrier to using legal technology. Therefore, Fiona is not confident in the tool a law firm has adopted or used to track time, for example, it could translate to a poorly adopted solution that could lead to incomplete inaccurate, recorded time entries in this example, education guidance support whether it's from the solution provider like advanced, the champion user within the firm, the evangelist or the project manager, bridges the competency gap across the team and realizes the full potential of the adopted change to support better billing practices. And it would be remiss of me not to mention just in isolation, a little bit about time capture. And so for those of you who have adopted alternative fee arrangements such as fixed fee billing, tracking both billable and non Bill More time supports your pricing strategy, and you may find ways to improve your costs and profit margins as a result. A dedicated time capture solution forms that beating heart of the law firm, along with a practice and case management solution and billing solution. It needs to be integrated within the flow of processes throughout the law firm. As we know that no two law firms and no two Fiona's work exactly the same. Therefore, the flexibility and adaptability in a time capture solution cannot be underestimated for efficient working. And finally, validating time at time capture stage one solution against divine billing rules, such as banned words or outside counsel guidelines, ensures time entries and their narratives are complete and accurate in line with client expectations, fostering that trust, transparency and accuracy, allowing technology to support best practice for billing. To that end, I'd like to thank you for your time covering the theory. And I'd like to hand you over to both on O'Neill for our discussion section. Thank you.
Anand Ablack [00:26:13] Thanks very much. Thanks very much Astrid. Hopefully for those of you on the call some of those points that Astrid made resonate with you. I think the key takeaways there are really human elements in terms of how the law firm deals with clients, there's technology elements to make sure that you are delivering the most efficient way to capture time and analytics to make sure that you're that you're running business correctly, particularly in situations where there are alternative fee arrangements. So hopefully that was some good information to digest. And you can you can take that away. We're going to shift gears from global trends to much more local. We're going to be talking for the next bit with Neil Oberman from Spiegel Sohmer. Just by way of background, Spiegel Sohmer has served the Montreal business community for over 50 years, all the while building a real reputation as a technology leader. And on that on that note, even with respect to Carpe Diem, Spiegel Sohmer was one of the first Carpe Diem cloud clients in North Americans have a long, long history with the software firm has over 70 legal professionals using Carpathian cloud to record time across litigation and transactional areas. And we're joined today by Neil Overman, who is a partner and shareholder in the firm's civil and commercial litigation group. So welcome, Neil.
Neil Oberman [00:27:35]Hey, thanks for having me come out. Today, it's a real honor to be here to be able to speak to my colleagues, obviously, not all colleagues are from here in Quebec. But as we say, the infinite and welcome because this is a great opportunity, obviously, to discuss a product that supports the legal community here in Quebec, and specifically our firm Spiegel Sohmer. And I'm so excited because for me personally, as you know, Anand, I'm extremely passionate about technology in the law. Now, despite my age, both billing and personal, I am a really young at heart when it comes to the use of technology. And this product for us at Spiegel Sohmer has been a really, really great tool, not only in the issue of billing, but also in the issue of compliance, which I don't know if we're going to sort of segue into at a certain point. And Astrid was kind enough to sort of set the groundwork for a couple of comments that I just want to make to my colleagues, which is not losing focus. What is that focus, our focus is to render service, we are a service industry. Now, it's composed of a variety of different elements, one of which, of course, is time tracking. But you know, there's also the issue of keeping track of our daily events in order to ensure that the service that we rendered can be traced not only in terms of a metric for billing, but also an a metric for professional liability, because your daily activities today are in your mind, but in six months from now, you've moved on, perhaps you've had many cases since then. And you need to be able to have a proper audit trail of the acts that you do, again, not only for billing, but for the purposes of the services that you rendered to stay compliant with your local legislation, governing codes of professional conduct and the like. So I thought that was important to mention.
Anand Ablack [00:29:18] Oh, that's a good point. That's a good point, Neil. So maybe just to kick off the session here, again, you guys are known within the Quebec market and beyond as a technology leader. We've had that conversation between ourselves you don't necessarily need to be a seven sister anymore to be able to benefit from Best in Class technology. As a business leader within the firm, can you talk a little bit about how technology has helped your firm punch above its weight as a midsize firm and really, you know, use technology as an enabler from a business perspective.
