When Jim Zadeh started his own personal injury law firm in 2002, he was immediately on the lookout for the ideal integrated accounting software solution on a web-based platform.
After spending the previous years of his career at two Texas firms, he knew a thing or two about what aspects of software worked well for full-service litigation firms and what did not. His knowledge of case management software doesn’t stop there; Jim even teaches a Law Practice Management class at Texas A&M University School of Law and requires each law student to create a business plan encompassing marketing and technology best practices for firms.
Jim initially went with a platform called Time Matters, due in part to the billing component of the system. Several years after the implementation, Jim heard the dreaded news you never want to hear when working with software companies – “we’re selling to a larger company.” Soon after this announcement, Time Matters stopped updating their software, rendering it unusable for Jim’s needs.
He knew it was time to switch practice management software companies and began to evaluate several options that all had various problems that would not work for his firm: they weren’t web-based, there was a clunky link to QuickBooks, double entries/extra steps were required, etc.
Just as Jim was beginning to give up hope that there was not a legal practice management software out there that could meet his needs, his consultant introduced him to Centerbase.
The strong accounting component, the ease of integration into our current system(s), and the fact it was web-based made switching to Centerbase a relatively seamless transition.
When Jim had his first demo of Centerbase software, he described it as simply “too good to be true” for his firm’s needs.
“The strong accounting component, the ease of integration into our current system(s), and the fact it was web-based made switching to Centerbase a relatively seamless transition,” Jim recalled.
Soon after implementation, Jim attended a trade show in Grapevine, Texas, where he was able to meet members of the Centerbase team, including CEO John Forbes, face to face.
But the personal touches like the trade show interaction don’t stop there, according to Jim.
“It’s nice to actually have a person you know on the other end of the phone,” he shared, reflecting on the fact that though relationship managers for his other vendors have changed frequently over the years, his contacts at Centerbase have not only stayed relatively consistent, but account managers have proactively reached out to him to address issues on more than one occasion.
It’s nice to actually have a person you know on the other end of the phone. Our contact(s) at Centerbase have not only stayed relatively consistent, but account managers have proactively reached out to us on more than one occasion to address issues.
Over the years Jim has added two attorneys and several legal assistants to his law office team. When COVID-19 prompted his staff to work from home indefinitely, productivity substantially increased.
“Had we had a server-based system and not Centerbase, we would have been dead in the water in 2020,” notes Jim. “We were very fortunate that we had just finished Workflow training with the Centerbase team and our entire staff was able to transition to working from home seamlessly due to the cloud-based functionality of the software.”
Despite a pandemic, the Zadeh Firm was able to operate business as usual. Jim and his staff were able to efficiently utilize the Notes functionality to stay on top of the status of cases remotely and see what other members of the team were working on.
Like many other companies, the team held video staff meetings twice a week, during which they would utilize the Centerbase calendar feature to ensure everyone was on the same page with meeting client deadlines.
The usefulness of the Workflow feature does not stop at remote work, according to Jim. Now that his team is more or less back at the office, the workflow and integrated accounting solutions set up in tandem with the Centerbase support team saves Jim’s team 3-4 hours a week and has significantly increased the number of settlements the firm is able to process.
Potential new clients (PNCs) are impressed by the PNC Workflow utilized by the firm, which automatically runs conflict checks and sets reminders on case deadlines throughout the lifecycle of a matter.
Just as he did when he first started out, Jim still independently manages all accounting for the firm, including writing checks and paying bills. With the financial data (and subsequent reporting) all in one place thanks to Centerbase, he is able to easily work with a monthly bookkeeper and a CPA come tax season.
Jim and his team plan to continue to embrace Centerbase’s customer-first approach and take advantage of all the software has to offer. While they have been fortunate to have a steady stream of business, Jim points to the marketing features as interesting and something his firm has not been able to explore.
“I love everything about Centerbase and hope to utilize more of its capabilities in the months to come.”
In this special interview we share a view from the road to rapid growth, as seen through the eyes of John Jablonski, Managing Partner of Gerber Ciano Kelly Brady, LLP.
