Access Legal's Practice Management system offers a platform for expansion at Higgins Miller

Based in Stockport, Higgins Miller Solicitors specialises in divorce, matrimonial, family issues and children disputes. Offering legal services across the whole of England and Wales, the firm provides friendly but robust and practical client service.

Recognising that finances can often cause concern for clients, Higgins Miller ensures a flexible and innovative approach to funding, including fixed fees, competitive hourly rates, monthly payments and Legal Aid.

Mark Higgins (pictured), Director of Higgins Miller, speaks to Access Legal about the firm’s choice of legal software.

Why was your previous software replaced?

Over the years we have significantly expanded – both in terms of client base and staff – and our previous software was generally very old and wasn’t continuously developed. As a result, we realised it didn’t meet the requirements of modern practice, and more specifically, it wasn’t in line with the future of our firm, and where we planned to be.

How did you hear about Access Legal, and why was it your chosen provider?

Access Legal is the market-leader and its reputation as such is extremely prominent within the legal sector, so when looking around for a new system, Access Legal's case management software was definitely at the top of our list.

The wealth of experience Access Legal has, and the amount of years the business has been around means the team has really taken the time to understand the needs of a law firm – and has developed Access Legal's case management software as those requirements change. Essentially, it gives us the confidence to know that Access Legal will continue to be supported and developed, even as the legal sector and law firms dynamically evolve.

I have to say the Law Society Endorsement also played a part in our selection process, as it simply reinforces what we already know – that Access Legal is a tried, tested and trusted solution.

How was the implementation process?

Any big project is always a nerve-wracking process, especially one such as this which includes the installation of a completely new system and the migration of sensitive data. Fortunately, we were in safe hands with Access Legal!

From start to finish, the process was handled smoothly and efficiently. We never felt out of the loop as we were constantly updated with progress, and any questions we had were answered speedily and accurately. Importantly for us, we felt in control the entire time, and knew Access Legal was on hand and contactable should we have needed to speak to them.

The training was also a great aspect of the overall installation process. The depth of knowledge that the Access Legal training team has is brilliant, and the courses put us in a position to take what we learnt from the sessions, and use that to explore the system further, not to mention they gave us the confidence to know we can configure the solution without breaking it!

What are some of the benefits to using Access Legal Case Management software? 

One of the main benefits for us is that it’s a fully centralised system. For our fee earners it means they can see every matter, so even if one of the team is away, their cases are still accessible. Taking this further, because Access Legal just has the one interface, it means all transactions are available at-a-glance upon case opening, resulting in effortless viewing. For our clients it means they can always get an update on the progress we’re making and their cases are never delayed, even if their solicitor is away from the office.

Additionally, it’s so simple to maintain as everything is all in one place, we don’t need any extra software or additional products – it just works from the start!

How does Access Legal’s ability to cater for Legal Aid work enhance your efficiency?

The fact that Access Legal caters for Legal Aid work is in itself a fantastic benefit, but with the added experience and longevity that Access has in the industry, it cements our confidence in knowing the process is, and will continue to be extremely proficient.

Firstly, Access Legal’s ability to export data to the LAA’s online portal is a very straightforward and easy process, and has already enhanced our efficiency, but with the training we’ve received it means we can tweak the system, which we are in the process of doing, to make sure data migration to the LAA portal is fully in line with our specific requirements.

Secondly, Access Legal’s ability to generate bills is excellent – this feature has increased our efficiency massively! As part of this, the CMR form is automatically completed for us – case details are seamlessly populated into the form, where its then held in the system ready to produce the summary CMR at the end of our accounting period. This is a huge time saver for us and has eliminated the need for duplicate data entry, meaning we can focus elsewhere.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s great in enabling us to track costs and ensure we don’t exceed them – basically, with Access Legal we have the confidence to know we aren’t missing anything!

Do you use the in-built reporting suite? 

We use the reporting suite for our internal reporting requirements at the minute, and I can say with absolute certainty that the range and wealth of reports is phenomenal, and I think I’ve only discovered about 10% of them!

The amount of information available to us is also brilliant – we can report upon anything we need to, or could possibly want to, and the fact that it’s user-definable means we can conduct an in-depth interrogation of any element and for any staff member.

How does Access Legal suit your on-going requirements?

Very well – it’s a great platform for us to move forward with, and from here make it our own system. We’re still learning to make changes to ensure it’s in line with our future needs, and the next big step for us is to develop it further. With other case management systems that can be quite a daunting prospect, but Access Legal is so flexible that it allows us to tweak it as and when we need to, so we aren’t using an ‘off-the-shelf’ version – Access Legal has the ability to work around us, so we don’t need to change the way we work.

In the future, we’re looking to implement the Compliance module, as that will be a fantastic addition to our system to ensure we’re keeping in line with the extensive SRA obligations. Additionally, to further enhance the practice, we’re going to start offering Probate services, and once that’s established, we’ll look to incorporate the Access Legal's Probate system. This is another great benefit to being an Access client as we have the freedom to add new areas of law to our service offering, and know we will be fully and seamlessly supported by Access Legal case management!