Neil Oberman [00:29:52] Sure. And I you know, I looked at the list of participants Oh, 177. And, you know, there's some names I recognize, but you know, it's no longer about the Seven Sisters, it's about the community of lawyers. And the community of lawyers are entitled to access those products that help them render legal service to their customers to their clients. So in our firm, because we are a midsize firm, non aligned, local in nature, we're like a local mom and pop place, right? So you come in and you have a legal issue we can provide to our friends, which generally are our customers and our clients, the type of access to technology that mainly the big firms used to have. And you know, the old days when, you know, people would say, but you know, the big firms have this. And the big firms have that yet the big firms have lots of rent to pay, and they have lots of staff to pay. And they can afford very expensive, not out of the box software may point out tailor made software that's unique to them. The great thing about the product of Carpe Diem is that is a product for all right, it's not tailor made for the big boys or young ladies, it's made for the practitioner at large. And what I think you folks are doing is you're equalizing the playing field for many practitioners. Now you might say, Well, that sounds quite altruistic. Why? Why would you do that? There's no doubt there's business orientation for most of what lawyers do. But at the end of the day, when you have access to technology, you have access to being able to render a more efficient, a more robust product to your client that allows you to stay in line with your Code of Professional Conduct, while still having the ability to make a living. Like I'm your regular Joe. And as you know, I go to McDonald's and I eat a hamburger. I'm irregular, I'm not going for four hour lunches with a bottle of wine. And why is that is because we have an obligation to render that service in a timely fashion. But more importantly, we have to be able to trace it. Traceability is a very important issue that sometimes is really overlooked. You know, what do you mean? What is traceability? The traceability is to look from point A to point Z and to be able to look at the different time metrics or metrics in that timeline to say what was done and not done. Let me give you an example. You focused on the aspect of client satisfaction for billing, that the bill that you send to your client electronically may point out is something that can be verified and checked against a series of different metric points in your in your legal office. So for example, I enter a time charge a .25 for reviewing documents on legal proceeding related to x. So technically, what you should be able to do in a more automated type of firm is to be able to take that time entry, cross check it against your document management system, which I know we're gonna maybe segue into, and then say, well, listen, I have a time charge, I haven't, I have an ability to look at the time entry or the entry access in the document management system. And there's equilibrium. So it's the audit process that protects you as the as the lawyer and it protects you, your customer to know that if there's a time charge, there's a matching act, because ultimately, that's what time capture is about. It's about capturing an act. It's about capturing a moment in time, it's about reflecting on what was done. And when you have those two synergies working together, there's unity in the billing process, right? Because that's important, because what do we do as lawyers? Well, I'm simplistic, I told you, I'm a simple guy. We take a problem. We take a document or documents, we analyze the documents, and the problem. And then we either give an opinion in writing or verbally or by email, all of these are things that have to be traced. All of these of these items have to be verified. And when having the ability to track that in your electronic billing capture system, carpe diem. You perfect what you are what you're supposed to do. We as lawyers, when we give a bill, they don't come with a box of chocolates, right? But they come with the expectation that that bill is accurate. It is reflective of the work that is done. And most importantly, traceability which equals verifiable, and that gives the customer client a satisfaction that what we do is aboveboard, honest, and it respects our Code of Professional Conduct. Because you know, and I get automatic credibility because I have the title lawyer, and it's an important title and it's a title not to be abused by anybody. And part of that is to ensure that when a lawyer does something is you could take it to the bank in terms of it's honest, it's fair, Are there exceptions there are but having Carpe Diem helps you protect yourself and protect your clients.
