The cornerstone of Chilton Yambert Porter’s success is the belief that when a case is well prepared for trial by the experienced defense attorney who will actually try the case — and the opponent knows that the defense is ready to proceed — the possibility is maximized for the most favorable resolution.

And the courts agree.

Prevailing in a 7-year pension-spike litigation that closed in February 2019, and that was covered by the Chicago Tribune, Kathryn Thomas, a Chilton Yambert Partner, was introduced to the entire courtroom by Judge Neil Cohen. Judge Cohen noted that Ms. Thomas obtained one of only two Summary Judgment rulings he issued in 2018.

Investing in Efficiency

For Chilton Yambert Porter, delivering exceptional client service goes beyond good lawyering. Quality representation is the combination of both legal and business acumen.

Corporate clients expect their outside counsel to operate efficiently. This includes leveraging technology to manage cases and provide billing that is timely and compliant with corporate guidelines. Not just to win but to win cost effectively. When a robust and growing firm like Chilton is ready to invest in new technology, the selection of products must align with their mission of providing extraordinary legal representation and delivering extraordinary results.

Chilton Yambert Porter’s infrastructure resided on a server-based system, which included time, billing, case and document management software tools. A full review of options began by the team.

As Rachel and Cherie worked through the evaluation process, they identified that upgrading to a new version of the existing billing system, while possible, would be expensive and still not provide the functionality required to support the growth of the firm. Also looking to transition away from their server-based file system, a robust document management program would be needed to organize both historical client files and support the additional practice groups.

The team agreed to look beyond their current platform and investigate new solutions in the marketplace.

Selecting a Solution

Chilton Yambert Porter chose Centerbase for integrated matter management, billing and accounting. Centerbase is a cloud-based platform that is secure and offers a high level of customization, workflow automation and robust reporting.

To improve document management, Chilton selected NetDocuments® which seamlessly integrates with Centerbase and offers collaborative workflow, enterprise search, secure permissions-based access and one central place for document archiving.

Why waste money on a system that doesn’t work well for us?

Implementation and Historical Data Migration

With an if you can adapt technology to work here, it can be made to work anywhere approach, Chilton Yambert Porter chose the practice group with the most complex billing challenges to begin the Centerbase implementation: The toxic tort group.

A group who required “split billing” capabilities, as multiple insurance clients are often involved in a single matter, something their current billing system could not handle.

  1. Creation of a working copy of the data for testing
  2. Data cleanup prior to the migration
  3. Mapping the old data to the new Centerbase platform so that the data was usable in the way intended and that it supported the use of all the new features
  4. Creation of a test database for the end users so they could report on what worked, what didn’t and what functionality they needed to be enabled prior to the migration

Once the functionality was confirmed, a full rollout commenced. Again, this was done initially on a working copy and then on the live database.

About Chilton Yambert Porter LLP

Founded in 1998, Chilton Yambert Porter LLP is a regional law firm practicing in state and federal courts across the country with 43 employees. The Chilton Yambert Porter litigation practice is focused on wrongful death, personal injury, commercial litigation and toxic tort. Headquartered in Chicago, they also have offices in Geneva, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin.

Firm Size: 43 Employees

Location: Geneva, Illinois

Practice Areas: Appellate & legal issues, class action, commercial litigation, construction litigation, corporate practice, environmental law, general negligence, insurance coverage, labor & unemployment law, medical malpractice, municipal law, premises liability, products liability, professional negligence, real estate law, regulatory, toxic tort law, transportation, workers’ compensation.

Results After Implementation

• Firm-wide adoption and embrace of the new platforms.

• Use of ‘pick lists’ rather than freeform entries for consistency and more compliant billing.

• Increased automation and process efficiency

• Easier payment entry.

• Split-billing capabilities

Integrating NetDocuments Document Management

For Chilton Yambert Porter, the NetDocuments migration was not about transition to “paperless,” said Cherie Emling. Rather, it was about “organization and the increased ability to readily find needed information, something that is challenging in a server-based file structure.”

Again, Toxic Tort was the perfect starting point. The practice represents Chilton Yambert Porter’s insurance clients across multiple matters. The ability to quickly and easily locate documents from previous matters concerning the same issue for the same client, or similar issues for a different client, and leverage that work was a primary motivation for adopting NetDocuments.

Ms. Emling notes that the goal is to move beyond the “hunt and peck” for information and to enable the litigators to easily answer the following for every matter or project:

  1. “This is what happened.”
  2. “This is why those actions were taken.”
  3. “This is what we need now.”
  4. And eliminate the need for asking “Does anybody have _____?”

The benefit of enhanced access to the vast stores of matter-specific knowledge accrues to the firm and the client alike. It improves the efficiency of more routine work such as motion practice and pleadings, as well as the substantive work in developing case strategies, managing multi-district litigation and joint defense groups and other complex commercial litigation.

Looking Ahead

Customization and improvement of the Centerbase workflows continues. Just a few short months after the pilot program, firm-wide adoption was complete. Now all groups recognize the benefits of enhanced auditing, reporting and improvement to individual attorney time entries and billing practices. The firm has also begun to roll out document management best practices, such as developing document naming conventions to fully leverage NetDocuments.

The Background

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.

Joining the Centerbase Client Community

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.

The Results

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.”