Episode 16 – Nathan Jordan: Helping Small & Medium Firms Implement Rocket Matter
Account Executive, Rocket Matter
Nathan Jordan is an account executive at Rocket Matter. In that capacity, he speaks with hundreds of small and medium-sized law firms each year. In our conversation he shares his perspective of how firms are using technology to achieve greater efficiency, provide better service, and scale their businesses.
Full Interview Transcript
Michael: My guest today is Nathan Jordan, an account executive at Rocket Matter. I’m really excited because Nathan talked to a lot of law firms about how to use technology to achieve their workflow, practice, and business goals. Thanks for joining me Nathan.
Nathan: Thanks for having me, Mike. I appreciate it.
Michael: You bet. So look, we want to provide just a little bit of context. Nathan’s focus day-to-day is selling Rocket Matter. So obviously, that’s his perspective. But for the sake of this conversation, we’re going to stay focused on insights that could benefit any law firm regardless of their technology platform. But I do think it’d be helpful Nathan if you could start just tell us, what is Rocket Matter and who does it serve?
Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. So Rocket Matter is a time and billing case management software in the cloud and any product in that specific market or specific industry is going to be a central part of a law firm especially if you’re a firm that handles time and billing and accounting. And within that core product, you’re going to be able to do things like managing your contacts, managing your cases and it integrates with a number of standalone systems like your email, your calendar. It also touches on document management and then we can get into more advanced topics like reporting and business intelligence and workflows and automation processes in your office.
Michael: Okay, and then what would you say, what types of firms typically use it and just in terms of size?
Nathan: So when Rocket Matter originally launched in 2008 along with some of the other cloud based systems towards the end of 2000s. We really started to focus on solo and very small firms. Firms that were underserved because maybe they didn’t want to have or didn’t have a need maybe or didn’t want to invest in something like a Time Matters or Timeslips or needles or ProLaw because of the expense of those licenses and the server. So with the cloud, with early adopters firms were able to take advantage of a simple easy to use system in a subscription basis that was very valuable from a pricing standpoint up front. So it’s much more affordable. And so right now as this market has kind of matured, the products have gotten better. We’re able to scale up in the type of firms that we work with as far as size and the sophistication of their needs.
Michael: What are you seeing, what does that mean? Is that like a 10-attorney firm? 50? Where do you typically… what’s the cluster of customers?
Nathan: Yeah, definitely. So anywhere from solos to around 25, 30 users, I would say. It really depends on the firm and what their needs are. There are larger firms that use Rocket Matter and I’m sure our competitors for very specific reasons. They’re not necessarily looking for everything to be taken care of and then there’s firms that are looking for an all in one package that might have very significant demands overall that would require them to pick a solution that has a lot of sophistication overall.
Michael: Right, right. And so the other thing, I was thinking about, right? I wanted to ask you said, up front that it’s for folks or there’s an emphasis on the billing and accounting features. Do you have firms that are contingency based practices that use it as well?
Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. I would say significant portion not the majority but a significant portion of Rocket Matter’s user base are contingency practice firms and in-house counsel that don’t do any time tracking. And they use Rocket Matter strictly as a cloud-based case management system where they can see their calendars, they’re able to see their tasks and to-dos, they’re able to communicate with notes and things like that. To make sure they understand what’s going on with their cases and their contacts and things like that and not really focus on billing.
Michael: Got it. Okay, so let’s see, we were kicking around some topics before we spoke and you had mentioned that you could talk a little bit about what you’re seeing with law firms going paperless. Maybe you can just tell me what you’ve seen and what’s happening out there.
Nathan: Yeah, so paperless law offices or the goal to become paperless in your law office is going to be universal for any firm and in fact, some bar associations and jurisdictions around the country are mandating this too, it helps with the environment and it helps save costs and plus with technology being more pervasive, the cloud-based document management and automation systems and scanners and things like that. It makes it very easy for firms to get out of the world of heavy amounts of papers and boxes with folders and get that all online and backed up and what a paperless law office really helps with is not just the cost and the environment but also collaboration on documents. Being able to communicate with clients. Being able to take advantage of document assembly and mobile access. So if you happen to go to court for example and you need to pull up a document for the judge, you’re able to do that very easily.
