Heritage of skilled representation
Established in 1848, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP is known to be one of the top U.S. law firms and the second oldest firm in the state of Wisconsin. Today, the firm provides exceptional service to start-ups and Fortune 500 companies spanning 12 industries, nonprofits, educational institutions, governments, and trade associations across 17 offices nationwide.
Michael Best handles thousands of client engagements per year, with attorneys, legal specialists, and consultants matched to assignments based on their expertise. For years, the firm used a homegrown business intake application for this purpose. However, when the infrastructure hosting the application approached the end of its life, the firm seized the opportunity to reimagine the process.
“We knew we needed one view, one system—essentially one air traffic control tower to track all of the intake in our business processes,” explains Jason Schultz, Chief Innovation Technology Officer for Michael Best. “There were multiple and often competing workflows at play, and it needed better coordination.”
In an internal survey, 60% of the legal assistants responsible for completing the client intake forms asked for a faster, easier submission experience. And with good reason: the conflict check form—the first step in the process—required 30 fields, or clicks, of information to be entered. There were another 60 or more fields of additional information ranging in importance for the entire process to run. Two-thirds of the respondents estimated it took between five and 15 minutes to complete, and the rest took over 15 minutes.
The burden was compounded by the forms not being tailored to the firm’s practice groups. Administrators had to sift through to determine what was relevant, adding yet more time and extra cycles to the process. A one-size form for all matters and engagements meant training legal assistants on the nuances of how each practice group enters their requests.
“To increase efficiency, we decided to streamline our people, processes, and technology based on a strategy we call Quadruple Right™,” explains Schultz. “That means getting the right people doing the right work at the right time, with the right amount of effort to best serve our clients.”
The Quadruple Right™ strategy was developed in partnership with Cask, a digital transformation consulting firm. Once the client experience-focused strategy was finalized, the next step was to identify a modern, flexible technology platform to bring it to life.
RFI and RFP processes were initiated to find a platform for the newly adopted Intake+™ workflow and other service delivery applications. “Some of us had experience with ServiceNow solutions and it quickly emerged as the best environment,” says Sarah Alt, Chief Process and AI Officer for Michael Best. “ServiceNow App Engine not only provided a low-code, no-code foundation for Intake+™, but it also offered the scalability and partner ecosystem to support other applications we knew we needed.”
Schultz and Alt felt reassured by the fact that more than 100 law firms already use ServiceNow and by its status as one of the world’s largest software-as-a-service providers.
“The fact that our industry peers already use the platform underscores the security and reliability of ServiceNow solutions,” says Alt. “And with so many Michael Best clients on ServiceNow, we envision creating a shared service model between inside and outside counsels down the line.”
The team’s first order of business was building Intake+™ on ServiceNow’s low-code App Engine using pre-built and customized workflows. Separately, IT Service Management Professional and Site Reliability Metrics were deployed to support self service capabilities on Michael Best’s employee portal.
“We were able to really explore ServiceNow and lay a strong foundation before moving ahead with the full rollout,” explains Alt. “App Engine gives us the freedom to go at our own pace and develop workflows suited to our needs.”
Working smarter, faster
Today, Intake+™ powered by App Engine has transformed productivity across the firm. While the process is familiar, there’s a fresh look and feel to the application, with intuitively organized information often just a half-scroll away. A new short form gets conflict checks underway while users complete the primary application form. Whereas conflict checks previously took 30 clicks to complete, the new short form can be completed in eight clicks—a 73% reduction. The primary intake form is shorter as well, with 30% fewer fields to complete. In a business where time counts, every click or minute saved in administrative burden is valuable.
“With conflict check requests reduced to one minute, we clear conflicts faster and our attorneys can begin working with their clients sooner,” says Schultz.
The enhanced visibility from ServiceNow allowed the firm to eliminate a longstanding step requiring attorneys to approve every matter they already asked to be opened. At two minutes per approval, this saves attorneys hundreds of hours of administrative burden per year, freeing them up for higher value client work.
Additionally, the intake forms are now tailored to each practice group and split into Intellectual Property (IP), non-IP, and Strategies versions, making them faster and easier to fill out. Rounding out the process refinements are centralizing billing information, adding electronic billing and discount information, and the ability to view client rates and rate exceptions, further improving downstream business processes.
Schultz notes that measuring the process wasn’t possible before ServiceNow. “In the old system, we couldn’t measure how long each stage of the New Business Intake (NBI) took or the amount of rework in the process. The data from ServiceNow tells us stories, so we can keep refining and improving our processes,” he says.
In addition to supporting Intake+™, App Engine is used to streamline submitting attorneys’ annual Individual Business Plans. On the previous platform, the collective page count of the plans—which capture deliverables, revenue commitments, and details of how each attorney will achieve their targets for both the prior year and current year—had grown to 1,700 pages. By consolidating the number of required inputs for the plans via the App Engine interface, there was a 16% reduction in page count in the first year, with a further 42% reduction expected in two years. This significantly reduces the hours and administrative burden.
According to Jason Rosenfeld, Senior Vice President at Cask, Michael Best has become a more efficient business by harnessing the advanced capabilities of the ServiceNow platform. “The firm is punching above its weight class as an innovative leader in the legal services industry,” says Rosenfeld.
Ambitions for the future
Looking ahead, Schultz and Alt plan to develop a range of other applications with App Engine. They have extended their ServiceNow footprint by deploying Workspace Service Delivery to automate and simplify workplace tasks; ServiceNow workflows to create a more unified employee onboarding experience; and Strategic Portfolio Management to align the entire firm around customer value.
“The legal sector tends to innovate with legal-specific technology,” says Alt. “I’m proud that we, together with ServiceNow, opened minds to solving workflow automation as a multifunctional business solution, not just a legal technology solution.”
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