Stockton-on-Tees Council Saves Costs, Increase Efficiency with Court Bundling

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23 Mar Stockton-on-Tees Council Saves Costs, Increase Efficiency with Court Bundling

“Court Bundling has been a godsend. Without it, we couldn’t have coped with the workload and would have had to employ more fee earners.”
Julie Grant, Head of Legal Services, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.

The Client Profile

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council provides a wide range of services to a thriving area of the Tees Valley. Over 186,000 people live and work in the Borough’s towns and villages.

The Legal Services team supporting the Council’s work handles a wide variety of matters every year. It has received recognition from the Audit Commission as being ‘excellent’ for delivering best value and maintains a commitment to achieving high standards while being efficient in everything it does.

The Challenge

The Legal Services team had been using a basic time recording system. This provided limited information and had reached the end of its useful life. In drawing up specifications for a replacement, the department extended its requirements beyond time management.

Julie Grant, Head of Legal Services, explains, “We need to be able to demonstrate value for money in providing services. To achieve this, we must know that our time and people are being deployed cost-effectively and where they will have most impact. In the past, we could record where our team’s time had been spent; however, we could not use the system to plan resources and identify efficiency savings.”

The Solution

In early 2008, the Borough’s ICT team helped the department to draw up a list of six potential providers of a new system. The field narrowed down to three contenders, who were invited to demonstrate.

From these, the Borough chose TCM (Timebase Case Management) from Tricostar. Julie comments, “Tricostar offered the best fit to our specification and, from the demonstration, seemed to be quite intuitive and logical to use. This was a major factor in our decision; TCM looked the easiest and most user-friendly of the systems we reviewed.” The Borough purchased a system for 35 users.

TCM is based on Sage CRM, the award-winning, web based customer relationship management (CRM) solution, adapted by Tricostar to meet the specific requirements of legal professionals.

First impressions of TCM proved well-founded, according to Julie: “Thanks in great part to support from Tricostar and the work they did behind the scenes, the transition to the new system was quite seamless and our fee earners and clerical staff took to it very quickly. One day for implementation; some training in its use; and off we went! The team could readily see how TCM would make their jobs easier.”

The system is integrated with the Borough’s Microsoft Outlook applications. Fee earners are able to file emails against the correct case at the click of the button, as well as being able to use Sage CRM completely within the Microsoft Outlook interface.

The Benefits

Since its implementation, TCM has become an essential management tool. Julie says, “We can monitor the time and cost of the people involved in a matter and, in analysing the work coming in, build up a picture of trends. This enables us to devise a more accurate service plan. In the past, we might have had a feel for what was happening in terms of workload trends, for example identifying a rise in child protection cases. Now, we have the detail to analyse whether employees are effective in their roles and are providing the right level of service.”

As Julie notes, TCM contributes to performance management, too, “At appraisal time, managers can view an employee’s caseload and compare it with that of other team members.”

However, it’s not just improved time-recording which has brought such value to the work of the department. TCM has created an electronic filing system which stores matters under different ‘work types’, for example highway agreement’ or ‘right to buy’. Using the work type as a search term, staff can then find previous examples of the matter in hand.

“We’ve been able to build up a knowledgebase of precedents on TCM, which is visible to all members of staff. This means that fee earners taking on a new category of work can get up to speed more rapidly, as they have all our combined experience to draw on.”

The service has been improved, too, “We have a centralised store of information, which is invaluable in enabling us to instantly put our hands on details relating to current matters.”

About a year ago, Stockton Legal Services added Timebase Court Bundling, and Julie is enthusiastic about the difference this has made in reducing the manual administration of documents associated with cases: “Ensuring that the right documentation is in place is ultimately the responsibility of our solicitors. Now, with Timebase Court Bundling they can feel confident delegating this task to the clerical team and devote more of their time to the issues that need their skills and expertise. Their confidence in electronic court bundling has grown and grown – I don’t think they’d ever want to take the job back!”

Templates and wizards make it easier to set up bundles, while the contents, index and page numbering are all updated automatically with every document change. “Even just having automatic pagination has saved a lot of time,” notes Julie.

Everything is tracked electronically, while having a full, coordinated electronic document means there is always an accurate master document; if pages are removed at court, no time is lost having to search for them. Julie sums up, “Court Bundling has been a godsend. Without it, we couldn’t have coped with the workload and would have had to employ more fee earners.”

The Future

The department’s commitment to increasing efficiency has become even more important in the current economic climate. Julie is planning to utilise the additional support TCM can provide, “With the pressure on local government budgets, we don’t have the facility to increase our physical resources. Therefore, we have to do everything we can to increase the speed, accuracy and consistency of our work. Introducing workflow management through TCM will help us to achieve this. Tricostar have offered to come in and help us to get started.”

The Tricostar team continues to provide responsive support. “They’re really excellent and it’s very reassuring to know they’re there. If ever there is a problem – fortunately rare – they grasp it very quickly and do everything they can to find a resolution without delay,” says Julie. “Another good thing about Tricostar is that they always seek suggestions for the future development of the system and act on our feedback.”

Solution Overview

    1. A system that supports the constant drive to increased efficiency within Legal Services
    1. Court Bundling reduces the administration workload and frees fee earners’ time
    1. A single, consolidated source of details on current matters, easily accessible by all the team
    1. A store of information about precedents on which staff can draw on
    1. Fast, knowledgeable support from Sage Business Partner Tricostar

About Timebase

Timebase (based on Sage CRM) can be configured to a client’s requirements without any effects on the underlying code. It comes with a powerful user driven workflow and reporting engine that enables government organisations to manage processes and share data within their various departmental organisations.

The system’s multi-layered security model permits the inter-departmental sharing of the database and the hardware platform. This significantly reduces the organisation’s overall infrastructure and knowledge costs required to maintain the system environment.

Click here to read more detail about Timebase from Tricostar.