Cervantes Chatt & Prince grew out of Bill Chatt’s real estate practice. As the firm grew—both in staff size and caseload—Bill knew they needed better legal software to keep up with demand and stay organized across the firm’s 20 staff and two locations. Smokeball ensures Cervantes Chatt & Prince is automating as much as possible, saving time and errors while keeping staff on the same page.
The need for consistency
Bill shares: the best way to characterize our firm is that we're all things real estate. We're a firm of 20 people across two offices, but we support each other. I started the practice by myself and then Bob Prince joined me. We literally sat across one desk because there was just no planning involved. As we added staff—10 then 15 people—we discovered the need for consistency. Make sure we're all using the same form. I didn't learn that until I had more people working with me. It was actually Marc Cervantes, my partner, who said, I hear a lot of people use Smokeball. Instead of me doing the evaluation, I set up the office to do some virtual sessions. I asked the staff to look at it. Everyone came to me and said, "we like Smokeball." And it was the right decision. I learned that the payoff is when everyone buys into it, you get more cooperation. I noticed everyone was using it, and that got me more sleep at night.
Using Smokeball for standardization and automation
We rely on Smokeball for a lot of standardization. That's probably the biggest thing, especially when you have two offices that are in two geographically different locations. We use Smokeball on the billing side to have the reports and to make it easy for clients to pay. The main thing that I always think about is if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, and someone has to take my seat—can they log into my computer and pick up where I left off. I think that's true of all staff whether it's an accounts receivable person or a paralegal. You need other people to be able to sit in that chair and understand what's been happening. Smokeball really drills down within the matter and gets every little data set. I can get the billing that comes from the billing side. I can get all that detail, which I need to give a judge. So being able to cross over into the billing side and pull data over, that's really big too.
Smokeball's document automation is just unlike anything I've worked with. Our previous software had limitations. It couldn't do the things that Smokeball does. And now, there's Smokeball intake forms, which are fantastic both in setting up that initial client conflict check, as well as just getting basic information. You cut down on mistakes. And typos are minimized, if not eliminated.
Smokeball got everyone on the same page. We might have a cross practice thing where Marc is working on a real estate matter for an estate that I'm working on. I need letters of office or a death certificate. Boom. We move it right over. You're talking a 30-second task that might have taken 15 minutes. You add that up in a year, and it's a lot of time savings. With Smokeball, I know that the time that I put in, I get a payoff down the end.
With Smokeball, it's easier to see what staff are doing. You can look at their activity. You can assign tasks. We use communicate a lot in our office. If something's really critical, like a request to admit, we can assign multiple people to keep an eye on it.
Growing a successful firm with Smokeball
The firm is growing by people and geographically. And so, that's a big question. Do we want to do that, because now you're talking about yet another office. But I just call customer service and say, "hey, turn on the Iowa forms. Turn on the Wisconsin forms." It was just a matter of a phone call and a flip of a switch, which is great. A lot of packages don't allow you to do that. I don't even look at our billing statements from Smokeball. They don't nickel and dime you. I know when I add someone, it's going to cost something but that's it. Smokeball just grows with you.