Micheal: What are some of the challenges, I presume is, well have you been involved in helping firms to transition or seen firms that are on that pathway?
Nathan: Yeah, so a lot of offices typically, there are offices that have paper. A majority of them have their documents on a server in the office and a folder structure. And they may not be taking advantage of something like a Fujitsu scan now that can easily get documents into the appropriate folders and then Rocket Matter is a little bit higher level in that. in the sense that being a cloud-based that’s like the ultimate if you will of efficiency because you can utilize either Rocket Matter’s document storage and get the documents from paper into the cloud for mobile access or you can utilize one of our integrations like a Dropbox or Box which are extremely popular as independent document management systems in the cloud.
Michael: Yeah, one of the things I think about is just that challenge of having your day-to-day work flow that exist in a maybe for a firm that’s been around for a while that exists in the world of paper, and then trying to transition to paperless is sort of analogous to changing a tire on a moving bus or something. So I don’t know, do you have any insights as to how firms should approach that sort of thing because they don’t want to stop all functionality to make a big transition?
Nathan: Right. I think, it should be taken in small chunks with your most commonly used items and really do a little bit of research on different tools out there. Rocket Matter has a website called LegalProductivity.com where we put out e-books on these things and we actually have an e-book on paperless law office which would be a great overview for a firm looking to cut down on paper and implementing some of these softwares that are available to you. But yeah, the transition could be difficult especially, if your staff maybe is not so open to change in utilizing technology which is always a challenge sometimes.
Michael: Well, so I don’t know, if you’ve, do you have any sort of insight into what sort of efficiency gains comes from being paperless, I mean, I can think of the benefits in terms of maybe, if you’re well organized in the paperless environment, you can pretty much get your hands on any document. I don’t want to say instantaneously but pretty quickly. A lot faster than going and finding the physical file and that sort of thing but what other sort of efficiency gains or benefits justify the expense and the effort?
Nathan: Well, one of them is obviously, going to be collaboration. So when you have maybe an office that people might work remotely or they might work in multiple offices. Being able to access the same document from different locations is huge. Also with some of the document management tools you’re able to leave comments on documents and collaborate on editing and things like that, that you wouldn’t be able to do with the paper copy. I know, that the objective of some firms when they have to do discovery and share a folder for example with opposing counsel. Printing that stuff out old school is just, it’s going to cost a lot of money and they have to bill the other side things like that or bill your client. Whereas, if you can use something like a Box or Dropbox and share a folder that is much more efficient and you’ll be able to see, there is even softwares where you can see what people have looked at and what people haven’t looked at, it’s pretty advanced from a collaboration standpoint.
Michael: Nice. Okay, well, the other thing that I was thinking about is just, should a firm be concerned about having documents in the cloud?
Nathan: Yeah, so obviously, there is a in the legal vertical, there is a sensitivity due to the attorney-client relationship, and the type of data we deal with, and the obligations you have for the bar and ethics and things like that. So we are software providers to these people who are coming out with these systems to market themselves to create efficiencies are going to look at that first and make sure we’re in compliance with all of that. So it’s not just documents, though. It’s everything.
Rocket Matter, when you have your client data, you have your billing, all of that is just as important as documents from a security standpoint. So it’s all under one shell. But cloud-based systems are what it really is the economy of scale. Being able to use a data center that a Rocket Matter keeps their data on with the automatic backups and the 24/7 monitoring by systems administrators and threat modeling and encryption that we use, takes a lot of IT headaches out and of course, we’re always making sure we’re using the most up to date security standards. But sometimes, smaller firms or firms that might not have the best IT infrastructure wouldn’t be able to compete with just because of the economy of scale.
Michael: So, it kind of comes down to, you want to verify that the provider you’re using has appropriate security and compliance measures in place and probably contractual protection as well. Who owns the data?
