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Exchange • Winter 2013 > Case Studies >Watson Burton LLP

Watson Burton LLP

Envision Helps 200-Year-Old Firm Maintain Competitive Edge


Watson Burton LLP is a leading full-service law firm that has been providing a full range of commercial law services to an established national client base for more than 200 years. Employing over 300 people with offices in Newcastle, Leeds, and London, the firm has significant nationwide coverage providing first-class legal advice.


The firm needed to replace its manual application with an automatic practice management solution with integrated document management.


Envision is one of the most comprehensive business tools available for law firms.


  • Cut delays with standardised internal processes
  • Time-saving document management system
  • Increased efficiency with quicker turnover rates
  • Improved client relations with streamlined case management and 24/7 client extranet


As a firm that traces back 200 years, Watson Burton LLP is no stranger to keeping up with changes in trends. The practice first originated in the Victorian era and has since become a leading full-service law firm. The firm puts client care and loyalty above all else, an approach that has maintained several clients from the Victorian era to this day.

In 2005, Watson Burton was growing rapidly and needed to implement a full practice management solution (PMS) across the firm. Its previous software was a DO S-based version of Linetime that hadn't yet been updated to a Windows-based system.

After embarking on a lengthy selection process, the firm recognized that Envision from Thomson Reuters Elite was one of the few products with an intuitive Web interface. According to IT Manager Jonathan Smith, "This was also a key factor in choosing Envision at the firm I worked with previously to Watson Burton. The Envision product was just that little bit different and acting on the assumption that all lawyers were likely to have used a Web site before, they'd be able to use the Envision interface."

Envision is one of the most comprehensive business tools available for law firms and includes practice, financial, matter, case, document, and client relationship management solutions. It was one of the earliest solutions built from the ground up to use Microsoft® SQL Server® as its underlying database engine. Envision was also the first UK law firm solution to be built on an integrated workflow engine to support complete process management.


Before moving to Envision, time recording was a manual, paper-based process that created frequent backlogs.

Jonathan Smith, IT Manager


The other key factor in selecting Envision was the rich feature set with everything in one integrated product. The firm felt that switching from an accounts-only system to PMS firm-wide would be a huge jump. Because Envision was known at the time mainly for capabilities other than document management, and because document management wasn't included in their previous application, Smith wasn't sure if his staff would be aware of its full capabilities. "The idea was to initially put something in place for document management and case management and generate interest in these functions across the firm. Overall, the whole integrated package with an easy-to-use Web interface made it quite an easy choice for our firm."

In December 2011, Thomson Reuters Elite acquired Pilgrim Systems, developer of Envision, as a key component in its product development strategy and overall international growth strategy.


The implementation of Envision immediately relieved the burden of manual input—a job that was reduced from the responsibilities of three people to just one. "Our internal processes previously were very manual. Our reporting was on a monthly basis with no real-time information or regular snapshots available. The production of reporting was a laboured process and relied upon key staff for its generation. Envision hugely streamlined and improved this process," explains Smith.

"Before moving to Envision, time recording was a manual, paper-based process that created frequent backlogs," he says. Hence, the firm's fee earners took quickly to Envision due to its speedy electronic time recording. "Within the first fortnight of going live we had around 99 percent of fee earners live and electronically time recording," he continues. "Electronic time recording was adopted by practically all of our fee earners within two weeks."

Fee earners' quick adoption was representative of Envision approval among the rest of the firm's staff. "We also decided in advance on some rules and guidelines for using Envision, which greatly assisted with the implementation and maintains consistency across the firm."

Envision's implementation broadened staff outlook to other changes as well. "The ease of the Envision implementation and the benefits it has brought has made our people less resistant to change and open to new technology innovations, for example the implementation of digital dictation," adds Smith.

The firm has two internal trainers who are very experienced in Envision. This, in addition to a combination of classroom and drop-in sessions and good quality handouts, helped the process run smoothly.


Fee Earners Gain Immediate Access to Specific Information
Envision provides information that is accessible straight from fee earners' desktops. "We spent quite a lot of time tailoring reports, particularly performance and fee earners performance reports, to enable people to drill down to specific information quickly. We also produce reports on clients, for example our top 200 clients, and additional business development reporting," says Smith.


Envision is developed by an evolving company that is always looking at current technology. They frequently look hard at the product and are constantly searching for ways to both improve the product and deliver real benefits.

Jonathan Smith


Streamlined Creation Process as a Whole
Smith and firm staff find Envision's Document Management capabilities very efficient, resulting in an easy-to-use system. "We started off doing small amounts of workflow for file opening and immediately benefitted from a standardised process across the firm and cut out the significant delays experienced previously when opening a file and getting time recorded on it."

Huge Time Benefits = Quicker Turnover Rates
The firm has seen an increase in the number of case management projects carried out with Envision. This has added huge time benefits in terms of the cases the firm can turn over. "We've just completed one for a large client that's gone down particularly well which they now access remotely via the Envision extranet feature."

Improved Client Relations
With clients able to access published information from the extranet at any time, the firm is able to be more flexible and innovative in commercial terms for its clients. "Clients are looking to cut costs in these hard times, and by doing the work in a more streamlined fashion with the case management tool, we have been able to accommodate them," Smith explains. In addition, the client extranet is now used as a template to offer real benefits to clients that often the firm's competitors can't match.


Smith and his staff are eager to try the latest version of Envision as quickly as possible and may opt to become a Beta site in the future. "Envision is developed by an evolving company that is always looking at current technology," says Smith. "They frequently look hard at the product and are constantly searching for ways to both improve the product and deliver real benefits."


Overall, our feeling on the service and support is very positive, and we feel we receive an excellent level of service from the team.

Jonathan Smith


The firm considers Envision very open to new functionality suggestions and discussing development possibilities. Smith has provided his support in the form of constructive criticism to improve the use of the solution. "I think a more formal system for development requests and suggestions would be helpful," says Smith. He'd like to see a system for logging enhancement ideas that could then be discussed with the Development Team with feedback on the likelihood of it progressing to development with timescales attached. "There is a process in place at the moment, but I feel it could work better without a lot of change involved, he says."

Taking its support one step further, the firm is willing to invest time to help improve Envision. "We have been more than happy to do reference calls and visits or help with case studies, and we are happy to see a constant stream of other firms moving to Envision," says Smith.

Satisfied with Envision's ability to adapt to changes in the technology environment, the firm believes the software is capable of competing with similar products in the industry. "With each new version of Envision, the product has evolved, and functions such as document and case management can now stand toe-to-toe with products historically known as market leaders."


Describing its relationship with Envision as excellent, the firm's expectations have been exceeded with Envision's "very fast and very high level of support from staff that are willing to go above and beyond."

The firm feels that Envision's quick and to the point responses set it apart from competitors. The firm has experienced dragging responses from other suppliers and considers Envision's cut and dry approach invaluable.

"Overall, our feeling on the service and support is very positive, and we feel we receive an excellent level of service from the team," says Smith.

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