Legal22 November, 2023

“Paper is patient – Kleos is quick”

KMW, the law firm for medicine and business owned by attorney Katharina Lieben-Obholzer, has specialised in the healthcare sector from the very outset. It offers consulting services in the fields of medical and corporate law, in addition to tax advice for healthcare professionals. Centrally located along Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, experts at the firm work for clients from the medical sector. In 2020, a second location was opened at the Medical Center in Berlin-Hermsdorf. The firm relies on the cloud for law-firm management as it intensifies its digital transformation.

The Berlin-based KMW law firm has used Kleos, the cloud-based law-firm software by Wolters Kluwer, since 2017. To law-firm owner Katharina Lieben-Obholzer, it is quite clear that the transparency of the nearly paperless office is something she would not like to do without.

Katharina Lieben-Obholzer has had her experience with unclear bookkeeping – which was fortunately not her own. In the many years she spent working in reorganisation consulting, the Berlin-based attorney identified a major factor that throws companies off-balance. They lose track of their organization – and, most importantly, they lose track of their numbers. So when she founded her own law firm dedicated to medicine and business, one thing was certain for the lawyer: This should not happen to her under any circumstances – she sought structure and order – and, above all, transparency – for her law firm. No sooner said than done. Immediately upon moving into offices along Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, Katharina Lieben-Obholzer began a search for technical assistants for herself and her team.

‘Many lawyers start out trying to do this on their own, with Word documents in a folder structure on their own computer’, the attorney recalls. ‘But that’s not at all the way I wanted to start out. Instead, I wanted a tool that would relieve me of as much organisational work as possible, thus leaving more time for client support.’ She tested a number of software solutions designed to help put her law firm’s organisation on an orderly footing, literally from day one.

During her market research, she happened upon Kleos, the cloud-based software for law firms by Wolters Kluwer. ‘I quite closely studied the different software solutions for law firms and considered a variety of cloud providers in particular’, Katharina Lieben-Obholzer says, looking back on the early days of her self-employment. Her expectation: She was in search of a solution that would not only be practical in everyday use but that would also be, above all else, safe. So she devoted enough time for the selection process. She carefully weighed the arguments, particularly with regard to data protection and data security. And to this day, the legal and tax expert for the medical industry is convinced: ‘All the main arguments were clearly in favour of the cloud’. ‘I didn't want to set up a big server here in the firm. At the same time, I wanted the highest possible level of security for my data and my clients’ data – in case of burglary, fire or water damage, for example. And I wanted to be able to access all the data quickly and conveniently, from anywhere at any time.’ During the test phase, Katharina Lieben-Obholzer found that all this was easy to accomplish with Kleos. The tech-savvy lawyer (‘I think computers are fun’) unlocked a free Kleos test version and put the software to work straight away. She tested the entire range of features, ran a practical test for PC and smartphone usability – and after nearly four weeks was convinced: this fits. It was just a small step from deciding for Kleos to implementing it at KMW. ‘The implementation was utterly painless’, says the lawyer whose clientèle consists entirely of physicians.

‘Kleos is practically self-explanatory, and my employees had found their way in quite quickly.’ A software project with no teething problems at all? Even when asked, Katharina Lieben-Obholzer cannot recall any. ‘Everything went perfectly for us.’ The heart of Kleos is its central filing system. Unless rights have been restricted at a client’s request, all of the staff at her law firm have access to all files, working from anywhere and at any time. ‘After all, the employees should learn something and develop further. This works best if you have a good sense of the big picture and know how things interrelate’, Katharina Lieben-Obholzer is convinced. It goes without saying that confidentiality is paramount, and that clients can rely completely on the confidentiality of one and all. All worksteps at KMW are recorded electronically, without exception; briefs and correspondence are linked with one another, all of it searchable and, above all, locatable at any time. ‘For a client to call and hear: Can I call you back, unfortunately I don’t have the file at hand right now – that’s something they will no longer hear from us’, the law-firm head emphasises.