Nathan: Yeah, I think, that the general sense in it of bar associations is reasonable care. And they’ll give a list of certain questions to ask. So definitely go ahead and ask these questions and we address those in our sales process of course and provide documentation and there’s always our terms of service and user agreement that type of thing to ensure confidence in putting your data in the system. One of the most important questions, I would advise to ask is, if we were to just end our relationship with the provider like Rocket Matter for example, what happens, what is that process like how do we cancel and also how do we get our data out? So that’s something that can be different for different software providers. I’ve seen firms that have had to write checks to their provider, their current one just to get their data out and that would leave a sour taste in my mouth if I was a firm trying to move onto a new system.
Michael: Well, I’m also interested in getting your take on what you’re seeing in terms of work flow automation? Both what are customers asking about and are you seeing any trends, just any insight, you can provide about how to be effective in that regard?
Nathan: Yeah, so a lot of attorneys that I speak with and assistants are looking to save time. That’s the number one goal because time is money. And leveraging technology like Rocket Matter to take away admin work and make navigation of the system and your overall day-to-day is extremely important. And we as product designers and developers are looking at the anatomy of the case and the typical task that a firm or staff have to do to work on a case to try and speed up that process or remove obstacles entirely. So when we’re talking, for example, we just developed a new client intake form solutions. So when you’re consulting with a client, you’re entering data, during that consultation, rather than doing it on a piece of paper or creating a consultation memo and entering that data in later, we can save a step by plugging that directly into the CRM of Rocket Matter and creating the case automatically. That’s one example. Then…
Michael: So let me ask. Does that mean, when a firm’s doing intake, they’re sitting there with an iPad or something or what does that look like in terms of?
Nathan: Yeah, so the custom forms that we allow folks to build on the intake allow you to specify the questions based on your practice area and case type. So if it was an auto accident case, for example, you’re being a consultant for a personal injury case. The client would have the opportunity to maybe fill in themselves on an iPad in your lobby or while they’re talking data about the accident which will then enter the system or maybe if you’re an attorney, the attorney or legal assistant in charge of intake is entering this data on their laptop or computer, they can just type that into the form, enter into the CRM and create these custom field which then starts to playS into report building and also document assembly.
Michael: Another key element is when X happens, we know that there are these three or four follow-up steps that need to take place every single time. Is that, do you see that sort of thing being asked for a lot and how do people handle that?
Nathan: Yeah, so we’ve got a lot of feedback from staff creating new cases and just knowing their case type whether it’s estate planning or family law or personal injury or whatever it might be. They have certain things that need to happen especially early on in the case. Definitely, before pre-trial if it’s litigation that they want to not have to repeat every time they intake a new case and just because we’re going to know that this needs to be done. So we’ve developed a feature called Matter Templates which creates a template when you create a new matter that allows you to set up pre-designed tasks and calendar events and custom fields and information on the matter. So the staff member is able to select that template and all of these conditions apply saving them time they have to do it every single time. And this can obviously create a lot of efficiency improvements.
Michael: Got you, okay. All right, so another area I’m interested in is learning about the types of things that firms have been asking you for in terms of reporting functions. What kinds of things do you hear when you’re talking to firms?
Nathan: Yeah, so Rocket Matter’s reporting. We’ve gotten a lot more advanced in the billing aspects as it relates to business intelligence and productivity for different people on the teams. We have all sorts of reports really, it’s origination, allocation that we’re pretty, it’s only available in other systems like ProLaw what bigger firms typically use. So as we…
Michael: I’m sorry. What is, can you unpack that a little bit?
Nathan: Yeah, sure. So some of the reports, we deal with are related to measuring attorney productivity whether it’s how much they’re tracking in time for different cases or whether they’re doing hourly or no charge or non-billable work to see what they’re billing out on average and then some of the firms might not measure what an attorney bills or staff member bills but they want to know what they actually took in in payments because it’s not always a one to one ratio between what you bill out and what you get paid due to write-offs and things like that. So we’ve developed reports related to what we call allocation or some people call it realization that allows you to see what a staff member actually generated in attorney fees once we take out costs. And then we also add a reporting for origination. So if you have managing partners or referral sources for your firm, you’re able to understand how much money that client that they brought in has provided for the firm.
