Most full-service law firms face the major challenge of having to reconcile the differing IT system requirements of their various practice areas with the limited resources – both IT and financial – available to the firm.
On the other hand, niche firms specialising in one area of law or one sector, have the advantage of concentrating on technology which specifically services their sector. In the case of residential conveyancing, PI, probate, family law or debt collections there are well established specialist solutions on the market.
These solutions have been designed to deliver one specific legal service and aim to enable firms to use them with minimal customisation.
However, other legal services are not well serviced by vendors, and firms (both niche and full-service) therefore rely on a more traditional approach of bespoke development or customising more generic solutions to match the requirements of their specific practice area or areas
Law firms rarely change their PMS, doing so on average about every 15 to 20 years, and rightly so as the cost and effort involved is substantial. Furthermore, a firm can expect such a project to distract from the day-to-day operation of the firm and there will be disruption to the business as staff learn the new system and while enhancements and bespoke developments are undertaken.
The infrequency of such projects also means that firms are likely to be unfamiliar with changes in the PMS marketplace and may not have staff with the skillsets required to undertake such a project.
We attended – and facilitated – at a most informative Legal Practice Management (LPM) event yesterday, where Rupert Collins-White analysed the results of the 2018 Legal IT Landscapes, research aimed specifically at mid-sized law firms. More than 80 firms responded to the survey – the results are probably fairly representative of the market as a whole.
Interestingly enough, there were repeated mentions of, and considerable interest expressed in AI and the “hype” technologies, by far outranking mentions of more “old tech” systems, such as case management, practice management and document management. Most noticeable was the change of focus from the more boring aspects of tech, such as infrastructure and last year’s buzzword, “cloud” and a change of focus to the application layer particularly in areas where business processes can really benefit from technology.
Debenhams Ottaway Virtual IT Director
Definition and implementation of a IT strategy for a progressive regional law firm.
To align IT with business and improving reliability and performance whilst bringing expenditure in line with industry benchmarks.
- IT issues were a regular occurrence which hampered productivity
- Expenditure on IT had risen to 9.6% of turnover – a premium price for sub-optimal service.
- Lack of a thought-through and comprehensive IT strategy had led to an ad-hoc “shopping list” approach
I was not surprised to see Microsoft’s admission that developing new features for the Mobile version of Windows 10 was “no longer a focus” this but it is a shame to see. I had a Windows phone for several years and found it to be very good. I moved back to iPhone when the iPhone 7 came out as several “silver bullet” apps which I used which were removed from the Windows 10 app store at about this time (and yes I wanted a iWatch …) and it was becoming more obvious that app vendors were not going to get on board with Windows 10.
The most frustrating thing I found with moving back to the iPhone was that the Microsoft Apps available on IOS were better than the Apps they provided on their own operating system so for me the writing has been on the wall for some time.
However, personal views aside, the most concerning issue for IT professionals is the seeming ease in which major technology companies can and will chop and change their strategy and offerings.
IT Review & Strategy Development for Taylor & Emmet
A full IT review leading to the development of an IT strategy
Taylor & Emmet requested a full ‘root and branch’ review of their IT that would lead to an IT strategy. The review covered the following areas:
Merger Support for Veale Wasbrough Vizards
Enabling the integration of another firm’s IT into VWV
PMS Selection and IT Consultancy for Standley & Co
A range of IT consultancy leading to a PMS selection project
In late 2016 Standley & Co required strategic IT consultancy across several areas with a long-term plan to replace their PMS system.
Office Move Project for Wilkin Chapman LLP
Advice and support for a major office move
A ‘virtual’ IT Director is someone who is there for you as and when required without the need to hire someone into this position as a full-time employee with all of the associated costs. They can work for you as needed whether a few days a month, more regularly or simply on an ad-hoc basis. They could work fully on-site or sometimes remotely, whichever suits your organisation.
Many organisations have IT teams that are constantly overstretched. They are in ‘fire fighting’ mode – constantly reacting to immediate tasks with no time devoted to proactive actions. The result is a lack of time spent on important issues such as the organisation’s business strategy, the long-term IT strategy and staff development. Such teams tend to work as they always have without time for continuous improvement or innovation.
Virtual IT Director for Geoffrey Leaver
Independent Director-level consultancy
Geoffrey Leaver required senior-level IT support following the resignation of their incumbent IT manager. The firm had several areas where they required strategic assistance:
We were engaged by Matthew Arnold & Baldwin to lead the IT aspects on their mergers with Dentons, VWV and Hill Dickinson
Initially engaged by a leading London / Birmingham based law firm to provide Consultancy and Project Management services in relation to their new PMS (Practice Management System) implementation.
We were engaged by Piper Smith Watton to undertake an IT review, to address some operational issues and define the IT strategy:
David was engaged to create a model to cost IT services for a top 40 UK law firm
David was engaged by a leading East Anglian Law firm to provide interim Head of IT services initially to resolve mission-critical post-merger IT issues.
Baskerville Drummond were engaged by British Pipeline Agency (BPA) to undertake a independent review of their IT function.
Initially engaged by Kirwans Solicitors a leading Liverpool Law firm to provide interim Head of IT services.