Staines, Eppling & Kenney is a Louisiana-based insurance defense law firm, handling a variety of practice areas from Admiralty & Maritime Law to Workers’ Compensation and Commercial Trucking. SEK currently employs 16 attorneys and is growing as they’re expanding their office while looking to hire a handful of lawyers in the coming year. As the firm has grown and evolved over the past five years, they needed a cloud-based system that could better support their needs. We had the privilege of speaking with David Bernard, Partner at the firm, about SEK’s software evolution, and why they ultimately decided on Litify as their legal software of choice.
The beginning of the journey
Q: What systems did you use when you first started at the firm?
A: When I first started, we were on an antiquated, on-premise system that was honestly fairly difficult to use and navigate. It had worked for some time when the firm had been much smaller, but as we started expanding and were wanting to attract the next generation of talent, it became time to make a change. We had that system, we had Outlook, we had our billing software — there were all these different pieces to operate and nothing was centralized into a single platform that could support everything.
Q: What were the challenges that led you to start looking for a new solution?
A: As the firm grew, it became clear that we needed to start looking for a new solution. The workload of trying to develop my own business while also being a practicing attorney became overwhelming — and I noticed many of us were drinking out of a firehose. The pandemic also actually caused an influx in work for us, which further heightened the pressure of managing an ever-increasing caseload while managing new business, and those two pieces don’t necessarily match up with each other. You need almost as much time to do one as the other, so we all needed a way to keep up.
It was also a challenge to get data and insights out of our previous systems. First, the scope of people who had access to doing that was extremely limited and second, extracting the data was a manual process. The data was there, but there wasn’t any functionality to help you analyze it or to compile or present it in a form that was helpful. We had to create our own reports using spreadsheets or other crude methods, which was manual and quite time-consuming.
Hurricane Ida exposed another dramatic reason to make the shift to a cloud-based solution. After Hurricane Ida hit, our office was essentially shut down for two weeks, so we were all working from home. And where our server was located had no power, so we were incapable of accessing our electronic files, which crippled the firm. We could work through email and phone, but not having access to those clients’ files, and our full system, was crushing for those two weeks.
Afterward, it became a sink-or-swim type of circumstance, where we could have kept with this antiquated software and this idea of “doing things the way they’ve always been done” or we could make a change. And if we had chosen to stay the same, I don’t think we would have been able to keep up with the competition.
Making the change to Litify
Q: What were you looking for when you started evaluating new softwares?
A: We compared everything through the lens of “what do we have now, and how is this better?” Our legacy software was a painful tool to use, and little by little, people started dropping off because the work we were doing in it was redundant. It felt like it was taking more time to do basic tasks because we weren’t supported by automation and the workflows weren’t customized to our firm.
The opposite is true with Litify. A big differentiator for this platform almost immediately was the level of configurability and customization the platform offered. If you think about it, we already had this antiquated platform in place that came out of the box and wasn’t customized to us — and the adoption rates weren’t great. And because Litify is configured not just to our firm, but to every person within our firm, it’s putting the information you need to do your job in front of you when you need it so that we can each do our work better and faster. That’s the heart of this software as opposed to the others in the market that take a cookie cutter approach.
Other companies approach it as, “We know you’re a law firm, you provide legal services, you generate documents, talk to clients, and bill for your time, and so here is what we think is an appropriate way to run your business.” Instead, Litify will say, “Tell me more, what is it you do, what is it you, David, need specifically to do your job better.” Any new software is going to come with some growing pains as you’re getting started, but once people see that Litify is truly helping them do a better job, buy-in and adoption is going to happen pretty quickly.
So, this combination of pricing, functionality, and customization was important to us. And while Litify may have been on the higher end in terms of pricing, we felt the features included were extremely robust and the level of customization was unmatched. There wasn’t another software package that did everything Litify does all-in-one. We’re big believers in the power of automation and implementing best practices to institutionalize and standardize work across the firm. And having one complete package that addressed our different practice areas and can work across the firm is where Litify really stood out.
Q: What features stood out when evaluating Litify vs other software?
A: Data and analytics were also a significant part of the decision. Some of the other softwares suggested they could do certain analytics here and there, but even early on, Litify stood out because we can take any data point in the platform and run analytics on it without needing to export or reconfigure anything. And now we can track all our metrics in real-time and we don’t have to wait until the end of the year to manually run a report or go through with our pencil and paper to try to do these calculations.
The automation that’s possible with Litify was also a huge selling point. We can configure it to scan bills for terms or buzzwords that would be rejected by a carrier and automatically revise that bill, which is going to save us a ton of time in bill review and appeals down the line. We’re also setting up automation to create a bill entry directly from an email and to automate the creation of subpoenas, which are all elements that will save us time and enable us to focus on more billable work, which is the goal. This combination of time savings and more earnings alone justifies the cost we’re spending.
Q: How important was it that Insurance Carriers are also using Litify?
A: Our firm’s Principals were really excited to know how many Insurance companies are also already using Litify. We already knew that carriers were starting to change the way they viewed law firms. The analytics they run to measure performance are becoming critical to how they select and retain law firms. We’re now going to have this information in our own hands and be able to run our own analytics in real-time to present back to them to say, “here’s why we deserve this rate increase,” or “here’s why you should retain us.” Even when we’re signing on new carriers, we’ll have data to back up our performance, such as showing them how long our cases are typically open or our typical settlement ranges for particular types of cases, in order to win new business.
Q: How did you evaluate security at Litify?
A: Security and privacy is always critical when we’re evaluating any type of software. As a practice, we’re already lockboxes ourselves. We’re a vault of information that our clients provide to us, so they need to trust that we can secure medical records or financial records, any of the confidential information they share. There’s been an unfortunate uptick in cyber crimes that we’ve noticed even locally, so as they hit closer to home, knowing we’ll have this added layer of security and encryption with Salesforce was another win for Litify. I think 499 out of the Fortune 500 companies are using Salesforce in their own businesses. Now I don’t know who that one company is, but the idea that some of the largest organizations in the world are already trusting and using Salesforce means it’s good enough for us. Even though we’re much smaller than a Fortune 500, our information is equally as important and equally as sensitive.
Watch this video to learn more about Staines, Eppling & Kenney's journey to selecting Litify as their legal operating platform of choice.