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I.T.@LOVELLS

Lovells Migrates to InterAction

Goodbye to a homegrown system

By Ed Dean

Lovells Migrates to InterAction AT Lovells, our relationships -- with clients, vendors, staff, professional organizations, referral sources, and others -- count among our most valuable assets. When we were smaller, managing relationships was a relatively simple endeavour. However, today we have more than 1,400 lawyers in 26 locations across the globe.

Lovells was created last year with the merger of Lovell White Durrant and Boesebeck Droste. It is the fourth largest law firm in Europe; the eighth largest in the world. We recently merged with the Dutch firm, Ekelmans Den Hollander; established an Italian practice in Milan and Rome with 30 attorneys; and expanded our Polish and German enterprises. We just announced plans to merge in November, with Siméon & Associés, of France, which will bring our partnership roster to more than 300, including 130 in central Europe.

Managing Contacts

Early on, we recognized the importance of centrally managing contact data. In the early '90s we developed our own centralized marketing database, written in-house, which ran on Informix. But the system was developed for use mainly by the central business development department, and couldn't be used easily by the lawyers. Our attorneys were setting up their own private little databases. Finding basic information -- such as who in the firm knew whom -- was difficult and inaccurate.

We needed new software that would let everybody update contact information directly. We didn't realize at the time that what we were looking for was becoming recognized as client relationship management software.

Search Begins

We assembled our requirements and began our search. Our criteria were straightforward. First, the system had to fit into our networking structure.

We are currently migrating to Windows 2000, and Office 2000, and are running Elite Information System Inc.'s Elite 2.8 practice management system. We also use Hummingbird Ltd.'s PC Docs 3.9, Novell's Inc.'s GroupWise 3.9 for e-mail (soon to be replaced by Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook), RightFax faxing software and Sage U.S. Holding Inc.'s Carpe Diem for time entry.

Our preferred database platform is Microsoft's SQL 7.

Our business development department also had requirements. The system had to manage mailings and keep contact lists intact while avoiding duplication. It would also be used to organize seminars and other programs, as well as provide marketing analysis, event and reporting support.

We also had several "wider user" requirements. Our lawyers needed access to mailing lists and the ability to easily enter contact data themselves. They'd need access from other applications such as Microsoft Word, GroupWise (and Outlook). The system also needed acceptable security and data access controls.

Short List

We arrived at a short list: Interface Software's InterAction; Cole Valley Software Inc.'s MarketEase; and Elite's PMS Marketing system. A group of us, including Michael Belford, our head of business development, undertook a technical evaluation of each product.

Usability and outreach in the firm were our main criteria. We did a paper evaluation, which included a set of criteria based on experience and discussion with existing and potential users.

We also spent time in the U.S. visiting various users of the three products. It was quite an eye-opener talking to customers and seeing what they thought of the products. We discovered that the challenges faced by firms in the U.S. were similar to those we were facing in the U.K.

InterAction represented the best fit to our requirements. We appreciated that it could be used by the lawyers under their own control and direction, while we felt the other systems were too focused on marketing department needs. Cost was clearly a factor, but the additional functionality that we required was just as important.

Implementation

Once we selected InterAction, our first step was to migrate the data from our proprietary system to InterAction. This was a fairly straightforward process that involved cleansing the legacy data, eliminating duplicates, and converting the data into a suitable format for import into the system.

Having populated InterAction with data we set up a trial user group, which consisted of three areas: business development, information technology and our insurance and reinsurance practice group.

We discovered some configuration changes were necessary. For instance, we set up folders in InterAction-- subsets of contacts that can be created for any purpose -- that corresponded with how lawyers organize their data. We also built certain reports in InterAction that our lawyers were familiar with in order to ease the transition to the new system.

We involved our lawyers in the preparation process by helping them sort out their own data, and enter it into the system. We offered training for those who required it, and conducted product demonstrations to various groups and teams.

One way we were able to measure the success of our roll-out of InterAction was by the vast improvement in the quality and quantity of our relationship intelligence.

Says Belford: "The number of contacts in our system have gone up from roughly 40,000 a year ago to approximately 100,000 today."

On a more qualitative basis, we've received considerable feedback that the system is assisting fee earners to manage relationships more effectively. For instance, John Powell, a partner in our insurance and reinsurance group, frequently meets clients and prospective clients worldwide.

"Recently I was looking at a list of people who will attend a cocktail party we're hosting," he says. "One attendee I did not know. I learned through InterAction's Who Knows Whom feature that he knows one of my partners in New York. I called that partner to get some background information on this person, and am now much better prepared to meet with him at the event and discuss business."

Facilitating Mergers

InterAction also has been helpful as the firm's expansion has continued. For example when we merged with Boesebeck Droste, we wanted all of our contacts to receive proper notification from us, before hearing the news elsewhere. Our business development team set up a mailing list folder within InterAction for this project. We e-mailed all the fee earners, notifying them that they should add contacts that should receive the announcement into the InterAction mailing list, which they could easily do from their desktop. Over one weekend we distributed announcements to over 53,000 recipients. Without this system, it would have taken weeks.

InterAction also helps us give new lawyers a wider view of our relationships, crossing practice area and geographic boundaries. They can check the extent of joint contacts, which helps develop strong relationships.

Return on Investment

In these difficult economic times, emphasis is being placed on return on investment. While we haven't done any formal analysis, we have experienced substantial savings and productivity gains as a result of using InterAction.

The use of InterAction for the German merger announcement mailing saved the firm approximately two person weeks of work compared to our previous system. Belford says that he uses the system for the rest of our publications and mailings. "We have some 20 to 30 regular newsletters, as well as client notes that get mailed out using InterAction." If you extrapolate the savings for each of these mailings over time, you have a substantial number.

InterAction also helps track and manage some 40 in-house events in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. This includes developing the invitation selection criteria, tracking attendance, and follow-up activity. "Before using the system we would have had to hire two to three temporary staff for each event," says Belford. "Now all these activities are automated. At approximately 40 events per year, we probably save a count of one full time person a year just from the event side."

The next step? Integrating InterAction into LovellsNet, the firm's Intranet. We see it as another product that will fit under our portal, allowing partners and other lawyers to access this information from their Web browsers.

Ed Dean is the director of I.T. for Lovells, and is based in London.

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