Several years ago, the attorneys and staff at Hofheimer Family Law, a Virginia Beach, Virginia-based family law firm that represents women-only in divorce, custody, and support cases, came together to decide their current technology stack was not meeting their firm’s needs.
Previously, firm members had to look in one system for calendar appointments, one place for accounting, and another system for the general ledger, which the team realized was not the most efficient approach to practice management solutions and running the firm.
At the time, the team made the decision to wait until the cloud-based practice management software market matured to the point there was a product available that met the firm’s list of requirements. Finally, in November 2019, Hofheimer Family Law was introduced to Centerbase and never looked back.
Though right out of the box, Centerbase didn’t necessarily meet every one of the firm’s needs, the Centerbase team was willing to work with them to meet those requirements, which was the push the Hofheimer team needed to become a Centerbase client.
“It’s nice to know that Centerbase listens to a single firm, understands their challenges, and makes solutions happen,” said Rob Sadler, Hofheimer’s Firm Administrator.
Having a successful data migration was imperative for the firm’s success. Shortly after 20 years’ worth of accumulated practice management, time, billing, and accounting data were migrated successfully into Centerbase, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Thanks to the ease of the data migration and introduction to Centerbase, members of the Hofheimer team were able to transition smoothly to a remote work environment, enabling their attorneys and professional staff alike to continue with uninterrupted client service and firm operations from home.
It’s nice to know that Centerbase listens to a single firm, understands their challenges, and makes solutions happen.
“Centerbase is seamless, from home to office,” says Sheera Herrell, the firm’s Managing Partner.
Thanks to Centerbase’s desktop and mobile app versions, timekeepers can track their time at the courthouse, in the car, or in the office.
Hofheimer’s attorneys note that time tracking is user-friendly wherever you are and that the Automated Time Capture feature is especially handy if working remotely. As a result, more hours are being tracked, leading to seamless and more accurate firm billing.
However, the real winning feature of Centerbase, according to Herrell, is Secure Chat.
“There is a heavy value from non-responsive clients,” says Herrell. “We often run into clients who won’t answer phone calls but will respond to texts. With Secure Chat, our attorneys don’t have to use their personal cell phone numbers to interact with clients.”
With Secure Chat, these interactions are preserved in Centerbase as a system of record, which is great for cross-collaboration on matters, enabling any user at the firm to go back and reference the client interaction for the most up to date information on the case.
Centerbase’s unique practice management features help Hofheimer communicate effectively and thanks to the client portal, it’s easier than ever for their attorneys to share readily available information with clients.
The (entire) team at Centerbase is great to work with across the board. From development to support, the client-facing teams are fantastic whether you’re picking up the phone, putting in a ticket, or working with the greater Centerbase community to see if others have had the same issues or ideas.
“Centerbase makes it fun and easy to do everything I do every day,” says Sadler.
Thanks to Centerbase’s reporting capabilities, Sadler has transformed how he manages the firm.
During the search for a new practice management solution, Sadler and his team utilized a third-party consultant and received the feedback that Centerbase was the best in the industry at listening to client needs and coming up with viable solutions and workarounds within the software.
“The (entire) team at Centerbase is great to work with across the board. From development to support, the client-facing teams are fantastic whether you’re picking up the phone, putting in a ticket, or working with the greater Centerbase community to see if others have had the same issues or ideas,” Sadler says.
Now, thanks to Centerbase’s dashboards, Sadler is no longer waiting until month-end to have access to the information he needs. Instead, with the help of both dashboards and reporting features, the firm has access to real-time information at a glance. These capabilities, according to Sadler, shifted his perspective on how he views law firm dashboards and reporting, and have streamlined the way he runs firm operations.
“All of the information we need is right at our fingertips; we are able to access client accounts and trust account balances instantly, which is very helpful as trials and settlements get closer.”
We’re saving time and paper while gaining time and revenue, all thanks to Centerbase.
As Hofheimer’s Controller, Jamie Mesta handles all of the firm’s finances.
“All of the money that comes in and out goes through me and it is easier than ever to do my job thanks to Centerbase,” she says.
With Centerbase’s electronic pre-bill feature, Mesta saves six hours a month that she otherwise would have spent creating bills manually.
According to Mesta, the pre-bill feature has revolutionized how Hofheimer’s attorneys and paralegals handle the billing process.