Anand Ablack [00:34:48] So Neil, maybe just to transition on or build upon what you're what you're talking about there. So for Spiegel, sober, what are the biggest challenges that you face around billable time capture And are there some specific technologies that that that you utilize. So for example, we hear often with clients, manual time entry is just a huge pain, it's the way that things were done before. But now to be able to integrate your billable, your time capture system with document management, with teams with Outlook with the systems that you're living in every day, you're able to reconstruct your week pressing a button, versus trying to reconstruct your week from a notepad. So maybe it can you can talk a little bit about the biggest challenges and how you use tech to address them?
Neil Oberman [00:35:32] Well, first of all, I know that Astrid didn't really go over it. But you know, the Carpe Diem system is able to capture different metrics through its collectors, right. And these collectors will gather data points in your daily activity, in order to be able to input them into the Carpe Diem software that are then pushed onto your billing software. So these metrics, phone calls, emails, looking at documents, teams, anything used to be faxed. But I don't think the fax component, we don't do those integration, don't do those anymore, right. But you know, those different points in your day have to be traced, and they get captured. I know. And perhaps anybody who uses the Carpe Diem platform knows that you could capture those different items through the collectors. If you as an exam, for example, don't remember to enter your time, at concurrent with the act me personally, I'm a concurrent kind of guy, if I talk to you on the phone, or I send you an email, it goes right into the system. But some people aren't like that. Okay, no problem. But the great thing about Carpe Diem is that it allows for the capture of those different events after the events. And let's just be clear to the now 169 People, I'm not a paid spokesperson for Carpe Diem, okay, and they're not paying me to be here. And if I didn't believe in the type of product that's out there, I don't need to be here, I got plenty of things to do. But because I'm so passionate about giving my colleagues who are at my level, meet, like in smaller firms, midsize firms, the same tools to be successful, I'm here to tell you step up, take charge, get the proper software, invest in your future and get a platform that works that scalable for the size of firm that you are, in my view, very simply put, if you do that, you become a leader in your community, you become a leader in your firm, you become a leader for your client, because at the end of the day, you got to give that great service, you've got to be there for your client. But you got to be responsible to your client. Because those are hand in hand, if you want to build a business, you got to build it by investing in infrastructure, for example, cloud based systems, this is the future. This is what equalizes the legal profession. Now, I don't need to invest on behalf of my firm in heavy, heavy hardware, because I can go on the cloud. Now, I don't know if you'd like me to explain that for you, for the folks out there. But in simple terms, it means you don't have to have a physical office, you don't have to have a physical server in an office that you don't have. And you can rely on other people who are contractually bound to you to keep your platform working at a 99.9999% uptime. If for me, as an end user, as a leader in technology, I don't want to be responsible for keeping our many platforms operational, while I can require of the service provider slash content provider to do that for me, so that I think is very important for our 167 participants. Don't reinvent the wheel don't have to invest heavily in infrastructure, all you have to do is open your eyes and understand that your job becomes easier when you make it easier for yourself. You need to keep track of that time. You need a good product. And by the way, I don't think this has been discussed. But you know, I live in Quebec, and Quebec, there are two languages. There are many languages, but there are two official languages. There might be one based on the new law, but I'll just say there's two for this conversation. French, you need to have a software that's scalable to different languages. It can't just be one language fits all this is not the reality of the of the Canadian environment. So for us in Quebec, we appreciated that you folks obviously Carpe Diem are able and we're able to make sure that we had French modules for our software adult Thank you.
Anand Ablack [00:39:28] Yeah, absolutely. And Neil it you know, we have clients, I think I talked about that at the at the top of the, at the top of the hour, but same thing with Portuguese. Same thing with with all languages. I mean, this is a global platform. And it is scalable entirely across the across the board.
Astrid Bowser [00:39:42]Yeah, and I really, really valid points there, Neil, as well. Talking about the level playing field because coming into the Carpe Diem team my background is developing legal software and in the cloud and I've brought that into the journey with Carpe Diem. And one of the one really valid bits of feedback from a customer that's been using Carpe Diem for years. I mean, there's the brand Carpe Diem has been around for 25 plus years now. And they've, they took the decision to graduate their entire on premise. So in house application of Carpe Diem and the service whether, you know, the Carpe Diem, datas, looked after. And they took the decision to graduate to the cloud. Why? Because everyone's got access to a browser. So you when you've got that, you know, a flexible working setup. Now post pandemic, you can access Carpe Diem at any time in real time, as long as you've got a browser or a mobile phone, and then also, by us being responsible for completely up to date and in line with security best practice. And the right frameworks to look after all that client time recorded entries that would have been sat in your on premise environment, we look after all of that for one per user per month fee forever. So you don't have to worry about it.
