Think legal technology and the temptation for the outsider is to think no further than taxi meters.
A lawyer reads a letter, picks up a telephone, signs a document… and the clock starts running.
But, for Unity Law, the clock is more akin to a microprocessor controlling a manufacturing assembly line and making sure the required components for a case arrive on time to move it on to the next stage as quickly and effectively as possible.
“We have gone for a case management system which allows us to work smarter,” says Chris Fry.
“Our mail is scanned in and allocated to a virtual case file. The system recognises whether the correspondence relates to certain key stages where we might need to take action.
“If I am away at a conference, I can look at the mail that is coming in during a quieter moment and do something about it. I was in Bath the other day and I didn’t have to wait until I returned the following day to deal with things. I could literally do it from my iPhone.
“If I am working on a case, the majority of that time will be spent on thinking, not on administration. Clients don’t want to be paying us to staple documents together or punch holes in them.
“It might not be revolutionary for manufacturing, but it is crucial that any law firm is able to react quickly and make sure its hourly rate doesn’t contain any inefficiencies. If we win a case, our fees will be paid by the opponent and they will challenge those fees if they are too high.
You might think that Unity Law would be exploiting the efficiencies the system offers to take on ever more cases, but that isn’t what Chris Fry is seeking.
“We deliberately have fairly low case loads,” he says. “I was speaking with a lawyer I know from a very large national firm, that is doing similar work and running case loads of 200 cases per fee owner.
“We are running at 50 cases per fee earner and we do that for a good reason. If we have lower case loads we spend more time understanding the case and the needs of the individual and we are more likely to win the case.
“It makes perfect commercial sense and good sense to the client because when they phone us, we know who they are and we understand more about what they are going through. If the clients go away happy with our work, they tell the people that referred them to us.”