Now, both timekeeping and reviewing bills take less time and are easier for professionals to accomplish. The firm does not utilize timesheets anymore and is capturing more time than ever. That time is money, according to Mesta.
An added bonus? The firm now saves several trees a year since moving to Centerbase.
“We’re saving time and paper while gaining time and revenue, all thanks to Centerbase,” Mesta said.
Picture this: it’s February 2020, mere weeks before the legal industry, like the rest of the world, would come to face stay-at-home orders and have to quickly adapt to working in a remote environment.
Now, add to that your current server-based software system going down, with no employees at your organization able to access email or the document management system, and that sounds pretty close to the worst-case scenario.
Does this sound like your firm’s worst nightmare? This happened to Fort Worth-based, full-service law firm Griffith, Jay & Michel, LLP for 22 days.
Prior to this incapacitating system outage, firm decision-makers had already agreed their current system, Time Matters (PCLaw), had become stagnant and that the software wasn’t being updated as frequently as was needed to work for their firm’s needs. They evaluated several new software options in 2017, but ultimately tabled moving forward with implementing new technology.
However, once the system went down and impaired both their in-office and remote work capabilities, Griffith, Jay & Michel knew they were in the market for cutting ties with their server-based system and moved to implement a cloud-based legal practice management software sooner rather than later.
Griffith, Jay & Michel evaluated Clio, Zola Suite, and Centerbase before ultimately deciding that Centerbase had the capabilities they were looking for in order to run their firm the most efficiently.
Though gathering data and beginning the implementation of the software in a remote environment was a challenge in and of itself, the implementation went as smoothly as could be expected given the circumstances, according to Jennifer Landrum, the firm’s Office Manager.
After firm members began using the new software there was some need for retroactive corrections to system functionalities and how the firm was using Centerbase, which were facilitated thanks to the dedicated single point of contact on the client success team who was assigned to the firm.
Specifically, the firm requested some report customization and software adjustments. Their Client Success Manager took a look at the firm’s current processes and worked with them on a plan to achieve their goals.
Landrum personally worked with the team tasked with updating Griffith, Jay & Michel’s billing templates and was “very impressed.” “We had one Zoom call, I showed the team what I wanted, and they came back to us in two weeks with the final result, which only ended up needing minimal changes. It was exactly what we needed.”
The Centerbase team “really stepped it up” during the firm’s early stages of getting up to speed with the software, according to Landrum. “If it wasn’t for the team we worked with and the responsiveness of our Client Success Manager, I don’t know if we would still be using Centerbase today.”
The Centerbase team really stepped it up during our early stages of getting up to speed with the software. If it wasn’t for the team we worked with and the responsiveness of our Client Success Manager, I don’t know if we would still be using Centerbase today.
Landrum points to the Timekeeping feature in Centerbase as the most beloved part of the software around Griffith, Jay & Michel.
“Everyone loves this function,” she says, recalling that with their previous software, all timekeepers had to track and recreate their time manually. “There were lots of notepads and sticky notes, especially at the end of month rush to get time submitted.”
With the timer feature, Landrum estimates all professionals who bill time are capturing up to an additional 200 hours a month, which is time that would have been forgotten otherwise and not included on bills to clients.
Since Griffith, Jay & Michel attorneys are spending less of their days manually tracking time spent on emails, calls, and texts, they’re able to dedicate more time to work for their clients, resulting in even more billable hours logged each month.
“Timekeeping is by far the best feature. Time is money in this business, and thanks to Centerbase, we’re able to capture more of it faster.”
The attorneys aren’t the only ones who benefit from the significant reduction in time spent on timekeeping and related tasks. In addition to her duties as office manager, Landrum also manages the billing at the firm. Since the attorneys are submitting their time faster, she is able to get the pre-bills in front of the team earlier each month. Previously, she had to wait until the end of every month to manually correct timesheets after they were submitted, which, according to her was “very cumbersome.”
Landrum estimates it used to take her about two weeks to get billing done. Thanks to Centerbase, she saves, at minimum, three days a month on billing alone.
“It used to take me until about the 20th of the month to get all of the bills out the door,” recalls Landrum. “Today is the 13th and all bills for the month have already been sent out. That is a pretty significant reduction in time spent on both the front and back end.”