Neil Oberman [00:41:12] I've said it again, your response, the best thing about being able to use the cloud now I'm talking, generally speaking, is that the it shifts the obligation from the end user to the service provider to maintain the actual platform. And you know, this is something that, again, for midsize firms or sole practitioners is very useful. At the end of the day, you know, there's also the aspect of compliance and ensuring that you, as an end user lawyer are able to trace your daily activities to make sure that if anybody comes back and says, Hey, did you did you do this? Did you not tell me that? Let me give the example very quickly. You know, often in the practice, you might just give verbal advice, right? Not everybody consigns their opinions to a piece of writing an email, a letter A notes, a memo. So the reality is, if you use time tracking properly, not only are you capturing the time, but you're also capturing in events, and the event sometimes is more valuable to you than the actual bill, right? Because if you said to somebody, well, you know the time limitation in order to take action, this is something you might want to put in writing. But you know, it's a kind of an off point discussion was two years, and you put that in your in your time entry. And you know, five years later, somebody came back to you never told me that would say, Well listen, based on my review of my time entries, on this date, at this time, I told you Well, of course, it's better to put it in writing. But nonetheless, at least you have some sort of metric of verification. And again, the cloud is your friend, in light of all the shifts in the paradigm post COVID Everybody is working from home or from the cabin, or from Florida or from wherever else. Having a mobile app that allows you to capture that time, while you're doing your other activities is liberating, it's liberating for me, I'm walking the dog, I'm enjoying my day, I'm taking the time for me at Neil Oberman as a human being, which we seem to forget, as professionals, and I'm sure a lot of my colleagues know, there's no personal time. But if you're going to have personal time, at least you don't have the stress that you're missing something or you haven't captured something. Because you know, again, reality of the day, you're going to have a call while you're walking the dog, you're going to enter that time on the mobile app, you go back to your desktop, you're not freaking out, oh my god, I missed this. I didn't do that. So reality is software is making the day longer. But in its process, it's also allowing you to enjoy those very limited periods of time, without the stress of thinking that you've lost something. And I encourage my colleagues, this is a this is off, off topic. Each and every one of you has to find the proper equilibrium between your life and your law practice. Because when you're not well, you do not do well. To do well, you must be well, and to be well, you must embrace technology to make it better for you. And for everybody around you. So I know that's off topic, guys. But you know, as a person, I think it's important. And somebody asked, am I getting CLE credits for this? I don't know. But here's what you will take from this. There is a way to have a better practice that is safer for you better for your clients, and enhances your daily life without breaking the bank. So do what you think is right, but use the technology.
Anand Ablack [00:44:41]
So NeiI think that's a that's a good lead into the next point. And what really struck me when Astrid did her setup, the Bloomberg survey that saying that 53% of firms, their biggest barrier is the lack of tech savvy users, the lack of buy in that you can have great Technology. But if it sits on the shelf and people aren't really embracing it, you're no further ahead. How have you tackled that problem? I think you made a compelling case around the benefits of technology, but at a human level at a business level within a firm like yours, how did you tackle the adoption point?
