Case Studies

Food for Thought

Here are some examples of projects developed for other clients.
Names have been withheld to respect our clients' privacy.  For more information on any of the projects listed here, or if you have your own requirements, we are here to help.

Trademark Management System

Client Problem

Our client had a IP practice which used a existing legacy Access database to manage the trademark applications they were responsible for or interested in on behalf of their clients.  To manage the database, users needed to manually key in all data and regularly check the IP Australia website for updates.

Sirokai was engaged to redesign the application and bring the data into their Lexis Affinity database.  They wanted the trademarks to be updated automatically from the IP Australia website and alerted when trademark statuses have changes, or key dates are upcoming.

The Solution

Whilst much of the functionality could have theoretically been replicated within Affinity, the user interface would be cumbersome and would not allow for a holistic overview of the data, leading to a loss of productivity.

As a result, a standalone application was developed in .NET.  The data was imported to custom tables within the Lexis Affinity database, allowing for automatic inclusion within the existing nightly backup process and closer integration between the application and Affinity.

Integration with IP Australia was developed using IP Australia's RESTful API.  Now to create a new trademark record, the user only needs to enter the trademark number.  The system connects to IP Australia to automaticaly download the details of the trademark, alleviating any manual data entry.  This obviously saves time and reduces the risk of errors.

A new system of Trademark "watches" was also introduced, allowing users to create automatic searches that were triggered on a designated schedule.  This was critical as the IP team needed to be across any changes to trademarks as critical dates approached.  Reports are then automatically generated and emailed each week showing trademarks which have critical dates approaching or have updated statuses.

As a result of the new changes, the practice of managing trademarks went from a completely manual, time-intensive system based on old technology, to a proactive, automated approach.  This greatly reduced the amount of input required by staff, allowing them to focus on more important tasks.

Debt Recovery Management System

Client Problem

A client was engaged to manage the initial debt recovery process for a major government agency.  The system was high-volume work consisting of several hundred to several thousand new instructions each month.

They required a system to import and manage the large volume of matters, easily see the contact details of the debtors and the status of each matter.  The team also need to track the history of each matter, including actions taken and notes about each interaction with the debtor.

Weekly reports were then required to be delivered detailing the actions which occured during the previous week.  Their client also required acces to an extranet where they can see the status of each matter and issue instructions accordingly.

The Solution

As with the Trademark Management System described earlier,  the client required a holistic view of the data, thus using the Affinity user interface wasn't suitable, however unlike the previous system, all data was stored within native Affinity tables.

To create the matters, our client was issued instructions via Excel spreadsheets.  Each spreadsheet could contain a handful of instructions or several hundred.  A tool was developed to validate and clean the data, then export it to CSV.  An Affinity python script was then written to read the contents of the CSV file and import the records automatically.  This entire process was automated into a single step.

To manage the open matters, a user interface was developed to view the relevant matters in grid format, allowing the user to easily review matters holistically and filter them by each column, rather than opening matters one at a time.  Automatic fee entries were triggered at key points along the way as well as the ability to post comments, request matters be closed etc.

As their client's reporting requirements changed regularly, a system was designed for our client to create their own custom Excel reports.  This allowed them to respond to their client's requests quickly without additional development time.

The extranet was developed using the Joomla Content Management System (the same platform this website is based on).  This gave their client the ability to log in and view the status of each matter as well as issue instructions.  For security, the extranet server was configured in the client's DMZ and all data was pushed into it from Affinity on an hourly basis automatically.  At no point could the extranet server make a connection back to the Affinity server or any other server on the client's internal network.

Without the systems developed, our client would not have been able to meet the demands of their client without adding significantly more resources.  Creating the matters alone would have taken a team of users days to achieve.

Using Joomla as the platform for the client's extranet gave the firm ultimate flexibility in functionality without re-creating the wheel or compromising on security.

Prescribed Fees Billing

Client Problem

The insurance practice of the client needed to bill set events at the prescribed rates set out by the courts.  Some items can only be billed once for a matter, whilst others can be billed multiple times.

They needed a system to be able to easily generate bills which satisfy the legal requirements as quickly and easily as possible.

The Solution

This is a common requirement for law firms and the solution is colloquially referred to as the "Chinese menu system".  i.e. can I have a number 3, number 6 and a number 10?

Using multiple instance bill dataforms, the user selects the items they need from a drop down list,  e.g. Attend court, attend mediation, Affidavit of Service etc.  Each instance of the dataform is a fee item which appears on the bill.  The amount and description are automatically populated based on the selection made.  Additionally, the user is alerted if an item had been used previously on that matter.

When merging the bill in Affinity, the user is alerted when the total of the dataform-generated fee items do not tally with the total of the actual fees in Affininty.  From here the user can manually write up/down the WIP to ensure the figures in Affinity are reported correctly.

To manage the available fee items, a standalone tool was developed which allowed the Accounts department to maintain the prescribed fees.  Options were included on each fee item to specify whether the amount and/or description to be overridden by the end user, or if an item can be added multiple times.

The end result is a streamlined process which allows the users to easily and reliably generate bills which satisfy the strict legal requirements of the practice area.

Automatic Fee Estimate Alerts

Client Problem

As with many firms, our client struggled to ensure their staff sent updated cost disclosures when matters were expected to exceed their fee estimate.  They required a system which alerted stakeholders when matters were approaching their fee limit in order for them to organise new disclosures to be sent in a timely manner.

The Solution

A Windows service was developed which automatically checked once a week for matters which were approaching or exceeded their fee estimate.

Once a matter was found, an alert via email was automatically sent to the author and paralegal working on the matter.  Different emails were configured for various stages, i.e. when the matter was 75%, 90% and 100%+ of their fee estimate.  Restrictions were put in place to ensure users weren't alerted for the same matters repeatedly, unless the matter then reached the next percentage bracket.

When matters exceeded 100% of their estimate, another alert was sent to the accounts department to allow them to place the matter on hold.

All this happened automatically behind the scenes, without requiring any input from Accounts or any other staff member.

Complex Reporting Assistant

Client Problem

Our client was required to produce complex Excel reports for one of their government clients, based on the data within Affinity.  These reports relied heavily on dataform information to be filled out correctly in order to report correctly.

Due to the nature of the reports, identifying where matters / phonebook records have not been correctly filled out was difficult and time consuming.

A secondary issue was that their client qualified for discounts once billings hit set milestones.  A system was needed to identify these milestones and calculate the relevant discount at billing as well as for reporting.

The Solution

A Reporting Assistant was developed which displayed the relevant data in various ways to allow the user to identify gaps in the data entry.

The solution comprised of various tabs displaying details such as employee / client / matter dataforms, matter types, matter fee rate codes etc.  Missing data was highlighted in red to allow the user to quickly identify problem areas.

Other tabs displayed the final reports in detailed format, allowing the user to see the matters which made up each line item of the report.  The user could then drill down to see how each figure was arrived at, such as associated time entries, disbursements, invoices etc.  This enabled the user to troubleshoot the data in the event a figure looked questionable.

The reporting assistant also gave the user a snapshot of current billings and the required discount rate.  It would alert the user when the next discount milestone has been reached and allowed them to update the discount which flowed through to the reports as well as their bill templates.

The new system greatly reduced the amount of time required to generate the monthly and quarterly reports, ensuring our client can deliver the reports accurately and on time with limited effort.

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