This has had a notable impact on the firm’s cash flow, according to Landrum. “We get more money in earlier every month because the bills go out faster,” she says.
“(All) the day-to-day functions of Centerbase are great,” she continued. “I find myself more efficient across the board and it takes me less time to do pretty much everything.”
As relatively new adopters of Centerbase, Griffith Jay & Michel is admittedly not yet utilizing the software to its full capability, which is something they hope to remedy in 2022 and beyond, thanks in part to the client training webinars offered weekly by Centerbase.
Landrum points to the software’s workflow and automation capabilities as the “next step” in the firm’s journey with Centerbase.
“I feel confident we’ll get there,” Landrum says. “We definitely made the right decision going with Centerbase. We’re invested in your product and are willing to do pretty much anything to grow our use of it.”
Timekeeping is by far the best feature. Time is money in this business, and thanks to Centerbase, we’re able to capture more of it faster.
Starting your own business is no easy task. Lisa Newman knows this better than most.
When she left her previous law firm to open Lisa Newman Law, PLLC in May 2021, one of her first orders of business was finding the right legal technology for her new estate planning and probate firm.
Luckily, she didn’t have to search too far; her previous firm had found Centerbase through word of mouth three years prior and had been a client for just as long.
Prior to Centerbase, Lisa and her partner at the time utilized a separate standalone computer with a note-taking application that was so old it couldn’t even run on a Windows program. Despite the software’s antiquated features, they were still hesitant to switch to a new solution, as they knew where their information was stored and were happy with the number of fields the older program was able to track. However, they knew a system upgrade was probably in order to keep their firm running efficiently.
After onboarding with Centerbase, the implementations team worked with Lisa’s old firm to create a custom, out-of-the-box Notes solution just for the firm with all of the fields necessary to track client and matter information in one central location, which she called a “huge improvement” over their previous software.
After three years at her previous firm, Lisa knew she could expect a customizable, cloud-based practice management and billing platform in Centerbase, and when one of her newly hired associates pushed for the software as well, it was a no-brainer to her to implement it at Lisa Newman Law.
Implementation specialists often assume their clients know technical jargon, but “Centerbase spoke in simple terms and did what they said they would do,” Lisa notes.
Throughout the process, her implementations team clearly identified the next steps and according to Lisa, “(they) exhibited diligence and caution, which put my mind at ease and laid a smooth foundation for the rest of the onboarding and training process.”
So much so, that when Lisa got the opportunity to meet her implementation specialist, Alex, in person, “I hugged her and gave her a gift to thank her for all of her help,” Lisa says with a laugh.
Personal touches with Centerbase do not stop there. Lisa also points to reporting as another feature of the software where she enjoys taking advantage of the customization options available to her through Centerbase.
She has talked to her designated account manager on more than one occasion to create custom reports, specifically related to billing.
“I like that I can tell Centerbase exactly what I need and they create the report for me,” explains Lisa.
The Centerbase implementation specialist spoke in simple terms and did what they said they would do. They clearly identified next steps and exhibited both diligence and caution, which put my mind at ease and laid a smooth foundation for the rest of the onboarding and training process.
These days, it’s pretty much business as usual for Lisa Newman Law as the team continues to get up to speed in the new firm.
Empowered with custom note-taking and financial reporting features, Lisa is able to complete her own billing and print pre-bills in-house.
A self-proclaimed handwritten list fan, (yes, they still exist!) Lisa can get the best of both worlds by writing her daily completed tasks on a notepad and later entering them into the system.
Thanks to the hassle-free timekeeping integrations within Outlook and the mobile app, Lisa is able to ensure she remembers everything she worked on throughout the course of her day.
“That is real money that could be missed out on for my firm if not billed in a timely manner,” says Lisa.
Lisa estimates that between the customized aspects and the timekeeping feature she utilizes daily, she cuts down on 10 hours of busy work a month (roughly two a week) using Centerbase and instead is able to focus that energy on capturing more billable time.
As with any law firm, change is often imminent. Soon, Lisa Newman Law will be moving to a flat fee billing arrangement.
With Centerbase, she is confident this shift in billing procedures will go off without a hitch.
“I feel certain that someone will be able to explain (that) in a simple to understand way and that we will be able to get up to speed quickly with flat fees. Centerbase listens to my needs and always finds a solution.”