Neil Oberman [00:45:15] I just want to say statistically, 100% of the time, my son thinks I'm the absolutely best father, ever, ever to walk the earth, I just want to say that 100% of the time, you know, statistics are great, and they help gauge how you should adapt things that you're doing. Given that I try to be the best father, I think that statistic of 100% is a good one. But the challenge being is, it's true. But the challenge is that, you know, technology has to be viewed in light of the utility for which it's meant, it can make your life better, it can make your life worse, there are people that use technology in a bad way. But there are a lot of people who use technology in a good way. And as lawyers, we must promote the use of technology to make a better make a better practice, be a better professional, be a better business owner, again, not to omit that. And I ensure Nobody here has now it's 158 of us that you are technically running a business, and you technically have business obligations, you have staff to pay, you have interns to pay, you have colleagues to pay. And if you're not capturing the time, and using good tools to capture the time, you're not being a good business owner. So I don't know if that answers your question. But the truth is, anything we're talking about here has to have a core relationship to what you are as a professional. And for me, I want to be a good business owner, I have a lot of people who rely on myself and a lot of my colleagues to generate the revenue to pay the bills and pay the salary. But sometimes, you know, there's an expression you have to spend money to make money. It's not it's not an old adage, it's true today as it was many years ago, when you invest in your business, you invest in yourself, when you invest in your clients, you invest in yourself. But when you don't invest in yourself, you don't invest in anybody.
Anand Ablack [00:47:09] All right, so Neil, I think just before we turn it over to the q&a, it's 2023. I think we'd be remiss if we didn't have at least one question around artificial intelligence, AI, natural language processing, processing, very hot topic across any number of different legal software applications, not just in time tracking. On the Carpe Diem side, obviously, we're spending a good bit of investment, money and focus, to use AI to be able to create narratives faster, I think you made that point around just making sure that, you know, lawyers can practice law, that the technology can help them have accurate entries that that will pass muster with clients. We're using AI around a lot of that with something called time pad. Maybe just interested in your thoughts overall on AI in legal technology, how that can be applied to time capture, and how you see that evolving?
Neil Oberman [00:48:05] Well, and Astrid, I hope you told everybody that I am in fact in AI avatar, and that I've been here. Okay, well, that's a bad joke. Okay. That sounds good. In any event, AI, artificial intelligence. Look, I'm no expert on artificial intelligence. But you know, I use it in my practice, and you need to use it because it's, it's a new tool. It can be used properly, it can be abused. As we've seen, in some cases in the United States, where law firm associate used AI to generate case law that didn't exist and was sanctioned for it. The use of AI integrated into platforms such as Carpe Diem just enhanced the product by just making it more streamlined during its use. There are probably key words and phrases that we use on a current basis. I'll give you an example. Receipt of and review of email for, you know, once AI learns the pattern and adapts to some of the initial words, it then gives you the proposal for how to complete the time entry. The reality is that that's where we're at. Because as we exercise our profession, you're supposed to try to streamline it so that it becomes understandable to the person receiving the bill. You cannot send a bill with a time entry that's for 14 lines long with legal terminology, and the clients gonna look at you like I don't even understand what you're saying. That's why creating and using key words and phrases that are then auto generated through artificial intelligence, facilitate the use of the platform and enhance your ability to give your customer client the satisfaction of understanding what you're sending to them. Again, I will repeat, it can be used properly, it can be abused incorrectly, but the reality is most of our colleagues are conscientious, well respected, abiding by their deontological professional obligations, and should use it in order to enhance their experience using Carpe Diem or any other software, but at the same time, allowing them to streamline their activities by moving things forward, because we are all multitaskers. Okay, this is the new world of I think it's been a couple of years, but let's just call it for our discussion, it's the New World, you are not going to do one thing at once. And very few of our colleagues have the luxury of doing one thing at a time, and only doing that one thing. Therefore, if you're going to do multiple things, at a given time, enhance your ability to get a better outplay on it, by using technology, using artificial intelligence to enhance that particular step. Do not be scared of AI, the biggest problems we have is that believe it or not, it's the young people that are less inclined to adapt to technology than the more senior counsel why? I think it has to do with the generation where they come from, they're brought up on the iPad, they're brought up on the iPhone, they're brought up on computers, they're brought up on Google. And the truth is, I think sometimes the younger people crave that sort of nostalgic, traditional approach to think I want to go to court, I want to go down to the courthouse. Yes, this is great. We want that because you learn by doing. But you also learn by listening. And you also learn by learning from other people who do things right and who do things wrong. And what I would suggest to you is, we have a challenge as more senior colleagues to help the junior associates understand how to use the technology, where to use the technology, and how to embrace it for a better equilibrium in their daily life. That's personal and professional.