‘If you have to hunt down a file as a lawyer, there’s something wrong’

Thanks to Kleos, she now offers the doctors she advises the highest level of transparency possible. KMW clients themselves can access the documents of relevance for them, using their own password-protected access, so they no longer have to store copies in their own folder structure – unless that is their express wish. ‘Naturally, I ask every new client if they want their documents to be stored in the cloud where we can look at them together’, says Katharina Lieben-Obholzer. If, for whatever reason, a client would rather decline this arrangement, this is respected, and the documents are stored only locally. ‘That is now the absolute exception, however’, the lawyer confirms. Just as doctors want to focus on their patients, they also appreciate it when a law firm focusses on them as clients rather than spend too much time on administration – so it is ultimately a win-win situation.

Lawyer and law firm owner Katharina Lieben-Obholzer True to the philosophy of ‘what can be done faster really should be done faster’, the KMW law firm makes use of numerous Kleos features that significantly facilitate time-consuming additional tasks alongside actual mandate processing. Leading the features that the KMW team enthusiastically applies is the integration of e-mail traffic; here, as in many other law firms, this has its origins in Outlook. Attorney Lieben-Obholzer enthusiastically points out: ‘It is fantastic that I can store all e-mails in Kleos and also write e-mails from there, so the e-mails can also be assigned to the file’. The mandate management feature integrated in Kleos also offers fast and easy recording of billable hours, clear invoicing, a link to beA (the special electronic inbox for lawyers) and particularly a variety of evaluations in real time. Financial and performance reports can be called up at any time at the touch of a button.

‘It’s not so easy to keep administration time short.’

Katharina Lieben-Obholzer commends Kleos: ‘What I particularly like is that you can build your own structures in a standardized program – that’s what I liked about Kleos from the beginning’ . She has tailored her evaluations to make them optimal for her purposes; now, all it takes is a few minutes a day to gain an overview of the finances, time investments of the employees and the status of mandate processing.

‘Giving employees a folder to take home with them during the pandemic – that would not have been possible’

Particularly with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Kleos proved itself. While many competitors first had to meet the technical requirements to permit law firm employees to be work from home, KMW was already in a position to draw on its experience. Thanks to Kleos, working from home has been a normal thing here for years. As the cloud solution permits decentralized with no need to store data locally on employees’ laptops, working from home entails far fewer security concerns. Staff at the law firm can consult the folder structure in the cloud and download relevant documents before returning them to the cloud when they finish working on them, rather than having to store them on USB sticks or send them by e-mail. Anyone who wished to do so was free to use his or her workstation at KMW even during lockdowns, but this was not necessary. Law firm management always had a view of the big picture. This is because Kleos documents who processes what and when, while also integrating deadline management. ‘So I can see which tasks have already been completed and which e-mails have gone out, and I can see the status of mandate processing at a glance at all times – we don’t overlook anything’, Katharina Lieben-Obholzer observes. The same is true even if she is in court or at a client’s office – another asset for the attorney. Only rarely will she be spotted with files under her arm in the courtroom; ‘usually all I have with me is my laptop, where I can find the key documents much faster – and there is simply never a folder missing.’ She maintained personal contact with clients even through the pandemic; if clients wished, instead of the now widespread videoconference, Katharina Lieben-Obholzer offered a meeting at the firm or in the client’s surgery – in compliance with all the protective regulations in place at the time. For Katharina Lieben-Obholzer, it seems that many colleagues still opt for their own law firm server in lieu of the cloud mainly out of habit, and that many do not have a clear sense of what working in the cloud truly involves. Security concerns are practically out of the question. Data can be stolen from a law firm just as they can from the cloud; the only difference is that these data must be backed up in the law firm at a disproportionately high cost. ‘For my part, I can say I found the solution to be much smarter to locate an experienced vendor with a certified cloud solution. It really doesn’t get any better’, the Berliner adds.
What is the biggest difference when compared to the past?
‘The file binders’ Katharina Lieben-Obholzer quite spontaneously points out.
‘Today, my office barely has any paper in it. There’s a good scanner at my desk; the client comes in with paper and goes out with his or her paper.’
But there are no empty shelves to be seen in her office: The books will remain – for this paper there is still enough room and enough demand.

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