Artificial Intelligence Drives Profitability and Growth for California-Based Workers’ Compensation Defense Firm

It’s every managing partner’s nightmare.

  • Long delays and repeated errors to get inbound documents sorted and filed into the document management system.

  • Attorneys waiting for documents essential to the many cases each manages.

  • Paralegals and legal secretaries forced to spend hundreds of non-billable hours sorting, naming, and processing new file materials and daily mail.

  • Demanding clients won’t accept clerical errors as an excuse with so much on the line.

These were the everyday worries of California-based workers’ compensation defense firm Floyd Skeren Manukian Langevin, LLP (FSML). However, the recent implementation of Foundation AI Extract Filer has increased document intake and processing efficiency by 350%, directly improving responsiveness, client satisfaction, and firm profitability.

Foundation AI Extract Filer is a document intake automation platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to process inbound documents—like physical mail, email, faxes, and large files—directly into electronic document management systems faster, cheaper, and more accurately.

With Extract, the mailroom staff simply loads large files or batch-scans unsorted mail. The software instantly OCRs each document to make it searchable, splits it by category, matches each document to the correct matter file, and names it to the firm’s naming convention. A staff member confirms the AI results, and Extract Filer inserts each document directly into the legal document management software. It can even alert attorneys and staff based on the type of document and the firm’s internal protocols.

The Journey to Improve Firm Efficiency

When FSML first transitioned to paperless in 2015, its document intake operation remained largely the same. Staff would still open and stamp each piece of mail, search the case management system to link each document to a case, and then sort the day’s mail based on urgency and by handling attorney.

But, after the transition to paperless, rather than deliver the physical documents to each attorney’s desk, they would scan each piece individually and email it to the responsible attorney and their legal assistant. It was then up to the legal assistant to identify and accurately name the document, upload it to the correct matter and subfolder, alert the attorney of any particularly urgent documents like pleadings and hearing notices, and coordinate with the calendar clerk to ensure proper handling.

“Completing the entire document filing process was simply too arduous,” shared Aimee Lynne Haverlah, Staff Administrator of FSML’s flagship Westlake Village office. “The entire process could take up to five days, especially if an assistant was out of the office or we were swamped with new referrals and sub-in files.”

FSML often receives new referrals from its insurance clients and substitutions from other law firms as large, consolidated PDF files comprising thousands of pages. They also receive CDs full of hundreds of separate, unnamed documents. Staff would use Adobe Acrobat to view and name documents and would often print the large files, physically sort them, and then scan, name and upload each individual document into the appropriate folders. “Often, we’d get file materials just days before a hearing, and it was all-hands-on-deck to get them sorted for the attorney to review,” explained Haverlah. “Sometimes, attorneys would even have to sort the files themselves, which is obviously not billable for them.”

Recognizing the need to manage documents more efficiently, FSML went live with the MerusCase Legal Practice Management System in March 2020— fortunately, just before the onset of the pandemic. MerusCase excels in document creation, time tracking, file organization, and enabling remote work critical during the California state-wide shelter-in-place orders. FSML hoped that with MerusCase, the mailroom staff would be able to handle document intake, and it could free up its legal assistants to do higher-level work.

“We spent a lot of time trying to teach the staff to properly tag the different types of documents and instructing them on the naming conventions and procedures, but too often documents were misfiled or misnamed, or the staff didn’t realize that certain documents were urgent and needed to be emailed to the responsible attorney immediately,” shared Mary Sinacori, Staff Administrator of FSML’s Bay Area office. “It just wasn’t working, and we couldn’t risk these procedural breakdowns affecting our case handling, so we had to put the work back on the legal assistants.”

Haverlah described the process before Foundation AI. “The mailroom would check Merus for each document so they could sort them by attorney, and then they would use its batch scan to create folders of each attorney’s mail. The legal assistant would look at each document again, search Merus to link the case, and then tag and name the file. Then, depending on the type of document, they might also email it to the attorney to ensure it got reviewed that day.”

New referrals and large files were still broken up manually and then each document still had to be separately named, tagged, and filed into Merus.

“Merus makes it easy, but there is still a lot of room for error – what if someone forgets to add the calendar tag to a notice of hearing, or doesn’t remember that certain pleadings are also supposed to be emailed directly to the responsible attorney. Foundation AI automates all of this and just takes human error out of the equation,” shared Haverlah.