In 2017, six attorneys left a large firm to begin a new practice, with the vision to build and grow into a global firm with one hundred attorneys and staff laser-focused on delivering efficient legal representation to their clients.
With Managing Partner John Jablonski leading the business and technology planning, he set to work with an intimate understanding of what achieving their vision would require. In his previous role, John served as the lead Technology Partner supporting a lifecycle of technology changes, from the firm’s early days migrating from Tabs3 to Aderant, plus several other platform transitions.
These experiences equipped him with the ability to predict when Gerber Ciano Kelly Brady would ‘out-grow’ a small firm market solution, as well as understand the limitations of complex large firm systems that are cost prohibitive or hinder growth. For their new venture, John sought a cloud-based program that was also flexible enough to deliver the following:
When it comes to the ease of customization, programs that are built to suit come with an incredible level of complexity. John witnessed first-hand how the power of an application can also impact growth and efficiency. An interesting quandary – the more customizable a program was, the harder it can be to tailor it to specific law firm needs.
To compare, what used to require a developer and consultant as well as a detailed technology implementation plan can be accomplished in Centerbase within minutes, not weeks or months. John said it best, “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand how to use Centerbase.”
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand how to use Centerbase.
Gerber Ciano Kelly Brady, LLP’s vision for achieving greater efficiency in all areas is what sets it apart from their competitors. John explains that adaptability and ease of use are a necessity when it comes to achieving the law firm’s goals for continual process improvement:
“We want employees to be able to identify business process opportunities and bring them to our attention. They must feel comfortable with the system to brainstorm ways for us to continue to streamline our processes.”
With Centerbase, John and his team can build out or adjust workflows and automations with just a few clicks, a practice that is dramatically different to how traditional systems operate. “The answer for most law firms is to hire more people. More billing, accounting, or financial people – rather than improving processes. We look for technology that helps us build efficiencies into our practice.” Centerbase is a system capable of growing with organizations, including supporting a one-hundred attorney plus law firm. In John’s words; “In what I would call the ‘middle- market’ there are limited options. We looked at other providers such as Rocket Matter and Clio but knew we would quickly outgrow them. Centerbase was the solution that stood out as a system that would support our needs today and years from now.”
In what I would call the ‘middle- market’ there are limited options. We looked at other providers such as Rocket Matter and Clio but knew we would quickly outgrow them. Centerbase was the solution that stood out as a system that would support our needs today and years from now.”
The explosive growth of the firm requires John and his team to navigate new billing systems quickly. John commended the Centerbase Support Team for supporting their vision and rapid growth of users, citing a specific example around LEDESTM format billing. “Centerbase supports our vision. When our firm needed assistance creating a custom process for LEDESTM format bill submission for our clients, the Centerbase team was tremendously valuable. They dedicated time and development resources to the programming of specialty codes for our clients, now we can generate invoices and upload them in very little time. A project that has been a huge time saver for us and contributed to our firm being paid faster.”
Ease of use and support were the key to the firm’s successful implementation. Noting that migration services and training were included in the cost, John shares that the firm’s timekeepers needed very little training, which positioned the law firm to be up and running even faster than expected. Centerbase includes an extensive Certified Partner Network of over 90 of the Leading Law Firm Consultants nationwide. Expanding Centerbase’s Capabilities with Integrated Systems The more Gerber Ciano Kelly Brady uses Centerbase, the more opportunities for adaptation they identify. For example, the firm is integrating NetDocuments which will further streamline its practice through automated document filing and secure file sharing.
For law firms to attract their ideal clients, they must demonstrate a transparent process and measures of efficiency that speaks to how a matter is handled. John shares his approach to selecting technology that reflects the firm’s commitment to client service:
“How we look at Centerbase is how we look at building our entire firm. In every area of our business, we seek out the best of breed solutions that we can leverage for the benefit of our clients, from HR to accounting, practice management and more.”
A business-minded approach that has not only served the firm well but also allowed them to scale at an unprecedented rate. Instead of thinking about where they are today, they are focused on building a firm that can support where they will be ten years from now. In doing so, John and his team have proven that with the right processes and systems to support their team, three-year goals can be achieved in less than a year.