Michael: Right, thanks a lot.
Michael: Do you guys have anything in terms of tracking like performance indicators metrics, I don’t know, I know that at the firm that I help to manage we really wanted to track file closures for example and things like that. So maybe sort of custom metrics that are important to your practice area.
Nathan: Yeah. Thanks to our custom fields that we have in the system, we’re able to establish basically objects on a matter. So we can run reports on the number of cases that an attorney might be working in a certain practice area for example, which can show you what their work load looks like and you can better predict or forecast how busy they will be or how much money they might intake. So there are a number of ways you can figure out custom reporting in the system to give you that insight.
Michael: Nice. Okay, so what are some of the challenges you see as firms are contemplating either putting in a software solution if maybe they’ve never had one before or in making the transition from a different system. Those are probably two different questions but.
Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. So the two biggest challenges, I see in transitioning either from nothing like maybe a new firm or a new attorney or folks who are already using a system that they have in place is data migration which is getting all of your client information and documents and case information over to the new system and this other aspect to that is training or the adoption of the new system in the firm and that differs greatly based on what type of people you have in your office and how motivated they are to switch, as well as what kind of system you Were using before and how your data is organized. And Rocket Matter, for example, helps with both of those things by providing custom training as well as assistance with inputting the data into the system so you can hit the ground running.
Michael: Right, right. How often do you encounter firms that have grown to more than just a solo practice, completely using Microsoft Word and Outlook, that kind of thing?
Nathan: There’s definitely firms out there, solos and two team firms and maybe an attorney or two attorneys with a support staff member operating in Outlook and Word and maybe a server in the office and that’s advantageous because there’s no additional cost to that but you might not be taking advantage of technology that can ultimately save you time and provide a return on investment there. And then if you have any aspirations to scale or maybe provide better service for your clients through collaboration and things, you’re not really leveraging technology, if you’re not taking a look at some of the systems available to you. And our software is very much applicable to a small office like that and we plug-in with those solutions like Outlook already to make that adoption easier.
Michael: So let’s see, do you have any sense, I’m always interested in getting a sense of what’s coming down the road, you know, trends in legal technology. I don’t know, any interesting things that you’ve seen just out there in general beyond what you guys have planned?
Nathan: Yeah, so the big shift in the last five or seven years was cloud technology and as I mentioned at the beginning of our call Rocket Matter, some of our competitors initially started off with very simplistic systems designed for small firms but as more money is brought into these companies and more development time is input, you’re going to see more and more sophisticated functionality that’s ultimately going to completely replace at least for the small and mid-size firms in the next five or ten years legacy systems from a Time Matters or a TimeSlips or PCLaw or ProLaw. And so a lot more firms are going to be migrating to the cloud. Functionality of these systems is going to be more of a tight-knit, one-stop solution that I imagine these programs are trying to come out with. All the way from the front end like marketing to the back end in accounting and payroll and automation and what everyone wants is basically a system that handles everything for them and they don’t need to shop around and have all these siloed softwares.
Michael: Yeah, it’s interesting because you would think, well what’s two clicks versus one but when all you do all day long is click around your computer those efficiency gains are really valuable.
Michael: And that is the dream is just the end system, not having to enter your data more than once, that kind of thing.
Michael: But it’s interesting too because dedicated programs like Outlook for email, for example, give you a lot of functionality that, you can see the benefits of tools that do one thing and do it well.
Nathan: And Rocket Matter understands that we’re not going replace Microsoft in an office. We’re going to complement that system. So we’re going to tightly integrate with Outlook email and calendar and whatever other systems might be out there. But there are certain things that we can do on our own from documenting or accounting that’s going to be exciting in the future that can replace other systems so you’re not paying two providers and you’re consolidating your resources.
Michael: Do you ever encounter people who are curious about tools like Slack for example and for folks who maybe aren’t familiar with it, it’s almost like if you use Twitter in an office where people can communicate in one place where everybody can see it and you can have this chat based communication organized in different topics and things like that. Is that something that anyone has ever asked you for, that sort of functionality or how to integrate that into your tool?