Anand Ablack [00:51:48] Astrid, any last comments on AI? Obviously, we're working on some very specific use cases, as Neil said there. I mean, there's, there's a very broad continuum, but we're focusing on AI around some very specific use cases around narratives around standardization. And as Neil said, just helping, you know, create entries that are that are going to be understood by the client, and don't require that physical effort that that you may have, that you may have had in the past.
Astrid Bowser [00:52:14] Yes, I think so. Certainly, with the research that we've already got in place within Carpe Diem, and the research has been conducted. The use of artificial intelligence, and it's not just generative AI, there's lots of different types of artificial intelligence is, is paramount, to supporting uses of Carpe Diem, if it delivers on these things, which is find finds time will quickly and allows users to track time more accurately and faster. If it doesn't achieve those things, then it's over engineered, or over engineer sake. So looking at these, looking at where we've applied, of course, natural language processing from speech to text, which converts into a time entry, that's heavily utilized by some firms that embrace that kind of technology, but also ways of, you know, pre empting and prompting the right narratives. And so, ways to help you know, if you've got writer's block, for example, about I know wrote an email, but how do I word it, there can be Ways and Means leveraging artificial intelligence to help a user build time faster, more accurately, and then that helps in the billing process further down the line. And so yeah.
Anand Ablack [00:53:38] And very much watch this space, because that is a major area for investment for for advanced, and for other companies, obviously, across the spectrum.
Neil Oberman [00:53:46] But just to add, if I may, very quickly, in light of what Astrid is saying, you know, there's a misunderstanding of artificial intelligence because most people have been dealing with it for years and years and years, and don't even know that they've been dealing with it. For example, prompts on the telephone telling you press one for this press two for that. It's a form of artificial intelligence getting on your app, because you want to communicate with customer service. It's been around for a while, you know, it looks like there's somebody there answering you, and there's not a single person there answering you. The reality is don't be scared by the fact that people you know, out there have been saying artificial intelligence is going to replace you. You're not going to be replaced by artificial intelligence lawyers are going to be required. You need to embrace the technology as long as you understand how to use the technology and where to apply it and what metrics are required to evaluate it. What I'm saying to you is say timekeeping is an important one, because it's at the core of your ability to continue operation operating your business, because if you don't capture the time, it means you don't build the time if you don't build the time. You don't get the check in if you don't get the check in. You don't pay the staff you don't pay the rent, you don't pay the Junior. So you know, at the end of the day, if you want to have no business and you want to have no revenue, well don't keep track of time. figured out an alternative means of having to build. And that's your business. But the reality is most practitioners have to do that. And to do that you need good software and to have good software, you have to be able to afford it. And this software, in my view for our firm has been affordable, useful, easy to use, in the sense that the training is not that complicated, right? Nobody discussed the training here. But it's not hard to use this platform, because it's such a simple product. And simplicity is sometimes the earmark of perfection, right? It's so simple. It's easy to use. It's got to be perfect. So I'll leave you with that.
Anand Ablack [00:55:36] All right. And with that, thank you very much, Neil. It was a great discussion. I appreciated all of your insights. And Mallory, I know we're tight on time, we said we would leave a little bit of time for q&a. So I'll pass it over to you. And if we've got any questions from the from the webinar audience for Astrid, Neil or myself.
Mallory Hendry [00:55:53] Absolutely. We've had a few come in. One of our attendees here is that a law firm that doesn't use billable hours, they have an alternative fee structure. So what's your experience with time recording in those situations?
