Cloud delivery means much lower cost of ownership and data resilience. Building on a Microsoft legal industry stack means future proofing by the world’s largest software company and much greater ease of managing ongoing software upgrades. But the highest value flows from ‘client centricity’ – the ability of Peppermint to provide a single, simple but powerful interface that transforms the speed of client service, and builds richer relationships with clients based on agility, cost, quality and consistency of service.
In this QnA interview Peppermint CEO and founder, Arlene Adams and Peppermint CTO Mike Walker ‘deep dive’ with real examples of what ‘client centricity’ means and how it works.
The best way of understanding this is to look at a simple example – residential conveyancing, which is a great example of Peppermint client centricity in action.
Using a standard ‘old school’ practice management system (PMS), the workflow is handled thus: Get instruction. Open case in case management system – record key matter (eg. property) data. Open potential client / matter in client matter inception (CMI) system– run conflict / ‘know your client’ checks. Open client / matter in PMS. Set up fee rates. Open client/matter in document management (DMS) system. Open client / matter in portal system. Generate new client care letter using stand-alone documents assembly tool. Make phone calls + meetings + filenotes – recorded in Outlook calendar and DMS. Record key activities in customer relationship management (CRM) system to track interaction with client. Record all time taken for each step on timesheet. If you want documents published online, then move them over to portal system to publish to client. If you want to keep client up to date on progress, then all that has to be done manually – eg. send emails. Any client complaints received are recorded in complaints register.
This is the standard best-of-breed approach. Typically, seven different software applications are required, which separately store the data they manage. Then, you rely on the efforts of people to add the extra service element. Want to keep the client up to date on progress? That’s done manually and takes extra effort. Want to track all activity to ensure a 360-degree view for the client? Do it manually.
In Peppermint one system can do ALL that. Data is stored once. Data is all joined up. Manual steps can be eliminated or automated. Online publishing is built in; emails or texts can be triggered automatically. And design workflow processes (simple forms for data collection, automated routing, escalations, approvals etc.) are integrated within the workflow. If you wanted to do that in the old school world you would need to buy another business process management product and establish a data later underneath that (integrated with the main systems) and then develop it all yourself.
What’s more, Peppermint’s workflow / collaboration is not limited to within your walls, so some steps can directly engage the client (eg. it can send an email link to the client asking for data about the property that’s being bought, and that directly updates the case information in Peppermint). And, the client has their online portal where they go and see the status of the purchase at any time. And there are texts / emails coming at them (automated) to tell them whether it is on track (so they do not have to call their lawyer to ask), and potentially, how it is tracking against the fee budget. When the client does ring the law firm, anyone can look at their (single) record in the system and (subject to security) have a 360-degree view of everything that is happening for that client.
The Peppermint breakthrough is all about tracking and managing activity. Traditional legal systems are client and matter centric. There’s an assumption in the data structure that a client will exist as a pre-requisite, and that the client will have matters. Anything in the system then hangs off that: Want to record time? You need a matter. Want to file a document? You need a matter. Want to invite someone to lunch and record it? You need a client.
However, activity in the real world starts way before someone is a client. You go to an event, you meet someone, you want to target them as a potential prospect – no luck in the old school systems. In a PMS you’d have to set up a client – and a client denotes a level of due diligence and ‘know your client’ background checking. But in Peppermint because it is CRM centric, you can set up a contact record and that allows you to include them in marketing activity, record time, documents, emails, interactions and everything. At some stage, you might convert them from a contact (or lead) to a client at which time the due diligence checking kicks in. In the old world you could open them in your CRM system as a contact, but if you convert them to a client you have to then open them up in the PMS and the two things – contact history and client history – are forever separate. And while it is only in the CRM you cannot record time to it, as that only happens in the PMS – so you get no cost of customer acquisition, etc.
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Let’s say you want to target the top 200 companies in a certain sector. You want to set them up and track key profiling information: companies in that sector with whom you currently do business, stats from the target companies – is business trending up or down, are your marketing efforts yielding results? Again, not possible in old school systems. Your targeted companies (ie. not yet clients) would be in your old CRM system and your clients (and all related fees data) would be in your PMS/accounting system. Not only would you need to try to integrate the data from the two systems, you would have to find a way to make the information consistent – aligning these companies with this profile data in one system, with similar companies with fees data in another.
And then there is the agility factor. Today, I want to know industry sector, revenue, operating regions, etc. But what if I suddenly need to identify companies by head office (eg. Brexit – identify all companies with head-office in EU) and I did not have that in the profile? With the flexibility of Peppermint, you could add that profiling information in minutes. Old school software does not have the architectural framework to make that easily possible. Let’s say I want to track key stats for my top clients so I get a 360-degree view. I track fees earned, number of engagements, share of total legal spend, referred revenue, overall net promoter score, key contact relationships, and strength of relationships, but I want to see that as a rolling 12 months’ change year-on-year. In an old school system, you would get the first two (because they are generated as a result of the accounting functionality) but the others are qualitative – old school systems do not have the design to track that stuff. At best some may exist in your CRM system, but again there is a world of pain trying to integrate the data from two disparate systems, and then make sense of it.
Well, the fact that I’m here speaks volumes. My single biggest frustration has been around the impact of technology on legal practice. Technology should make it faster and easier for lawyers to deliver better service to clients But – despite a huge investment – the reality is that technology is becoming a barrier, requiring lawyers to spend more time learning complex IT applications and less time doing the things that clients value.
The really exciting thing about Peppermint is that it’s been designed with a clean sheet of paper to solve that very problem. The cloud, the Microsoft stack, are technology accelerators, but the design and philosophy of Peppermint is what really matters. And that’s about legal technology that works the way lawyers work.
It’s clear to me that investing in Peppermint is an investment in the future. Investing in legacy client server legal software is an investment in the past. I am relishing the opportunity to continue the development of a legal market solution that is truly modern, absolutely transformational, and potentially highly disruptive in terms of the ability of Peppermint to help lawyers work smarter and faster and get closer to their clients.
Attwaters Jameson Hill
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