Corporate Hygiene: It's Kind of Like Brushing Your Teeth, But with a Different Kind of Payoff | AccountingWEB

Corporate Hygiene: It's Kind of Like Brushing Your Teeth, But with a Different Kind of Payoff

Let me ask you a question: do you brush your teeth every day? Or just the week before a dental check up?

Imagine if the only time your teeth were brushed was twice a year at the dentist. It wouldn't be a very pleasant visit (not that they ever are, actually). Well, that's the situation too many law firm clients find themselves in when they’re ready for a corporate event or transaction. Right before a financing or annual meeting, everyone rushes around in a mad dash looking for documents and updating capitalization tables. Why? Because the records haven’t been updated or organized since the last mad dash.

But if you're a corporate client at Pierce Atwood, LLP in Portland, Maine, the frenzied scene described above is a long-ago memory. I recently sat down with Chris Howard, the head of the firm’s business practice group. He explained to me that with the firm’s centralized client information management system (CIMS), Corporate Focus, the corporate records for all of their business clients are organized, minute book documents scanned, and capitalization tables up-to-date.

As the largest New England law firm North of Boston, Pierce Atwood has over 1,000 corporate clients that who depend on having their information and documents just one click away when they call. In fact, Chris told me that some of their clients have direct online access to their own information in Corporate Focus on a read-only basis, which eliminates the need for these clients to even contact the firm. This saves the clients legal fees, offers them more flexibility in searching, and of course saves boatloads of time since they can get to their data around the clock.

As Chris bluntly put it, clients don't usually choose a firm because they practice outstanding “corporate hygiene.” But when an important transaction is pending, these clients notice and appreciate the level of service and risk management that Pierce Atwood provides—whether they need it or not. It's just how the firm does business. And it's the right way to do business.

Chris also noted that it's not really a matter of what technology you have at a law firm, because many firms have implemented state-of-the-art systems and applications in recent years. What’s important is how you use this technology for your clients' benefit. Depending on which client you talk to, those benefits might involve faster turnaround times, lower legal costs, or 24/7 access to legal records. But any way you slice it, when clients see this kind of productivity in action, it doesn’t escape their attention.

In fact, Pierce Atwood’s efforts to help clients help themselves—through a firm-wide CIMS—have enhanced its reputation in the legal marketplace. As Chris explained to me, trust, reputation, and client service are what make a law firm successful—and it’s these qualities that lead to satisfied clients telling other companies about their positive experience. Corporate Focus also makes practicing law easier for Pierce Atwood attorneys, because they can spend more time and energy on legal advice and negotiation and less on administrative requirements.

Do many law firms use Corporate Focus or have access to systems like Corporate Focus? Of course. Does it take unusual rigor and tenacity to implement a firm-wide client information management system as Pierce Atwood has done? Absolutely. Do their clients appreciate the benefit when they're ready for their next transaction? You bet. Just ask any of them.

Then ask your corporate practice group: Do you practice corporate hygiene for your clients on a regular basis—or just the week before a major transaction? Ask them which their clients would prefer. Then ask their Board or investors.

Gary D. Levine, President and CEO
Two Step Software, Inc.

This blog

by Gary Levine - Gary Levine is the CEO and Founder of Two Step Software which provides market leading solutions for stock plan administration and corporate governance. His perspective is based on 20 years of experience.


More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.