Astrid Bowser [00:56:08] I'll take that one. And so in terms of an alternative fee arrangements, such as fixed fee billing, which is typically adopted to be competitive on price and transparent on price, there has been, I think, in the past, perhaps a misconception that Carpe Diem is just used for billable hour time tracking. But increasingly, we've seen an adoption of AFAs. And as a result, it's still being used to record both billable and non billable time. And I think I alluded to it slightly in the presentation where actually this data is still really important, because it helps to see how perhaps we can improve in performance for a particular matter type, for example, and see areas to perhaps improve costs within the operational costs of a law firm and actually delivering on the value as part of that fixed fee arrangement, for example. And additionally, it can be used to maybe review and assess any pricing strategies as well. So you might have generated a fixed fee price. But you do need data and quantitative and qualitative data to assess whether that's the right pricing strategy, and the recorded data out of Carpe Diem, through that journey, then into the billing helps to help the partners in a law firm who will be assessing their pricing strategies and revenues and performance of a firm can use that data to make well informed decisions.
Neil Oberman [00:57:48] I want to also add the regulatory aspect, like, it's great that you have a fixed fee, we don't do fixed fees normally, in our business. But you know, even with a fixed fee, you're still subject I don't know how it works in Ontario, but in Quebec, you still subjected to the regulatory oversight of the bar of Quebec, that could receive a request to conciliate your account. Now, most lawyers should have engagement letters that detail their work, but if you don't, you still have to ascertain to ascertain what work was done in show to the person overlooking the conciliation, that work was done. And yes, you're going to provide an email and a proceeding. But the best metric is a time entry because it details the work that was done. So I think there's a model where even if you're on fixed fee, it's there's still a value intellectually, to keep track of that time for your own protection by frankly, you know, because sometimes some clients, you know, they don't respect their deals with their lawyers. And at the end of the day, you must respond to your professional order. So with all due respect, there is always a necessity, despite a fixed fee to keep track of the time.
Astrid Bowser [00:58:57] The appointment, thank you.
Mallory Hendry [00:58:59] Thank you. Thank you. We have one more here. Does this integrate with Soluno? Oh sure go ahead.
Anand Ablack [00:59:07] Yeah, let me grab that one Mallory. So I think speaking about that, that new suite of products and those the companies who are really doing great work in cloud Soluno was definitely one of them. And, you know, a Canadian company. Alan Tuback in that group has done a great job developing billing software really effective from the ground up. And based in the cloud, our approach with Carpe Diem, it's very agnostic. We have an open API approach to be able to integrate with whatever software is within the firm tech stack. That is very much the strategy and the approach that we've taken around the specific point on Soluno. Yes, we have a numerous clients, both in the in Canada in the US primarily that use Soluno. Now, obviously that's a very fast growing software on the on the billing side, replacing a lot of the older on prem legacy systems and we want to make sure that it's as seamless as possible. And we're continuing to enhance our integration strategy with billing software overall. And, and with Soluno, we, you know, we're, we're very close. And we have we have a number of common firms there. So no, no problem at all on that front. And again, open API's to be able to integrate Carpe with whatever is in your tech stack.
Neil Oberman [01:00:23] I want to also add that for the Quebec market, the product integrates well with a very well known Quebec based product called Meta, and it functions at a very nice level, the change of data is, it's fast and is very useful. So just for the Quebec market, there is a an ability to integrate the product very quickly.
Mallory Hendry [01:00:45] That's fantastic. Thank you so much. I guess we are at the end of our hour here. So I just wanted to thank the panel so much for your sharing your insight and expertise today, that was much appreciated, very interesting conversation, and everyone in the audience for joining us today. We appreciate you and please keep an eye out for any other upcoming webinars. And enjoy the rest of your day.
Anand Ablack [01:01:05] Mallory could I add just one more thing and ask if you could flip onto the onto the next slide. If there are any, any inquiries or if anyone wants to get in touch? I think we've got an email address on the next one, right. So [email protected]. Feel free to reach out if you want to get more information on the on the software itself. It's www.oneadvanced.com. We'd love to hear from you. We hope that this this webinar has been beneficial. We hope that the perspectives that we've been able to offer both in terms of from our customer base globally and specifically with Neil and his insights at Spiegel Sohmer. We hope that was a benefit to you. And yeah, thank you very much.
Mallory Hendry [01:01:47] Thanks, everybody. Have a great day.
Neil Oberman [01:01:48] Thanks for coming out and have a great safe day.
Anand Ablack [01:01:51] Thank you all.