Industry case study from Tikit: Platforms for growth
This article was also featured as a column in the April 2016 issue of LPM. To read the issue in full, download LPM.
At Knights it’s all about delivering outstanding client service through a business-led approach. The firm’s a growth success story – it shot up the Lawyer's top 200 list in 2015 and will in 2016 break into the top 100 – and it’s a story of organic growth and acquisition that many SME firms are attempting to emulate. But it’s a route that requires business-grade practice and case management.
Expanding by 50% – absorbing 130 lawyers and a good number of support staff – is a big challenge, not least in terms of the technology that makes the business work. So, when the firm recently acquired Darby Solicitors, there was serious work to be done.
Knights adopted Tikit P4W back in 2013. “We created ‘Team Knights’ working practices across all our offices, and were one of the first to implement Tikit P4W as a truly company-wide, on premise solution as a SaaS subscription,” says Knights' IT manager, Nigel Johnson.
The firm's management team knew that a crucial element in making their biggest acquisition a success would be on-boarding professionals to P4W quickly and smoothly. “We’ve put time and effort into our configuration so that it enables our lawyers to do things easily, themselves, from anywhere. We need new people to quickly embrace working in the same way. Tikit P4W gives us the depth and breadth we need, plus Tikit have great people.” Johnson is a great believer in getting the experts in, which proved to be a powerful approach when combined with Knights’ enviable ability and willingness to embrace change for the good of clients and the business alike.
“Change today often involves technology, and when it does we propose the most relevant, benefits-led way forward.” Of course, acquisitions have change and uncertainty built in, but you can't do change by halves, Johnson says. “You’ve got to make significant changes in order to make it feel that change has actually happened. A new name above the door is not enough – if you have separate systems, you don’t create a cohesive working culture. We are one firm, and we have one system."
Johnson says he also trusted that Tikit could work to the extremely tight timescales Knights had for the acquisition. “Tikit delivered everything in less than three months. I can’t speak highly enough of the project and its management – Tikit went above and beyond. They were also very honest and clear about what had to happen from our side to make it work, setting targets and milestones to ensure we would make it. If things started slipping, they reminded us. Success comes from working together like that, rather than hiding potential dangers.”
Of course, the firm’s leadership championed new working methods, but they quickly realised that face time across everyone in the business helped new people believe in the value of the system.
Product training, therefore, started from day one. "We flooded the floor on go-live day, with Tikit support staff and helpful colleagues everywhere, and after some initial anxiety people soon started to breathe again. By the end of day five we had calm. New colleagues producing their own bills in week one – that’s just fantastic, really.”
The acquisition also brought a new area to Knights – legal aid, notorious for complex and onerous admin and billing calculations (and low revenue). “Within just two months we had enabled the P4W legal aid module, and internal feedback has been brilliant. It was a really big, quick win. I think there was genuine dread about losing admin support for this, but the trainer had them up and running after just one day.”
Knights is a self-proclaiming professional services ‘business’ and claims it’s truly different. For a start, it measures its 350 national professionals based on client access and speed of service – and even agrees prices in advance. Plus, it’s the first professional services firm in the UK legal sector to have attracted private equity investment. Moving away from the equity partnership model in such a way, says Johnson, has given Knights sufficient capital and a management structure to make commercial decisions quickly in the interests of clients and the business as a whole.
"My mission is to provide a set of tools that help lawyers deliver excellent client service. That mission is made up of many elements, so my motto is keep things simple, because if you get the basics right, everything else will follow.
“Our time recording, document management, back office, case management is all P4W. People make a lot of the visual Microsoft familiarity, but it’s really about how easy P4W makes it for our people to do their job, removing barriers and frustrations. If you can do something yourself in the time it would take to tell someone to do it, you’re winning.
“Tikit P4W has brought that level of speed and efficiency to tasks. It gives lawyers control, and keeps them engaged with their clients. It’s empowering – and it helps with fee recovery.”
With billing, for example, Johnson says P4W delivers valuable visibility and insights. “Help and support can then be focused on matters that aren’t making progress. We might respond with client engagement sessions, help lawyer’s scope letters, or support improvements in billing accuracy.”
The Tikit P4W platform also enables real national team-working. “Knights regularly pulls in people from across offices to create teams for the benefit of clients. Our recruiting decisions are also based on the individual and their talent and specialism, rather than geographical convenience.”
Tikit, says Johnson, are real advisers for Knights rather than just tech providers. “We certainly benefit from their experience. They don’t just bend to our every whim; they challenge us. It’s always a healthy discussion and it ensures we take actions that deliver the desired business impacts. Since the acquisition we’ve had excellent feedback around Tikit, I don’t think our new colleagues believed how easily they became part of Team Knights.”