Nathan: Yeah, so there are offices that are accustomed to certain softwares in their office that have the ability to communicate internally inside the program. So for example, I’ve worked with a firm that any time a client walked in the lobby everyone would be notified on their desktop that such and such person is here for whatever reason so that’s just the rule of the firm. And also things like messaging and things like that. But a lot of firms are proudly utilizing Skype or they’re utilizing probably email or just popping their head throughout the office door of different people to get things done. So building an internal messaging system and also notes, good note taking in a solution is important. I really recommend Slack though because it fits a need that might not be exactly required in a case management system like Rocket Matter. Just messaging and things like that to be able just to communicate efficiently with having to send emails. And you can share documents and stuff like that.
Michael: Okay, any other things that you’ve seen out there that seem to be adventurous to law firms from the technology standpoint?
Nathan: It really what it is, is if I was a new attorney and I was starting my own practice, I’d be looking for something that is going to save me the most money but provide me the most functionality and something that’s not going to be a challenge to learn. That’s really the dream. So really taking a look at what you need from an email and calendar from a document management stand point and then what your needs are from billing and what you’re looking for there and trying to check out some of the resources online from independent reviews like Capterra, like an aggregate review source and also talking to your practice manager, bar association people. That’s going to be your best bet in quickly learning what’s out there. But I could really only speak on the case management aspects I can’t really talk about e-discovery or some of that type of advancements.
Michael: Well, Nathan, thanks so much. Let me ask if folks are interested in reaching out to you, what’s the best way for them to get in touch?
Nathan: Yeah, sure. You can shoot me an email at Nathan@rocketmatter.com.
Michael: Great. Anything else maybe, that I didn’t ask you about that you would want to mention in this context?
Nathan: Not really. Just keep an eye on the space. There’s going to be a lot of changes with these companies growing and I think we’re going to see more separation in products. So it’s a little bit less parity. So I think there is going to be some real leaders that people are going to latch onto.
Michael: Okay, well, great. Thank you so much for your time this morning.
Nathan: Absolutely. Thanks, Mike.
- Rocket Matter – Legal practice management and time & billing software
- Legalproductivity.com – Resource guide for law firms
- Software tools mentioned in the conversation that compete with Rocket Matter:
- Time Matters – Legal practice software
- PCLaw – Practice management software
- Timeslips – Time & billing software
- ProLaw – Law firm business management software
- Other software tools and resources mentioned (non-competing products):
- Slack – Real-time messaging for teams
- Skype – Video calling
- Capterra.com – Website that provides comparisons and independent review of business software tools
- Nathan’s contact information: Nathan@rocketmatter.com
- What is Rocket Matter and who does it serve? [0:50]
- Rocket Matter focuses on firms sized from solo to about 30 attorneys [1:40]
- Rocket Matter is used both by firms that do time tracking and those that don’t [3:40]
- Advantages of being paperless and steps firms are taking to get there [4:35]
- Take regular continual small steps towards paperless; you don’t have to get there overnight [7:18]
- Efficiency gains that come from being paperless [8:00]
- Paperless makes collaboration easier, especially in multiple locations [8:35]
- Security as a concern with a cloud-based system [9:35]
- Cloud-based computing allows for centralization of the IT function, which allows for enterprise-class standards [10:30]
- Many bar associations provide a list of questions to ask your cloud provider around reasonable care of data [11:20]
- How automation of workflow can enable greater efficiency [12:15]
- Doing intake using an iPad vs. typing in data later [13:40]
- Automating follow-up triggers [14:35]
- The types of data are firms requesting to see in report templates include measuring productivity, collections, and origination [15:55]
- Creating custom fields to track additional data parameters [18:04]
- Challenges firms face when transitioning into a new software platform [18:40]
- The value of leveraging technology to provide better service and to scale your firm [20:25]
- New trends in legal technology on the horizon [20:50]
- Compounding efficiency gains from saving clicks [22:25]
- Other tools some firms use, like Slack for messaging [23:38]
- How Nathan would implement technology if starting a new firm today [25:25]