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Mills & Reeve is a leading UK law firm that provides comprehensive legal advice to businesses and individuals. The firm employs more than 1,200 people, including over 550 lawyers, and has offices in Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, London, Manchester, and Norwich.

At Mills & Reeve, innovation is part of the firm’s culture. It looks to innovate every day to effectively solve its clients’ problems and uses technology to enhance the client experience and drive its business forward.

The firm had embarked on an extensive technology upgrade project, which included transitioning from Firmware as its financial and accounting system to Thomson Reuters Elite 3E. It also upgraded Mattersphere and implemented an analytics dashboard solution. As a result of transitioning to 3E, the firm needed to replace its custom-developed billing solution. The application was not compatible with 3E, and rather than rebuild it, the firm decided to explore if an existing software solution could replace it.

“If we could find a quick win with a billing solution, then we could implement it as part of our overall PMS transition effort,” says John Tickle, finance operations manager at Mills & Reeve. “We originally spoke to a tech developer in the UK, but the result would have been too accounting-focused. We wanted something much more intuitive and interactive.”

Selecting Wilson Proforma Tracker

That’s when Mills & Reeve met with representatives from Wilson Allen. As part of its selection process, the firm assembled a project team representing all facets of the firm, including senior partners, junior-level lawyers, an executive assistant, and people from other areas of the business. After reviewing Wilson Proforma Tracker, the team felt confident it had found the right solution.

“Whatever solution we implemented had to work from an accounting point of view. But it’s the hundreds of lawyers who use the software every day that had to be satisfied. If not, then we would have had a problem,” Tickle adds. “After watching a demo of Wilson Proforma Tracker, one of our senior partners thought it looked fantastic. It’s easy to navigate, and what you see on screen is very intuitive.”

Integration as a compelling feature

Mills & Reeve also liked that Wilson Proforma Tracker integrated with 3E. “Our old billing system was completely independent of our practice management system, so it required a lot of manual work to generate proformas,” Tickle says. “One of the big wins that we got with Wilson Proforma Tracker was that, although it is a standalone piece of software, it interacts directly into the proforma process in 3E.”

Since Wilson Proforma Tracker integrates with 3E, there’s less room for error and more efficient processes. If any figures or references change in 3E, the resulting invoice automatically reflects those changes. Since Mills & Reeve’s lawyers want absolute clarity about what the final bill will look like, this is an important feature.

Implementing the software

Relying mostly on its internal IT resources, Mills & Reeve rolled out Wilson Proforma Tracker as part of its broader technology transformation. Because it was tackling so many projects at once, the firm needed to be confident in the support it received from its third-party suppliers should any issues occur.

“For a project of this magnitude, I didn’t have enough people internally to solve every potential problem, so we relied on that support,” Tickle says. “Otherwise, it just simply wouldn’t have been successful.”

In terms of the physical implementation of the software, Mills & Reeve’s internal resources took on the lion share of the work – designing the workflow and testing the integration once it understood how the software worked. If any new functionality was needed, Wilson Allen delivered.

“Wilson Allen’s team was very responsive in collaborating with us,” says Tickle. “Some of our requests were already on its product roadmap, which helped accelerate development for us.”

Representatives from Wilson Allen were present to support the go-live. “We checked in with people to make sure everything was working as expected – and it did. There were no major issues,” Tickle says. “It was towards a month-end as well when the lawyers were working on a lot of proformas, so we could pop in and tweak a few things here and there based on the lawyer’s preferences.”

Training with ease

To onboard the lawyers, Mills & Reeve adopted a train-the-trainer approach with the firm’s internal IT Training team. Members of the team then went to each office and held group training sessions and individual sessions as needed. For its documentation, the firm updated the standard training materials Wilson Allen provided.

“Our rollout was complex because of the number of systems going live at the same time. Not only did our people have to learn how to use Wilson Proforma Tracker, but they were also learning 3E and an upgraded Mattersphere, and how all work together,” Tickle explains. “Training established a base level of understanding, but then using the software month after month has hammered home what the system can do.”

Mills & Reeve has achieved a 100% rollout of the software. In fact, it turned off the attachment functionality in Wilson Proforma Tracker to prevent people from trying to do a workaround and attach or print proformas. Every proforma now generated is through Wilson Proforma Tracker.

Automatically invoicing clients 

One of the things that Mills & Reeve has established as standard practice is for its lawyers only to submit the proforma when it is precisely how the bill should appear to the client. That practice is paying off due to functionality the firm added to 3E and its Wilson Proforma Tracker workflow. The firm can now automatically dispatch invoices to clients.

Mills & Reeve customized 3E to hold billing contacts. When the proforma goes to a lawyer, they’ll make adjustments to the time, costs, and references. Wilson Proforma Tracker will display the billing contact for that particular matter, and if it’s correct, the invoice will be sent to the client as soon as the lawyer submits it.

The firm is rolling out this functionality now. “In total, the firm has eight billing departments that average 4,500 invoices each month. If we can get 50-60% of those invoices automatically sent, that will be huge for us,” Tickle says. “If we can take two days off the time it takes to get paid, that’s an extra £600,000 to £700,000 in our bank account at any one time.”

Built-in profit margin analysis

As a firm, Mills & Reeve tracks its profit margin very carefully – and Wilson Proforma Tracker is helping the firm track profit margins more closely. The firm had profit margin analysis built into Wilson Proforma Tracker. It works like this.

Mills & Reeve adds a cost amount to every timeline in 3E and does a rolling 12-month check every three months on how much each grade of lawyer and department costs per hour. It then adds that cost to the timekeeper set up. That means that every time entry has a cost amount to it – it has a work amount, a WIP amount, and a cost amount, allowing the firm to track the cost all the way down to an individual timeline.

Wilson Proforma Tracker goes back throughout the history of the file. It includes the time in the current proforma, any write-offs that the lawyer has done, and calculates the profit margin. “It will show a lawyer, if you bill this at this level, after you’ve done your write-offs and global change, you are making 20% profit,” Tickle says. “This helps each department stay within its profit margin targets, which is an essential KPI for our partners.”

Extending a culture of innovation

Automating more of the invoicing process frees the firm’s billing assistants to focus on higher-level work and its lawyers to focus on billable work. These efforts add up to Mills & Reeve upholding and extending its culture of innovation. “We want to make it easier for clients to interact with us,” Tickle adds. “The easier it is to do business with us, the more business that we’ll get in total.”

Tickle sees the firm’s billing processes as representative of the overall service it provides to clients. “We’re providing legal advice, but how quickly and accurately we invoice reflects on our professionalism,” Tickle explains. “What we’ve got now with Wilson Proforma Tracker through improved efficiency and accuracy is going to be a game-changer.”