Telephone technology brings enhanced service to clients, increased revenues to law firm

Issue June 2004

The six-person Boston law firm of Walker & Woods is growing the top and bottom lines of its boutique legal practice, all because of its new telephone system. By using state-of-the-art technology to solve a common business challenge, this young practice has already realized increased revenues of more than $1,000 per week in less than a half year. (Editor's note: Walker & Woods is a fictitious name and some details have been changed to maintain the privacy of the actual firm.)

When Walker & Woods was formed, partners Richard Walker and Nancy Woods were committed to providing the highest quality legal representation with an unsurpassed attention to their clients' needs. Previously, the founders were on staff at another large law firm where they collaborated on many cases.

Walker and Woods formed their partnership in 2000. Currently, they have one associate lawyer and three support staff. When the firm expanded recently in caseload and employees, relocation was necessary to accommodate the growing practice.

As with any expansion and relocation, many operational decisions and changes were necessary. A top priority for Walker & Woods was to upgrade its most vital communication tool, its telephone system. Prior to the move, their old system's capacity to hold voicemail was too small and there was no way to differentiate between new and saved voice messages. Transferred calls were occasionally dropped. Its three-way conference-call capability was no longer adequate, and even their speakerphone lacked clarity. Also, reliability was a paramount concern, as the firm had struggled with too many phone system outages in recent years.

With the move came myriad telephone options. The partners did what most people do when seeking a change: they asked friends and colleagues. The firm also considered purchasing an older phone system that had been mothballed by a larger firm.

At the time of the move, the firm had been utilizing the software program TimeMatters to track billing time. The company that produced TimeMatters also offered an online discussion forum, where customers could discuss business issues. The partners presented their quest for a new telephone system as a query to the forum and another participant told them about the TeleVantage voice and data system, developed by Artisoft, a Cambridge software development firm. After researching their options, Walker & Woods focused on TeleVantage, because no other phone system offered them the same range of operations, including TimeMatters.

Walker & Woods found that TeleVantage delivered all the functionality and flexibility they were seeking, including a graphical interface between the phone and the firm's computers. That interface provides the capability to view and manage voice mail on screen (as with e-mail), save voice mail messages on screen, create multiple voice mail greetings, remotely change the voice mail greeting, and seamlessly forward calls using just one telephone number. Also, by integrating with TimeMatters, the TeleVantage system allows a user to dial calls directly from TimeMatters to track and bill phone time by client.

As part of its research, Walker & Woods was referred to CTSource, Inc. of Marblehead, a TeleVantage provider and MBA affinity partner. Michael Carpenter, president of CTSource, led the team that installed the PC-based TeleVantage phone system. The CTSource team also had the expertise to work with and manage the Walker & Woods computer networking system. Today, CTSource manages both systems at this law practice.

When Walker & Woods' TeleVantage system was deployed on Dec. 1, 2003, it was set up as a traditional operator-based system. This was due to the partners' concern for their client's reaction to an automated response system instead of a personal greeting. However, clients quickly became receptive to the efficient call-management process enabled by the automated greeting. On-site operator assistance remains an option for the firm.

For the six employees of Walker & Woods, there was a bit of a learning curve during the first week of using TeleVantage. However, the CTSource team came in at the end of the first week, conducted an orientation, answered questions, and everyone rapidly came up to speed.

The benefits of the TeleVantage system to the Walker & Woods practice have already been impressive in light of time saved, the efficiency of the personal service provided, the convenience to both the firm and its clients, and increased billings of more than $1,000 per week.

Among the features of TeleVantage that Walker & Woods singles out for particular note for any law practice are:

•  Call Log, which lets each member of the firm track every phone call, in and outbound, quickly identify how their time has been spent, and bill accordingly.

•  The graphical interface, which allows each staff member to know who is calling before answering a call, be ready with relevant information, and take a priority call when already engaged in another call.

•  On-screen voice mail and mailbox, making it easy to transfer messages to other parties or store messages with other case documentation.

•  Follow Me Calling, which keeps each lawyer in touch with clients while they're on the go without having to give out cell phone or alternate numbers.

•  More time for client service because there's less time needed to manage time reports and other overhead items.

•  Multiple voice mail messages are readily and remotely accessible, letting individual callers get up-to-the-minute access and information.

•  The system paid for itself within four months of deployment through increased billings.

"TeleVantage has dramatically enhanced our ability to provide the high quality of service to our clients that we strive for," said partner Richard Walker. "This system allows us to capture billable time that we otherwise might not record and supports our running a highly effective law practice. Having already recouped our cost of the system within a matter of months, we're confident that TeleVantage will continue to generate a high return to our business."

About CTSource

Since 1983, CTSource has been helping clients implement voice and data network solutions that make a difference, by leveraging state-of-the-art technologies for voice systems, e-mail, FAX, productivity tools, and network administration. As an MBA affinity partner, CTSource offers a package of special pricing and services, called Legal Advantage, exclusively to MBA members.