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The recent transformation of the legal industry from cottage practice to big business is not limited to the large, elite law firms. Increasingly mid-sized practices, long believed to trail behind their larger counterparts in terms of sophistication and business acumen, have come into their own.Osborne Clarke is a case in point. The firm has consciously invested in its infrastructure and understands that implementing a world-class IT system is critical to the long-term success of the firm. As Nicola Webb, the firm’s e-business director, puts it, investing in best-of -breed systems is essential in order to show business clients Osborne Clarke’s understanding of sound business practice.“If we are going to be leaders in supplying legal services to the technology and telecomm- unications sectors, then we must walk the talk by being leading users of technology ourselves.”This approach was applied most recently to the firm’s growing client relationship data problem. Paul Askew, one of Osborne Clarke’s IT project managers, recalls that burgeoning amounts of client information were overwhelming the firm’s legacy systems. “People were capturing data in a variety of formats – whether it be their Microsoft Outlook contacts databases or in their offline diaries.”Webb says that the firm’s business development database was contributing to the disarray of the firm’s client information. “In my view, the original product was never designed to be rolled out widely across all lawyers and staff. It wasn’t user friendly enough and was quite complicated to use. It was designed primarily as a tool for the marketing department and was not meant to scale much past 20 or so users.”The business risks of maintaining their current client relationship management system were untenable. According to Webb, in some instances the costs to the firm were simple embarrassment, in others, lost opportunity. “For instance, we have had situations where people from different offices were pitching the same client for new business – only they didn’t know it. There were also one or two instances in which we would call upon a client to cross-sell additional services, only to discover that we were providing those services to the client already – but from a different office.”

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