In issue 8.3 of the CEE Legal Matters magazine, we spoke with Amberlo Co-Founder and CEO Aidas Kavaliauskas to learn more about the company’s cloud-based case management software built for legal professionals. With this issue’s focus on the Baltics and with the company being, at its roots, a Baltic one, we spoke with several law firms in the region that were early adopters of the solution, to learn about their experience using the platform and what advice they have in terms of selecting such a tool for a law firm.
Andrius Iskauskas, Partner, Wint Law Firm
Frank Heeman, Managing Partner, BNT Attorneys
Giedre Domkute, Managing Partner, AAA Law Firm
Loreta Andziulyte, Partner, Ecovis Proventus Law
Ott Lepmets, Partner, Lepmets & Noges Advokaadiburo
CEELM: When did you start using Amberlo and how did you first come across the solution?
Heeman: We’ve been using Amberlo for three years now. Our international law firm BNT Attorneys in CEE has offices in 11 countries and provides legal advice for clients in many languages. Since its establishment in 2003, our local and international client base had been rapidly growing, and, at a certain moment, the client management software we formerly used in the Baltic States and Belarus was not meeting the required standards anymore. As the responsible partner in this region, I looked for a new solution to replace the old system. It was an unexpected coincidence that I had met the Amberlo team at the German Chamber of Commerce, and we had exchanged our opinions about legal and tech back then. Later, when we started to look for new solutions, approximately four years ago, I also received a good recommendation from a lawyer who had joined our team from another firm that was using Amberlo. Our primary focus was on what Amberlo will provide to our practice, how our team will benefit from it, and its value to our growing business in the long term. So we evaluated Amberlo very carefully – the quality, the features, and the support quality – those were important details that ultimately led us to the decision to go with Amberlo.
Domkute: We have been using Amberlo for five years now. Our firm had been using a different time-keeping software, which wasn’t specialized for law firms and wasn’t user-friendly, which complicated billing, timekeeping, and project management. As our firm grew, including the amount of legal work increasing the complexity of projects, it was important for us to find a legal software that is user-friendly, reliable, and gets rid of all hassle: have all our client’s information in one place, calendar, time-tracking, invoicing, documents, and emails. When searching for a solution, we spoke with a variety of legal software providers in order to determine the best one to use and we were drawn to Amberlo because of its user-friendly, straightforward, and localized platform, which is very important when working with local clients.
Lepmets: In simplest terms, we were looking for software to provide an overview of the time spent, in order to improve our work efficiency. We employ a young team of lawyers who expect to be able to work flexible hours and from different locations, in addition to the office. As strong supporters of innovation, we aspire to provide that opportunity. However, it makes keeping an accurate account of time spent by each lawyer more challenging. I found Amberlo on Google search. I researched multiple software vendors in order to find the best and most suited to our needs, as a small but innovative law firm that provides services internationally.
Andziulyte: We have been using Amberlo for several years now. It is designed and tailored for the administration of legal services, it is easy to use, and it has effective client support.
Iskauskas: We’ve been using Amberlo for four years now. Our firm had used a case management system before Amberlo, but it wasn’t updated or maintained, it had no support, not to mention its security issues. We also had a mixture of spreadsheets, email, calendars, file folders, and documents. Amberlo helped us bring all of that together in one secure location that we can access from anywhere, anytime. It is worth mentioning that it’s totally localized to legal market needs. So the fact that we could get all of this and more from one platform puts Amberlo head and shoulders above its competitors.
CEELM: What was the initial selling point that got you hooked?
Iskauskas: The Amberlo team has been nothing but totally supportive – it saved us so much time. It took us far too long to find the law practice management software that fits our needs and, now that we have it, we cannot imagine even a day without Amberlo.
Domkute: When meeting Amberlo for the first time, we were offered a free trial of the software for some time, without any restrictions. This was really helpful since we could assess whether Amberlo was the right application for our law firm – was it easy to use, what kind of features they offered, evaluate the workflow, were there any unnecessary features for legal practice, and so on, so we wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it in the future. The decision was also heavily influenced by their pricing – transparent and no hidden costs at all. It was difficult to find a similar application on the market that would meet our needs at the price offered by Amberlo. So Amberlo turned out to be the best legal software for us – it has all features that we needed, with an intuitive interface, it’s easy to use, it includes free updates and free support, and the cost is no more than a lunch for two!
Lepmets: The main focus for us was on general functions, user interface, and user experience. I also suggest getting in touch with the developers or customer support behind any platform of interest – it really helps one understand the support and product one is going to get. Amberlo has been in everyday use in our law firm for approximately two years now.
Heeman: It was clear at the very early stage that Amberlo was much more sophisticated than our previous solution. We liked the fact that Amberlo worked as a SaaS solution, so there was no need to buy and renew licenses, handle implementation, have additional costs, etc. – it was a simple matter of “just pay as you go”. Third, we were in close contact, so we could meet and discuss what was possible and what was not, and also plan the features that were necessary for our firm.
Andziulyte: With the rapid growth of our client base in Fintech, TMT, employment law, data protection, and other areas, as well as the expansion of our range of services, we needed a customer relationship management solution that could efficiently and conveniently help us in implementing technological changes, in order to simplify and streamline our processes, administrate our client base, and manage billable time.
CEELM: Were your expectations met? What unexpected elements have you discovered over time that enhanced your ROI?
Iskauskas: Productivity from day one. With everything in a single software product, our staff knows where to look for matter-related information without having to contact a coworker to send the file over. They know that if they navigate to the matter, they will be able to find the information they’re looking for.
We also save time and effort when bringing new staff into our firm. Everyone knows that one of the hardest parts of onboarding new staff is training. So an added benefit of Amberlo is that our new employees can quickly adapt to our workflows, with minimal training needed.
