Starting in early 2015, Sartell began its work with ASK with a questionnaire into the business of ASK, its current file management system’s difficulties, and goals for a new system. Among those difficulties were a decades old file management system and a firm that needed to get into the modern age. In July 2017, after many development meetings, production, testing, mass data migration, Sartell released its first live version of SOAR for ASK.
What is ASK LLP:
From the firm’s website – “ASK LLP is the country’s leading law firm focusing on bankruptcy avoidance actions involving preferences and fraudulent conveyances. In the past decade we have been lead counsel in more than 10,000 avoidance actions. Our experience gives ASK LLP attorneys a unique understanding of the merits of each case, which allows us to formulate the best strategy for resolving the case in a manner favorable to our client. ASK LLP’s attorneys have the experience, practical “know-how,” and administrative capacity to represent preference and fraudulent transfer clients quickly, effectively, and in a low-cost manner. In addition, ASK has proprietary software that helps us analyze the massive amounts of data required to evaluate all potential defenses to preference actions. This way, as plaintiff’s counsel, we already know the likelihood of recovery in each potential action and can maximize the return to the bankruptcy estate we serve. In the last decade we have recovered more than $250 million on behalf of debtors, creditors’ committees and bankruptcy trustees.”
In simpler terms, ASK is a law firm that works within a specific section of bankruptcy law call Preference Avoidance. ASK is hired by a trustee of a bankrupted estate to evaluate and recover payments made in the 3 months period before the bankruptcy filing date that were made in a preferential manner. This work involves analyzing years of accounting data from some of the largest bankrupted companies, sending letters and/or filing lawsuits against hundreds to thousands of entities, and managing all the court documents and deadlines.
To analyze the Preference recoveries and potential defenses, ASK has designed unique statistical reports, both on a global overview of a bankruptcy case, as well as individual defendants in the Preference actions.
ASK is a small to medium sized firm, with its current bankruptcy department consisting of 10 attorneys and 8 supporting roles including: office manager, analysist, and paralegals.
ASK used Paradox (Pdox) as its primary file management system, its location to enter account notes, court dates and follow ups, defendant addresses and contact information for mail merging. In addition, the user interface contained/displayed all the analysis values: lawsuit amount, settlement amount, amounts for defenses, etc. Pdox was also used in its database capabilities to house all the years of accounting records of all bankrupted entities, and with its custom scripts, generated the statistical analyses used for the bankruptcy Preference Actions.
Old – Simply stated, it was old and outdated. The few people who really knew the system and how to program the custom ASK application all eventually retired, leaving ASK with a static platform, old as dirt, without anyone knowing how to code in any change. With each year Pdox became less and less compatible with newer computer operating systems.
Interface and Daily Tasks – Actions were command bases, mouses did little to nothing in the 8 bit program, and it had the graphics of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Daily tasks/follow ups were printed out on “tickle” sheets and handed out to the file holders. And there were very frequent user lockouts.
Document Retrieval – Pdox exported all individual statistical analyses (potentially hundreds in a given bankruptcy case) to designated folder directories, meaning users would have to often toggle between Pdox and actual storage location of documents. If fact, no documents could be attached to system, only data entry. All documents had to be saved in various folders.
User Rights and Access – Pdox was an open system with no restrictions. All users had the same abilities and access to any data tables, scripts, etc. The only thing stopping users from accessing those was “how to” knowledge, and fear of breaking the system.
Reporting – Reports in Pdox were very much ad hoc. If you need a report, a user would have to query out the information within the base data tables.
Client Transparency – Beyond the reports there was no visibility from ASK’s clients to the system.
Implementation and Improvements:
Interface and Daily Tasks – With SOAR, Sartell gave to ASK a modern user interface for its file management system and data analysis. Users were able to use a mouse! They no longer needed the daily printout tickle follow up sheets. Instead, Sartell created a custom designed Dashboard with calendared Action Items, which would link direct to the cases and accounts – should notes, dates, or any other item need be updated.
Data Analysis – Data analysis was streamlined in a number of ways. Pdox required (for each bankruptcy case) a host of data tables. Each to be imported from Excel files. With SOAR, those various tables were reduced to a single file import layout. Additionally, the statistical analysis portion of the analysis was modified to be more dynamic, allowing a choice of statistical ranges, versus the static model Pdox used.
Document Retrieval – SOAR also streamlined the process of attaching documents to the file records. The statistical analyses are automatically attached to the documents tab of a party record once the reports were generated, and users are able to upload any files, contrasting the zero file attachment capabilities in Pdox.
User Rights and Access – User rights and access were a new feature to ASK, allowing access and capabilities based on the user’s position within the firm.
Reporting – In the base package, Sartell provided a certain number of custom reports. After which new reports were designed as needed. ASK now reports with a click of a button verses a command-based query, tying tables, and exporting out into Excel.
Client Transparency – Lastly of the big business improvements, Sartell created for ASK a Client Portal, to which selected information, notes, statuses could be viewed by ASK’s clients. This provided much more transparency than prior and allows ASK’s clients to look up file statuses without the need to ask.
The change from Pdox to SOAR was one of newer, cleaner, easier, and more capable. ASKs ideas and need are constantly evolving as new challenges arise. As they do Sartell and ASK revamp the processes to make the business and analyses more efficient. Pdox was rigid, old, system in that no-one left at ASK knew how to re-program. While the structure of SOAR is firm, ASK now has the benefit of Sartell “being there” and the ability to modify and change as ASK grows.