One-on-One with Matthew Reynolds, Chief Information Officer
Matthew Reynolds, Chief Information Officer for Howard Rice in San Francisco, was one of Smart Time’s “early adopters.” Since implementation, the firm’s attorneys have been especially enjoying the one-click, single view of how they’ve spent their time. As for Matthew, he tells us he’s impressed enough that he is considering recommending Smart Time’s Enterprise solution for time entry.
Why implement a time capture solution?
For us, it was easy, because we were able to implement it as the firm underwent a rather dramatic revision to its time entry policy, which essentially compressed the period that timekeepers had to get time recorded into our legacy time entry system. Smart Time became a tool we could offer to help them achieve this.
Another reason was my technological interest. Essentially, Smart Time brings multiple sources of data into a single view for timekeepers, and there’s no other product on the market that does that. And not only that, but as we bring on systems that may be of interest, it gives me the ability to add to that view. Smart WebParts has done a good job of making sure their system is nimble.
One of the things I had been doing prior to implementation of Smart Time was talking to timekeepers — especially the mid-level associate — about their struggles in time entry. I know everyone manages their time differently, and I wanted to be able to deliver all of their calendared events, emails and documents to them. The timekeepers agreed this was appealing.
Like any other law firm, we have leaked time, and our time is only as good as the attorney’s memory or chicken scratch notes or what they’ve entered into Outlook. I wanted to close that gap as much as I possibly could. Hence, we implemented Smart Time.
What are the key benefits of the system for the attorneys?
I think it’s a tickler system. Generally, once you go into Smart Time, you can see what you’ve forgotten. You might see that last week you had a teleconference call, and it was a 15-minute conversation that came in from a client, and if you didn’t make a note, that call could easily not get recorded. In those instances, Smart Time has been impressive, capturing small but incremental billing elements.
It also allows a timekeeper to build a more complete time chit, which more accurately reflects the billed time and the services provided.
Tell us about your viral deployment.
We’ve had Smart Time for over a year—we were one of the early adopters. At the time, I was quite enthusiastic about it, and was also enthusiastic on behalf of the timekeepers, but a decision had been made not to implement Smart Time enterprise-wide for all the timekeepers as we normally would with something like Word or Outlook.
It was just a different type of implementation. I had to put on my marketing cap and go talk to timekeepers,attorneys and legal assistants. What I found is that it was a grassroots effort: if you have Attorney A talking about this wonderful mousetrap, then Attorney B and C will want to check out that mousetrap as well, and that’s essentially what’s happened with the timekeepers.
What features do the attorneys like best?
Receiving a daily journal report and running their own time capture queries are the big hits with our attorneys. Sure, they can easily look in their inbox and sent items, but there’s no other interface that allows them to see in a single window, in chronological order, all the emails, the documents they’ve touched, their calendar, and they can look at all these things concurrently. From my lens, that functionality adds value to our attorneys. In a single click you can get all the information you want, and probably even more than you want.
Yes, you can get the same information elsewhere, but you’ll have to spend several clicks and you have to enter some data. This optimizes their time far more.
Now, not everyone uses it week in and week out. If you have an attorney who is working on a single case and researching it for three weeks, they know what they’ve been doing and don’t need to check Smart Time.
Where I see the activity is when you have several matters up in the air, and you’re billing several small time chits within a week’s time, and here Smart Time is second to none. You can quickly and easily review the relevant data sources for that period of time or you can parse it. You can look at just the calendar, calls in or out, documents you’ve touched or emails you’ve sent in an uneventful manner
So the timekeepers who are using the system like this primarily rely on it not to build the time chit but to supplement the time chit they’ve just entered—just to cement the information that’s being recorded and ultimately billed.
What do you think of the new user interface?
The Silverlight interface is much improved. What we’re finding is a clean, sophisticated, good-looking interface. The timekeepers also like that it’s customizable. Silverlight has also dramatically improved Smart Time’s overall performance and speed.
Has the system increased booked hours?
That should be easy to answer, but it’s not. It’s not as if I can put a firmwide survey out to get feedback. There are a few timekeepers who use it without fail: its part of their time construction process. Others use it a couple of times a month, depending on what they’re working on.
Timekeeping in the law firm is a big challenge. Smart Time assists in closing that gap. I don’t think it will close the gap completely, but it’s a terrific and easy-to-use tool.
What else can you say about Smart WebParts?
One thing is clear to me: the market is changing in the time entry space with fewer vendors. Smart WebParts has survived, and I do think we’re going to see some vendors percolate to the top. Later this year the firm will be in the throes of a time and billing upgrade and a likely period when Smart Time’s internal use will not only strengthen, but expand in terms of timekeepers.
Smart WebParts has a distinct advantage in that they write their own software from the ground-up and can take into consideration some of the strengths of the other time entry products. There’s no other product on the market that brings information from multiple repositories—from the BES, Document Management and Exchange servers—and now they’re taking it to the next step. Not only can they bring in this information that is stored in other databases, but they’re going to allow you to enter time from Smart Time in their new enterprise edition. That will be our next phase for testing and further affirm the implementation of Smart Time
Todd Gerstein (Smart WebParts founder) and all the other players are strong contributors and visionaries when it comes to capturing and recording billable time in the legal industry. Todd has been in the industry long enough, and knows a lot about time entry and the workflow of attorneys. I believe their product adds value to all firms where recording billable time is paramount. It’s not just about recording time, but recording time that accurately reflects the services provided.
About Howard Rice
Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin, P.C. is a San Francisco law firm with leading national and international practices, representing entities and individuals across a comprehensive range of practice areas. Our clients are among the most sophisticated consumers of legal services and include: Beverages & more!; The Charles Schwab Corporation; Citigroup Global Markets Inc.; Clear Channel Communications; The Clorox Company; Digital River, Inc.; Google, Inc.; Hewlett-Packard Company; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; The New York Times Company; The Oakland Raiders; PMI Mortgage Insurance Co.; Recology (formerly Norcal Waste Systems); Regents of the University of California; Renesas Electronics Corporation; UBS; The United States Olympic Committee; and Wells Fargo & Company. For more information, please visit www.howardrice.com.