Moreover, Amberlo is always introducing new features and willing to take suggestions, it’s something that puts them above other case management systems we’ve tried.
Lepmets: Amberlo works exceptionally well. We were hoping that Amberlo would help increase our work efficiency and it definitely has. Since the introduction of Amberlo in our law firm, all lawyers fill timesheets as soon as possible and it really adds up. Having an accurate overview of time spent helps to direct workflow between different projects and has resulted in greater work efficiency. Furthermore, Amberlo has noticeably decreased the volume of administrative work – sending invoices has never been easier and a list of representative costs in a case is always ready to be presented to the court if needed.
Andziulyte: The convenience and ease of use of Amberlo allow us to carry out our daily activities smoothly, focus on our direct work without confusing administrative burdens, and monitor our own performance.
Heeman: Compared to what we had been using for the previous ten+ years it worked very well. After we tested the product, we came with a lengthy wish list. And it was very impressive for us that, based on this list, the Amberlo team made a timeline of when it would be done, with no complaints that this or that would be too complicated – and it was delivered. And they still keep updating Amberlo, which we value very much since it was a huge problem with our former solution. In a few words, comparing Amberlo to other solutions we have come across, it is very easy to reach out to them and they are keen to cooperate with you by listening to your needs, ultimately making sure they are implemented accordingly. They understand the legal business, they are responsive and willing to cooperate.
What particularly surprised and astonished me was that Amberlo managed to migrate all our data from the old system while maintaining the highest quality of the data! From the very beginning, Amberlo was more than we expected, since even some of the custom ideas we had on reporting were implemented as well.
Domkute: With clients across the country, we’re always looking for ways to improve how we deliver our services. A pleasant surprise was that it is possible to enter individual rates for each project, so every time I need to fill in timesheets there is no reason to think whether I have applied the rates that were agreed with a client. And if one attorney at our firm charges a different fee, or if certain tasks carry a different fee, Amberlo can be adjusted to automatically reflect the different rates when bills are generated. In short, it helps us bill accurately and reduces time spent on administrative tasks. We are also pleased that the software is constantly being improved with new functions, having a knowledge base and a great support team. It’s important for us to have a system that helps our law firm operate seamlessly, without compromising our clients’ interests and improving the way we do business.
CEELM: Lawyers are not traditionally recognized as a particularly tech-savvy bunch. How difficult was it to get your lawyers to use the new platform and what best practices have you developed that you’d suggest to anyone thinking of switching (either to this or another platform)?
Andziulyte: At our law firm the opposite is true, as most of our clients are from the Fintech, IT, and Telecommunications sectors. Our team of lawyers is well-versed in technology, actively and willingly testing and even proposing various new technological solutions for process optimization in their daily work. We have recently tested an AI platform to streamline the drafting of legal documents, due diligence for all types of contracts, GDPR audits, etc. The whole team received training before we started using Amberlo, which helped us integrate the system into our daily activities in a quite clear and simple way.
Domkute: It was not difficult for our team to use Amberlo at all – it was more difficult to use it on a regular basis! However, we perfectly understood that if no one has time to develop the right habits to use the tool, it would be a wasted investment, because I think that people’s practices make software useful, not the other way around. My only advice for those considering investing in legal software is that, before investing in new software, it’s important to know what your strategic goals are and what pain points you intend to address. And if it’s possible to get a free trial, take it! Then test it out to ensure it meets your expectations and it will achieve the goals you laid out for your business. That’s exactly what our firm did, and it paid off enormously.
Lepmets: Using Amberlo is straightforward and simple. Developing the habit of Amberlo is the tricky part. Indeed, lawyers will need some time to get used to the platform. It goes without saying however that consistent use of it is the prerequisite for the best results. A couple of months of constant reminders worked wonders for our law firm.
Heeman: Not difficult at all, in fact, it was very easy. Maybe it’s because we were using legal software before and Amberlo was much more user-friendly and intuitive.
In terms of my advice to others, first, get an understanding of what law firm management software is – what functions it provides and how easy it is to use. Assess your own needs – what do I want to address and what expected efficiencies you stand to gain from using it. Then look into what is offered on the market, ask for recommendations from other lawyers who have already gone through the process, test different options, and finally make your decision.
There is also a balance to be struck. I do not need a company to have 100 years of experience. On the other hand, going for a completely new startup would be very risky and, in my view, irresponsible in our line of business. Speaking about Amberlo, I do not regard them as a typical startup with three bright students, no customers, and no practical experience. Rather Amberlo offered, even four years ago when we first started looking into this product, a solid solution as well as a credible track record, including a number of satisfied law firms already working with them. Since then, it has proved to be a fast-growing business in which we found a mature product, with continuing solid feedback from other players.
Iskauskas: Our firm’s migration to Amberlo was painless and quick. Of course, there were questions, but the staff of Amberlo was excellent at providing all the necessary consulting and training to bring everyone up to speed quickly. And its web-based nature means that new features are added regularly, so there’s plenty of scope to accommodate the business as it grows. However, the biggest challenge was trying to change our working habits and begin working in a way that would be systematic and repeatable. But once you accomplish that, you finally get ahead of your work and find yourself in a far better place, at the beginning of each new legal matter.
What advice would I give to other lawyers when choosing a solution? Ask if the system is customizable enough to meet your needs. Look at security. The way data is collected, secured, stored, and shared is a crucial part of any software. Determine the expertise of the legal software vendor. Ask what’s the future of this product and vendor? Consider how easy it is to migrate to. Look at the support system – how fast is the support service? Is it free? Ask how often the software is updated. Last but not least, the software’s intuitiveness is very important because people don’t use complex systems.