Foundation AI Is Increasing FSML’s Profitability

Improving efficiencies and making life easier for the operations and administrative teams is excellent but increasing the firm’s profitability is where the rubber meets the road. Foundation AI Extract Filer is enabling FSML to do precisely that.

Haverlah stated, “We’ve increased our document processing speed by more than three times since implementing Foundation AI. Extract Filer has allowed us to create a highly efficient centralized mail system where one or two people can accurately handle duties that before required multiple staff and legal assistants across our ten California offices”.

Integrating Foundation AI Extract Filer with MerusCase has delivered critical efficiencies that led to decreased error rates and increased firm profitability.

“I timed myself this morning,” commented Sinacori. “I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to process a large new file referral, and it was so easy—not stressful like it was before Foundation AI. We’re opening more than three times as many new files per week using the system. I can validate all our mail and incoming faxes—for more than 30 attorneys in our ten offices—well before the end of the day, all by myself.”

“We’ve increased our document processing speed by more than three times since implementing Foundation AI. Extract Filer has allowed us to create a highly efficient centralized mail system where one or two people in one place can accurately handle duties that before required multiple staff across our ten offices.”

The system even sends email alerts to attorneys, assistants, and staff automatically, depending on the type of document and according to FSML’s internal business rules.

As every insurance defense firm knows, carriers and third-party administrators have stringent bill review processes. Most insurance companies have cut billing rates for specific tasks, and the hours spent processing the mail and setting up new files are not billable at all.

“By sharply reducing the number of hours needed to process the mail, our secretaries and other team members are spending more hours performing meaningful work,” Haverlah said. “Not only are these tasks billable for the firm, but they also add value to the process and improve outcomes for our clients.”

Foundation AI solutions are also allowing FSML lawyers to move faster and more efficiently. This efficiency will let them handle an even higher volume of cases, further increasing high-rate billable hours. Haverlah explained,

“Now, all of the documents are named consistently across all of the offices and all of the files, so anybody can find whatever they need. And Extract Filer OCRs everything to make it searchable, which the attorneys love because it saves them so much time when they are reviewing documents like medical reports.”

The System Keeps Getting Smarter

Within FSML’s operation, 90% of documents are filed correctly by Extract Filer without the need for human intervention. Extract Filer matches each document to the correct file, tags it by type, and creates the name, but the results are also verified by a human to assure complete accuracy. The AI continuously learns from this human validation, becoming faster and even more accurate with each document it processes.

“The technology is trustworthy because it's not just verifying one piece of information,” Sinacori explained. “The system looks for multiple data points like a claim number and the case number in addition to the name. The system is trained to identify this information even though documents of the same type are often not formatted consistently. It’s pretty amazing, and the system learns immediately from the small number of errors it does make.”

AI Adds to a Bright Future for Floyd Skeren Manukian Langevin, LLP

Increasing billable hours and reducing operational costs are crucial for FSML’s future success. However, improving the caliber of service delivered to customers and providing opportunities for team members to do more stimulating and value contributing work is expected to create just as much, if not more, value to the firm.

“Of course, the other partners and I love that we are reducing non-billable hours while increasing billable hours,” stated John B. Floyd, Senior Partner. “But we also believe that Foundation AI is helping to improve our ability to provide outstanding legal defense to our clients. They are paying for our legal expertise, not our paper sorting bona fides. The more time we can allocate to performing work that adds value, the better it is for everyone. Additionally, we see the opportunity to attract talent and retain the talent we already have by providing the time and space for our team members to learn new skills that will grow their careers and contribute to the success of the firm.”

“Foundation AI Exact Filer solution has been an outstanding contribution, and we’re excited to collaborate on future development and innovations,” Floyd commented in closing.

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR DOCUMENT INTAKE PROCESS

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A mislabeled or misfiled document can have disastrous consequences. With Extract Filer, you set your processes and rules, and the AI ensures that they are followed every time. Extract features robust analytics to help you understand and predict your document volumes and staff efficiency, and optimize accordingly. Its reporting features allow you to audit all document processing actions, giving you full control over your mailroom operations. It tracks all user behavior in the system, providing transparency into exactly when your staff are working and how productive they are being, even if they are working remotely.

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