Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently sat down with Kelly Whitfield, Principal of CarsonWhitfield Consulting, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak and Kelly had a far-ranging conversation that touched on helping law firms manage responses from their marketing, a typical day for Kelly at her legal CRM consultancy, and how she got her start in legal technology. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Background on CarsonWhitfield Consulting, AdvoLogix, & Salesforce for Legal
Zak: Can you start by sharing background on your business, CarsonWhitfield Consulting?
Kelly: We are a consulting firm specializing in legal applications on the Salesforce platform. We provide implementation, integration, and custom enhancement services to our clients—most of whom have come to Salesforce through one of our partners, AdvoLogix, which is a Salesforce AppExchange legal suite. The vast majority of our clients are either law firms or corporate in-house legal departments.
Zak: And what exactly does AdvoLogix do for customers?
Kelly: I believe it was the first legal matter management application on the AppExchange, dating back about a decade now. It helps legal teams onboard new clients, collaborate on their legal case load, manage their deadlines, and, if needed, track their time.
It’s an application that is built directly on Salesforce technology, so it takes advantage of platform features such as security, analytics, and configurability, as well as a whole ecosystem of add-on applications to serve various needs. This gives us a great foundation and a lot of freedom to deliver unique solutions for our clients.
Zak: Like what?
Kelly: We work with a lot of personal injury and mass tort law firms. We’ve built custom integrations with medical records retrieval services, which allow these firms to automate and track requests for medical records as well as the expenses related to those records requests, so they can be captured by case without manual data entry. We’ve also done some cool things with high-volume intake qualification and follow-up.
Zak: What is your background, prior to CarsonWhitfield?
Kelly: I’ve been working in legal technology for about 20 years now. It was an accident, how I ended up doing what I do.
After I graduated from The University of Texas with a film degree, I wanted to continue my education into computer-aided special effects, but I had student loans to pay and decided to start work instead of taking on more debt. I fell into a job at a legal software company in Houston, where I had a wonderful boss and several amazing coworkers who mentored me to grow into my natural interests and talents. I was able to explore inside sales, outside sales, and professional services—which became my favorite.
Since then, I have worked all sides of the business—as a vendor, as a client, and as a consultant. No question, my favorite is the consulting side. As a consultant, I get to advocate for clients who may not have traveled this road before, but I also get to advocate for software application providers—like AdvoLogix and Formstack—to collaborate with them to be the best they can be based on what clients are telling us they need.
Zak: When along the journey did you launch CarsonWhitfield?
Kelly: I founded it in 2017. By 2012, I had worked for every major legal software provider already and had discovered the Salesforce platform, which was a breath of fresh air! So when the consulting company I was working for at the time was acquired and started moving in a different direction, I figured it was a great opportunity to start a practice of my own, and CarsonWhitfield was born.
Zak: Fast forward to today. What is a typical day like for you?
Kelly: A blur!? [laughs] It usually starts early, since we work with clients and partners in a vast range of time zones. I triage my inbox and try to prioritize the day. Then, I meet with my teams regarding assignments, priorities, and issues. From there, every day is different, but most are filled with meetings of some sort.
When I’m not in meetings, I have hands on the keyboard strategizing, architecting solutions, documenting business requirements, reviewing development work, and communicating with clients. There is a lot of coordination and collaboration involved in what we do, which keeps us on our toes!
Oh and once in a while I sleep, and once in a while I get a little exercise on my Peloton. Being a new business owner is no joke!
Real-Time Qualification for New Legal Cases
Zak: How does our Formstack Salesforce app fit into how you create solutions for your customers?
Kelly: We use Formstack with 90% of our clients, usually to build conditional forms that guide an intake specialist at the firm through the decision tree of qualifying a potential new case.
The larger firms do a lot of marketing and advertising via Facebook, Google, and TV. So let’s say you are watching TV and you see an ad about whether or not you’ve been injured by a certain product. Those ads generate a lot of phone calls to the firm…thousands or even tens of thousands of inquiries per month.
Our use of Formstack and other tools allows our clients to quickly and methodically capture, evaluate, and qualify or disqualify each one of those inquiries. And by capturing that process with an easy-to-use, integrated form via Formstack, our clients can simultaneously collect and act upon the analytical data regarding what marketing efforts are most effective for them in obtaining the types of cases they seek.
Zak: Wow! Tens of thousands of potential cases is a lot to work through. So how are you helping the law firms that you’re working with manage this process?
Kelly: We work with the firm to create forms that their intake specialists can use to capture information from their potential clients. The forms use conditional logic to guide them through the process, and the end result informs the intake specialist if the potential client is a good fit or not.
Zak: How is it set up behind the scenes in Salesforce?
Kelly: Formstack forms utilize fields in Salesforce, so we can pre-populate data from Salesforce and update and/or add new information back to Salesforce as soon as a form is submitted.
From there, we can use Salesforce workflow and tools like WebMerge to take action on the data. For example, we can assemble an engagement packet and send it for electronic signature.
Zak: So you are automating a process that used to be lots and lots of disconnected manual steps.
Kelly: Absolutely. This takes a somewhat disjointed series of manual steps and streamlines them, saving time and enabling the firms to increase their volume without necessarily increasing staff.
Data-Driven Forms Use Cases for Legal Teams
Zak: It sounds like the native form builder capability is highly relevant to your use cases because you are pre-populating data from a process and then feeding that data back in for the next process. What other factors do you look for when recommending our forms products to customers?
Kelly: Volume of the data that is coming in, complexity of the logic necessary to process that volume, and need for a repeatable, easy-to-use solution…those are strong indicators that Formstack is a good fit.
In addition to personal injury and mass tort scenarios, we’ve applied it to Social Security disability practices and in corporate environments to collect employee requests for legal work. It saves in-house teams a lot of time not having to repeat data entry.
What we love about Formstack is how easy it is to build all kinds of forms, even the complex ones with conditional rules.
Zak: Right, you can set up those rules but not in a way that requires custom coding that becomes complex to manage.
Kelly: Yes, exactly. We want these forms to be something we or our customers can manage without coding or developers. We have plenty of other things for developers to do without having to build custom-coded forms. Formstack frees our development resources up to work on other priorities.
Zak: Let’s wrap up with a lightning round about you. What are some of your personal interests?
Kelly: I am honing some amateur photography skills…and I love finding stuff at estate sales and thrift stores and giving it a new look or purpose. I like reading when I get a chance. And lately, I’m really into podcasts.
Zak: Any book or podcast recommendations then?
Kelly: “I’ll be Gone in the Dark,” about the Golden State Killer, was a good one. Another favorite book of mine is “To Heaven and Back.” As for podcasts, I just finished the first season of “Up and Vanished,” which was pretty awesome.
Zak: What’s your favorite TV show?
Kelly: We’ve been binge watching “Breaking Bad,” and I am in love!
Zak: What’s your favorite productivity tip?
Kelly: Block your time. At CarsonWhitfield, we try to block our time to minimize the disruption that emails, phone calls, and other unplanned interruptions can cause. Instead, we block out a few times a day to deal with those things, so we can spend the rest of the day focused on our client project priorities.
Zak: What is your go-to lunch during the workday?
Kelly: Usually a nectarine or blueberries and a cucumber and olive salad.
Zak: We wrap up every interview with this question: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Kelly: No! [laughs] That’s where I stand on that issue.
Zak: We’re clear. Thank you, Kelly.