Over the years, Holtzman Vogel has grown from a small firm to a firm with over 30 active attorneys in four locations. As the firm grew in size, there was one thing the team could agree on: they needed to upgrade to a cloud-based practice management system with more complex time tracking, billing, and integrated accounting features than their system at the time, Harvest, was able to offer.
John Brining, the firm’s Controller, and his team evaluated eight different practice management solutions before implementing Centerbase in May 2020.
“Other systems were trying to sell their product to us instead of actually listening to what I wanted in a software,” Brining recalls. “The sales team at Centerbase actually listened to what solutions I wanted and their direct responses put my mind at ease.”
Due to how quickly the firm was growing, another major selling point of Centerbase was that the per-user fee was reasonable for all of the features provided.
Holtzman Vogel’s investment has paid off. To this day, Brining maintains that Centerbase is “very good” from a cost standpoint, noting that isn’t cost-prohibitive to add users or expand the system’s capabilities as more attorneys and staff come on board.
“Quick responses from the customer support team are Centerbase’s ‘bread and butter.’ When I want something done, they get (it) done the same day.”
According to Brining, the implementation process was a smooth one, with the Centerbase project manager and implementation specialist outlining an easy-to-understand schedule of when the transition from Harvest to Centerbase would take place.
“The team provided clear direction on when they were going to get started and we were always kept in the loop on the timing and hours needed to get the process completed,” Brining recalls.
He called the implementations process a “collaborative effort” and provided a pro-tip to future Centerbase customers: be prepared to participate in the undertaking: “the new system is only going to be as good as what you put into it. You have to provide your own data for the system to work properly.”
Following the transition, Holtzman Vogel encountered an issue with the way their invoices were displayed, and the Centerbase team jumped into action to get the problem handled smoothly.
This quick response is Centerbase’s “bread and butter” according to Brining. “When I want something done, the customer support team gets it done the same day.”
The responsiveness of the entire client service team at Centerbase has been crucial to Holtzman Vogel’s success with the software. As the firm continues to grow and add additional timekeepers to the system, Centerbase’s team gets the new users into the software within 24 hours, enabling new employees to onboard and get up to speed as quickly as possible.
“The ability to honor client preferences and bill them in different ways has absolutely increased our client satisfaction. With Centerbase, we’re able to provide accurate data that you can count on.”
Timekeeping and Billing
Holtzman Vogel timekeepers love how easy tracking time is on the Centerbase mobile app. “They love that they can use it on the fly,” says Donna Smith, Billing Administrator. “The fact that they’re spending less time actually entering time is invaluable to them.”
“I often hear from our attorneys how much easier it is to track time in Centerbase,” continued Smith. “The consistency of the ease of timekeeping firmwide has enabled us to see incremental gains on monthly billable hours.” With 35 attorneys and paralegals at Holtzman Vogel spending less time tracking billable events, they’re able to submit their monthly billable hours faster.
Timekeepers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the ease of use of the time tracking features in Centerbase. Since the time is getting in sooner every month, Smith is able to easily create and distribute all hourly billing invoices for group leaders and the Managing Partner to review. Following their review and edits, there is the added bonus of being able to send out multiple finalized invoices at the same time electronically, which according to Smith is “stellar” and a “huge time saver.”
This extra time has also enabled her to send out retainer invoices first without waiting for any time entries. The firm is now starting to receive retainer payments in the middle of the following month when previously, it would take almost a full month to receive these payments. Smith estimates that with Centerbase’s billing features, Holtzman Vogel has increased their cash flow each month by almost 100%.
When new attorneys joined Holtzman Vogel’s Tallahassee office from another firm, they had a client that required a bill to be split 76 ways. Smith had never encountered such a complicated billing structure, generally having dealt with only flat fees and less intricate split bills. Upon receiving the request, the Centerbase team sprung into action to get a workaround for this split bill arrangement into place.
Additionally, Holtzman Vogel has another client who requests to see all of the time and billing entries for their retainer every month, and Smith was able to work with the Centerbase team to get a solution in place in the system to provide the client with that information.
“The ability to honor client preferences and bill them in different ways has absolutely increased our client satisfaction,” Smith says. “We’re able to provide accurate data that you can count on.”
When Holtzman Vogel needed assistance with customizing their billing templates to accommodate alternative structures, the billing team’s first point of contact was their dedicated client success manager at Centerbase, who was able to connect them with the right person to help with their request.
“One of the selling points for me has been the responsiveness of the Support team,” says Brining.
Smith agrees; she is frequently in contact with both support and her client success manager and has been impressed with the speed at which they are able to get back to her inquiries. In spite of this, she has taken it upon herself to learn as much about Centerbase as she can and frequently attends the Thursday training webinars put on by the client success team.
When she is unable to attend a session, her client success manager proactively sends her links to the webinars she missed, which has proved invaluable for her to go back and refer to a recording when trying to learn how to do something new in the system.
Little touches like this are what make Centerbase so great, according to Smith. “I love the program and I can’t wait until I know it inside and out,” she says.
When asked if she had any advice for potential Centerbase clients, Smith doesn’t beat around the bush. “Don’t make the mistake of getting another program. Get Centerbase. It does it all.”
Brining, who has served as a reference to many firms looking to buy Centerbase, agrees: “it just works, which is exactly what you want a legal practice management software to do.”
“Don’t make the mistake of getting another program. Get Centerbase. It does it all.”
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.”