In the last couple of years at the annual conference for CALSPro, hot topics like electronic service or service via Facebook inevitably come up. Why? Because technology is the primary vehicle in these instances to get the job done and that’s a very scary proposition for people who make a living serving documents in person.
It’s even scarier for them if they don’t have access to, or don’t know how to use, technology to eServe or eFile for their clients.
Change is hard. I know firsthand because in 2004, I transformed my attorney service company from a traditional “pickup and delivery of legal documents” business model, to one that did it exclusively over the web.
How It All Started
Inspired by seeing how the Internet was revolutionizing the way people bought and sold products and services; I knew it was the way of the future.
I hired a couple of engineers to build a software platform that would automate and run my company as much as possible.
Full disclaimer: I’m not a software engineer or even very adept at how the back end of technology works, but I am a legal support service professional. As a process server turned business owner, I was able to use my two decades of filing & serving papers for a living, to articulate my business needs. I shared my ideas and helped design our software the way legal support professionals use it, while the engineers coded all the back end plumbing to make it work as designed.
I wanted our customers to be able to open accounts, place orders, and manage their orders and cases online, as well as, pay invoices all from within the platform. I also wanted our staff and affiliate partners to be able to process those same orders and update them in the platform.
Change is Hard
Even before the software platform was ready to be rolled out we started our transformation. Remember when I said, “Change is hard”? That wasn’t an understatement.
We knew we had to transform the way our company did business from start to finish. And that started with the hearts and minds of our staff and customers. We weren’t only changing the way they did their work, we were requiring them to change deeply held habits and mind sets – and that’s a tough thing to do.
And of course, we had to change virtually every policy, procedure and business process we used because they were created around pushing paper. Now we needed those practices to be developed around using our new electronic system.
Plus, we had to train our staff on how to use the platform. And we had to train our customers on how to use it too.
Oh, and we couldn’t forget training our field agents and affiliate partners. Yes, they were now required to log into the platform to retrieve and update orders.
We required all customers to create their accounts and place their work orders online. We even required them to include payment information of either a bank account or credit card as their payment method.
Do you see a pattern here?
I knew that in order for this transformation to work, WE had to change. And a big part of that change was setting new expectations, requirements (notice that I say “required” a lot) standards, and best practices for employees, customers and vendors.
We also had to facilitate the changing of our customers and affiliate partners. All three legs on this pedestal; us, our customers, and our affiliate partners; had to be in sync for success.
Yes, there was a lot of change going on.
Let the Good Times Roll
But after the dust settled, we were able to reap tons of benefits.
Our offices went virtually paperless. We no longer had desks and baskets brimming with copies work order controls around the office.
Our accounts receivables went down dramatically because now we had a payment information we could charge if they didn’t pay their invoices timely.
We gained tons of efficiencies that allowed us to consolidate staff. Our staff greatly increased their computer skills adding to their overall value and skillsets.
Our customers raved about how much faster and more accurate our service was for them.
Plus, we were able to raise our prices because we were delivering much more value to our customers than ever before.
A Little Bad Comes with the Good
But not all was rosy. This was a tough transition for our team and our customers.
Some team members weren’t able to catch on to the new way of doing things. Some jumped ship. Others were let go. And some of our customers weren’t ready to make that kind of leap and left (many have since returned).
Ultimately though, everyone else pulled through. Remember, this all started back in 2004.
Let’s Start Back From the Top
I started this post by describing how electronic service and technology have been hot topics at the past couple of CALSPro annual conferences. Why were they such hot topics? Because of fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of being sidelined and more.
And when fear sets in, people resist. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Everyone who knows me, knows that I’m a big advocate for electronic filing & service and technology. I’ve been using technology and software for well over a decade now.
So when I started to realize my legal support service peers either didn’t have access to world class legal support service software or a solution to eFile, I realized we could help.
Fast Forward to 2015
Instead of keeping our software to ourselves, we decided to make it available to other companies. Because we knew how expensive and tough it would be for others to do what we did.
So last year, our team embarked on a huge project. We made dramatic changes to our software so that it could be used by any company or independent contractor in the legal support services industry. And with that, LegalConnect was born.
You see, we’ve been in the legal support service field since the 80’s. We have tons of friendships and relationships with other professionals in the field. And we feel that all of them deserve a chance to survive and thrive in the digital world, today and in the future.
We knew that our software platform, and more importantly, the way we used it, allowed us to enjoy unique competitive advantages. We delivered papers faster and more accurately. Our service became more reliable.
We provided better customer service because we were freed up more to give special attention to our customers. We got paid faster which gave us more cash flow to more advance fees for customers. And on and on.
Plus, our platform allowed us to connect with courts as they each mandated eFiling.
We wished the same for every other small business owner in the legal support services industry.
With LegalConnect, now they and you, can.
I’ve been in the legal support services industry since the 1980’s.
I started my digital transformation in 2004. At the time, people thought I was crazy and some still do.
I had 11 locations and over 50 employees who picked up and delivered legal documents on routes and to courts throughout the state of California. Sure, the transformation wasn’t easy and it was very scary at times.
But you know what was scarier to me? Not doing it.
Court eFiling regulations are increasing. Competition is stiffer. Technology continues to advance.
I’m happy that legal support service professionals and business owners now have an answer to those challenges so they can stay in the game for many more years to come.
By David S. Nill \\ Founder and CEO