We use 3E. Like many firms, we and our lawyers battle with delivering work to the estimates that we have provided to clients.  How can 3E and the ancillary tools help with doing this better?

- K C


It’s a question that we hear fairly regularly – regardless of the financial arrangement: fixed/alternate vs. hourly fees. Honestly, as a consulting business we have similar requirements to deliver work within agreed timeframes and costs. We also utilise many of the same software applications and platforms that we implement and support for our clients – we try to walk the walk, whilst talking the talk!

The solution that we’ve implemented internally involves more than just technology. We like to talk about the 3 Ps (or 3 Cs, depending on who you are talking to), but basically success requires aspects of People, Process, and Platform/technology. With regards to the question, that means people tracking their billable time as required, following a formal process for monitoring actuals vs. estimates and taking necessary actions, and having the technology to capture and report on the data.

We utilise 3E as our time and billing system, Intapp Time for time recording, and 3E Data Insights for visibility into firm-wide client project performance. We use Intapp’s OnePlace for Marketing CRM system for, among other things, monitoring project status and notifying practice leaders when any of their projects are close to exceeding agreed budgets. However, on a day-to-day basis our Project Management Office (PMO) monitors actuals and estimates, and tracks project status, issues, and risks, and reports this information to the appropriate people in a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) report.

The critical requirement is to capture time at a granular enough level. We and most law firms use PTA (Phase, Task, and Activity) codes for this purpose. When we are pitching and planning new client work, we estimate and then budget according to our PTA codes. We add this into 3E against the matter. This level of granularity helps us to identify which specific areas of a project are at risk of exceeding budget. We are also introducing a customisation we call work orders where individuals are tasked with activity from the budget – so are told how long they have to spend on a given task and either need to ask for more budget or assign any over-run to training or elsewhere.

Thomson Reuters launched a product in 2019 called Panoramic, which brings many of these aspects of matter management together – matter estimating and budgeting, actual performance, project planning and activity tracking, and even automates time entry to a degree. If you’re mostly interested in modeling pricing and fee arrangements along with budget to actuals tracking, Intapp’s Pricing product is a great option. However, with the right processes in place, with people behaviours aligned properly, you can fairly easily use 3E as the basis for keeping your work on-time and on-budget.

We would be happy to show you our configuration in action.