Making trial work seem like a vacation
How a small-firm attorney successfully managed an Illinois trial from a Florida beach home using InfoTrack and Smokeball
Gillespie Law Group, LLC
Over 27 years ago, Genie Miller Gillespie turned her passion for helping families into a full-time job.
Gillespie Law Group, LLC, is a small Illinois law practice specializing in adoption and guardianships. As the founding partner, Genie is a tech savvy, forward-thinking businessperson who embraces the advantages of using a case management software coupled with the InfoTrack court filing integration.
Genie’s husband Mac joined her practice in 2016, bringing with him more case work and complexity from his experience at a big general practice firm.
As a two-person team, Genie and Mac are wholly responsible for everything at the law firm. From client entry to case management, trial and everything in between, they lean heavily on Smokeball and InfoTrack to help manage their growing case load.
“I honestly could not practice law without your products,” Genie said. “I don’t know how we did it before Smokeball and InfoTrack.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the sudden shift to remote proceedings turned many small law businesses upside down. But Genie’s firm was well-prepared for the remote environment—and even able to make work less stressful and more enjoyable—thanks to excellent digital record-keeping in her Smokeball practice management software and InfoTrack court filing integration.
Genie Miller Gillespie
Gillespie Law Group, LLC
Working from anywhere
“My side of the office is completely paperless at this point,” Genie said. “I can work from anywhere…I have everything on my computer that I need.”
Last winter, the Gillespies put that idea to the ultimate test. With in-person work suspended by the pandemic, they decided to rent a house in Florida for the month of December, while continuing to run their Chicago-based practice online.
During the Florida trip, Genie was undertaking a contested hearing of an adoption, which required her to communicate with the court and opposing counsel frequently during proceedings conducted via Zoom. On an almost daily basis, she had to submit filings to Illinois’ eFiling system via InfoTrack’s integration with Smokeball.
She’d start by generating her documents automatically, using custom forms she built in Smokeball. Data saved to her case file would pre-populate in frequently needed documents like routine motions, cutting out the drafting work entirely.
“I generate whatever I’m going to file within Smokeball and then hit that lovely [InfoTrack] ‘eFiling’ button,” Genie said. “I love that everything pops right back seamlessly right into [my matter in] Smokeball, so I don’t have to track down emails, and download stuff, and then move it.”
Genie said the integration was particularly helpful in the context of a virtual courtroom.
“When you’re doing a trial via Zoom, nobody has the paper in front of them, so we had to make sure that exhibits were being eFiled right away,” Genie said.
Genie says she couldn’t have managed this case from outside the office without Smokeball and InfoTrack working in tandem to cut out menial tasks. “Being able to pull up what I needed, have it all right there, and helping me organize everything for the trial was just phenomenal,” she recalled. “It really was hugely helpful to have all the various components working together.”
Validating the savings
Genie admits she wasn’t always sold on InfoTrack. When eFiling was introduced, she was prepared to use the “free” eFiling option in Odyssey eFileIL, subsidized by the State of Illinois in order to reduce barriers to court access for pro se litigants. Like many Illinois law firms, she thought she’d be able to minimize operational costs by learning to do things by hand, with freeware.
But after about a month of experiencing manual filing hurdles firsthand, the advantage of switching to InfoTrack’s integrated approach to eFiling became undeniable.
“It’s $3 versus your hourly rate,” Genie said, breaking down the process she used to go through when she filed with Odyssey.
“Email comes in—you have to open the email. You have to click to download the document. You have to tell it where you want it to be saved. So you’re putting it in Dropbox or wherever you have your files. From there, you have to go into [your practice management system], open the matter, and move it in,” Genie said.
When she added the time it took to record court fees, Genie realized she was spending at least five or six minutes per filing on tasks that could have been done automatically through InfoTrack.
“And you have to remember to do it,” Genie added. She recalled her email inbox being flooded with clerks’ acceptance emails in the early days of Illinois eFiling, when the download links for conformed copies were only valid for 30 days.
“I just kept thinking…I’m never going to see my file-stamped documents because I’m going to forget to download them.”
Shortly after switching to InfoTrack for eFiling, Genie said the stress and worries about mistakes and lost time went away.
“I started realizing, wait a minute—our time is worth something.”
Improving the billing process
While Gillespie Law offers flat-fee billing to clients, Genie’s firm bills for court filing expenses separately. Genie says InfoTrack’s ability to capture all court filing charges and sync them back to Smokeball as expense entries has made it easier for her to set her rates at a profitable but fair level.
Because she knows how often she typically must file for each given case type, Genie includes the $3 filing fee for each expected filing with the known court fees when generating her estimates.
For example, Genie said, “The filing fee for filing an adoption [in Cook County] is $265. But because I know that during the course of the adoption, I’m going to have to file six different things, I add the extra $18 on when I tell them what the court filing fees are going to be.”
That pricing transparency is appreciated by clients, and it also prevents her firm from eating any technology costs. Time tracking is critical to a law firm’s success, no matter how they bill.
“Even when you’re flat-fee billing, you need to track your time on some level,” Genie said. “Not only so you can justify your fees to the client, but also to see if you’re spending much more time than you’re charging. It’s a good way to tell if maybe you need to adjust your flat fee.”
Genie’s law practice has come a long way since she integrated InfoTrack court filing with her practice management system.
“Mac still likes the printed word…He’s killing trees on a daily basis, while I’m saving them,” Genie said, laughing. “But again, I’m slowly converting him.”
She said she looks forward to a future where all the firm’s court filing support work is done online, streamlined through Smokeball and InfoTrack.
“I’ve been very pleased,” she said. “It has far surpassed…anything I could have imagined.”