AppealTrack chatted with three prominent Cook County property tax attorneys to discuss key issues they faced prior to implementing a content management system:
Peter Tsantilis of Liston & Tsantilis, Kelly Keeling of Klafter & Burke, and Rubin Norris of Rubin & Associates, LLC.
What are some of the main issues you were trying to solve when you decided to look for property tax appeal tracking software?
Peter: Our existing system had a lot of bugs. It became apparent when we were trying to expand the system that we didn’t have a solid platform on which to make changes and grow. Every time we tried to do forms, we couldn’t pull from our system because the data in the system wasn’t set up properly. We weren’t able to pull information from our system into a form generator because it didn’t work the way the information was staged.
Kelly: We were looking for a way to organize our files in a computer-based system. We wanted to fill out forms with less room for errors, making them more automated and efficient. (We were still using a typewriter for certain forms.) We needed a way to view a file without running to the back and pull the file or have to call back a client. We wanted a snapshot of what was going on for each client.
Rubin: We wanted to be able to better track filings that are pending through the property tax appeal board and circuit courts. We didn’t want to lose anything through the cracks. Our old system kept track of each file, but there were so many years at different stages at different times that it was hard to keep track of everything. We did a lot of retyping, which can cause errors. We wanted something more real-estate-related so we could track more clients and their filing information.
What other options did you look into?
Peter: We looked at putting overlays on top of our system, but we had to develop a new program from the ground up. We kept asking, “Does anything exist [to solve this] without reinventing the wheel?”
Kelly: We had an internal system that someone had developed, but it was DOS-based and antiquated. We looked into updating that and internal Excel files, but we couldn’t find anything relevant.
Since you’ve implemented a CMS, what has your experience been so far?
Peter: Great. Our old files were put in a new system, and it saved us a few weeks’ worth of work. Deadlines are so much smoother because townships are grouped together instead of scattered about in our files with an arbitrary number. Our old system was complication on top of complication. Now it’s really sophisticated but simple.
Kelly: It’s working as ideally as I had hoped. Grid edits and the ability to get numbers in the CMs without a human touching them are really good.
Rubin: We’re able to get more work done. We have access to information at our fingertips, so it makes us sound like we know what we’re talking about. When we’re really busy and have a deadline, every minute we save is valuable.
Any additional thoughts?
Peter: Our CMS has allowed us to get ahead of our deadlines. We now have confidence in knowing that we’ve secured everything for deadline and that it’s way ahead of time. We love being able to track what everyone’s doing and where it’s going and where paper’s flowing.
Kelly: The stress level of the staff has gone down. Inputting data was stressful, now it’s not. All is calm again. Our CMS has allowed us to survive the past six months without a clerk; we’ve been able to maintain our office without hiring additional people. This would not have been possible before.
Rubin: When we put in our tax rate now, it does all of the calculations for us. We’re not sitting there like we used to be with a calculator in hand. Having a CMS has sped up the process by having everything we need all in one place.