Party time at ProLaw – Business Profile

Party time at ProLaw – Business Profile – profile on the US’ fastest-growing legal software company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sue Vorenberg

Making work fun has helped the Albuquerque company succeed

For ProLaw, the nation’s fastest-growing integrated legal software company, the secret to success is not only about putting out a unique product that lawyers go wild over; it’s also about partying. The Albuquerque company, which grew by 350 percent in 1998 and serves over 1,200 law firms around the country; has significantly reduced its employee turnover rates and found more highly qualified workers by scrapping the old interview process in favor of a new technique: applicant parties.

“I hate the traditional method of bringing people in and interviewing them because you never get a feel for what somebody’s really like,” said Bill Bice, ProLaw’s president. “Applicant parties get people into a much more natural setting. You get to interact with them without the fake atmosphere of an interview.”

Potential employees who go to ProLaw applicant parties play a variety of games with a group of other applicants and current ProLaw employees. The games, such as having a topic stuck to a card on your back and asking other people at the party yes or no questions to try to determine what it says, allow the company to test potential employees’ logic, interaction and stress management skills.

“It gives us a really good idea of their problem solving abilities – can they keep coming up with good questions to ask to get a result?” said Deborah Reese, vice president of client services at ProLaw, who came up with the applicant party idea. “It’s also important to see if they have fun. Can they complete the games on time? Do they have a sense of urgency? Do they lose patience?”

The parties give ProLaw a good opportunity to assess applicants, and the applicants a good opportunity to assess the company. By the time successful applicants begin their jobs, they’ve already met several people who work for the company, which tends to make them feel more at home.

“We used to have horrible turnover rates,” Reese said. “I think our business is particularly stressful and demanding. You have to think on your feet and be technically strong. Your average phone support rep’s career is something like six months in this industry. Since we started having these parties, the hiring has been excellent.”

The parties are a preview of the perks that await employees. ProLaw employs a chef who prepares breakfast and lunch for the staff everyday. For those who want a bite between meals, the company provides a free snack bar. But even a well-fed staff can suffer stress, and consequently a masseuse visits once a week to tend to the needy.

As one might expect, there’s more going on at ProLaw than R and R. The company produces and supports a unique software program that is in demand by law firms. The ProLaw program, which is the only product the company makes, integrates front and back office management into a single system that allows both accountants and lawyers to look at case histories, billing information and time docketing.

“You walk into your typical law firm and they might have eight or nine different systems that they need to get their work done, and we have one product that does it all,” Bice said. “Law is still a very document-intensive practice and you have to keep track of all those documents and all the deadlines that go with them.”

The company started out 11 years ago producing accounting software for law firms, but over the years ProLaw has continued to add to its program, evolving into the only fully integrated law firm-management program on the market, Bice said. Since 1988, the company has experienced about 50 percent growth per year; but last year, when the software was upgraded to work with the Microsoft Windows environment, the company experienced a huge growth spurt of 350 percent and grossed $7 million. ProLaw had 30 employees at the beginning of 1998. It now has 88.

In addition to producing a high-quality product, ProLaw also prides itself on its customer support network. The company’s support staff is divided into teams that focus on particular regions of the country. When a new customer decides to purchase the product, the regional team is familiarized with the customer’s needs.

Beau Mersereau, the information systems manager for Sutin, Thayer and Browne, an Albuquerque law firm and ProLaw customer, said he really appreciates the time and dedication of ProLaw’s support staff. “One of the really nice things about ProLaw is they like to listen. They really listen to their customers and they really want feedback and they take it to heart and respond to that.”

SUE VORENBERG WRITES FREQUENTLY FOR THE NEW MEXICO BUSINESS JOURNAL.

COPYRIGHT 1999 The New Mexico Business Journal

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group