Colin Smith, IT director, Pinsent Masons

What’s been your biggest initiative or project this year? Our mobility strategy – putting together a corporate strategic road map, recommendation and multi-phase deployment programme, covering everything from smart phones and hybrid devices to an enterprise mobile device management platform.

Highlight a technological development that most excites you. Recognising that legacy ‘historic’ controls are not servicing the best efficiencies of how our employees need to work. What’s exciting is we’re having to rethink the way we approach the services we provide through adopting a bimodal IT approach – agile and flexible to meet new challenges while maintaining other areas focused on efficiency, resilience and predictability.

What are your 3 main priorities for 2016? 1) Moving away from on-premise core infrastructure by migrating towards an ‘infrastructure as a service’ model via the increased use of external data centres and co-location resources. That will provide the business with greater resilience, flexibility and agility, allowing me to examine the way we can best make strategic use of our internal IT workforce. 2) The next phases of our mobility programme to enable our digital workplace strategy: to harness technology, human capital and consumer trends for better business outcomes. We recognise the move to a digital business model is inevitable, the way people want to work and how they collaborate with their colleagues and clients is changing. 3) We need to focus on improving our business intelligence and analytics platforms: the way we extract information from our various document information silos. We need to improve the quality and accessibility of the financial information and modelling we make available to our users.

What is your biggest long-term challenge and the opportunity it presents? Like every law firm, the biggest challenge is that we’re in a highly competitive market. We’re all fighting for the same business. Increasingly, our business is global so we’re having to compete on several fronts. The business and IT needs to be seen to be innovative whilst still providing added value.

danny-o-connorDanny O’Connor, head of IT, Sackers

What’s been your biggest initiative or project this year? We’ve been working on improving processes with Intapp Flow, concentrating initially on workflows around the billing process.

Highlight a technological development that most excites you. The cloud, and the fact it’s becoming an acceptable technology in legal. Taking Microsoft Office 365 as an example, we’re seeing more of our suppliers looking to embed themselves in Office 365. When lawyers are out and about, being able to be productive on any device rather than dictating the type of equipment needed builds real flexibility – whether you want to use an iPad or a Surface Pro, that’s fine. If you’ve got a phone/tablet-type device, it’s not a problem. As a small IT department, we can concentrate on delivering service and client innovation without having to spend as much time keeping the internal infrastructure running.

What are your three main priorities for 2016?  1) Our continued investment in security – cyber security remains a big issue for law firms. User education has to play a larger part in this as technology won’t protect against every single breach attempt. 2) Our document management project, which rolls into a bigger project of enabling our lawyers to work more efficiently. 3) Training. We’re looking at the LTC4 competencies: it’s focused training for lawyers to get their job done – so rather than putting them in a room and giving a standard Word training course, it’s more tailored to suit their workflow.

What is your biggest long-term challenge? Our biggest challenge is going to be the volume of data we’re creating and storing, and how to effectively manage it. Big data and AI systems will become the only feasible methods of mining the data to provide useful intelligence.

aird-davidDavid Aird, IT director, DAC Beachcroft

What was your biggest initiative or project in 2015? It’s been a busy year with agile working and all the mobile working and mobile technology that goes behind it. We’ve been doing a lot of work in our Leeds office in particular, and we’re beginning to roll that across all our offices. In December, we launch a new 24/7 service desk. Like many larger firms, we have a challenge in global offices – New Zealand, Mexico, Colombia and Latin America – of providing support from the UK. Also people work late or early in the morning: with different work patterns, they want flexible working as well as agile working. We’ve been spending a lot of time and effort with Vodafone, one of our strategic partners, on better internet access: new internet filtering, VPN access, enabling technologies, mobile phones, mobile device management. Using these enabling technologies people get a good experience and can work any time, any place, anywhere.

Which technological development most excites you – and why? The legal world is a little bit behind. I’m trying to push the cloud agenda, and we’re doing a lot of work on management information (MI) and big data. That’s really quite exciting. How we can use our intelligence and the insight that we have in particular, from the insurance sector. People have talked about mobile and agile working for a while, but now with Microsoft Surface devices and more capable mobiles, you can now do almost all your work on the move. So now the dream is becoming reality.

What are your three main priorities for 2016? 1) Big data. They’re all one and the same: MI/reporting, big data. For our customers, MI is critical – particularly in insurance, health care and real estate. Some say that the MI will eventually become more important than the legal work. 2) Agile working: we need to ensure that it’s robust and that we make the best possible use of the technology. We need to step up our game and make these improvements in more of our offices and London is next. 3) We’re doing a lot of work on efficiency improvements, particularly process re-engineering: the way we do the work, how we do the work.

What is your firm’s biggest long-term challenge – and opportunity? The biggest challenge is the legal sector and lawyers’ ability to change, full stop. Forget mobile working, innovation and AI. Put it all into a box and say: ‘Do you know what, this is change.’ Law firms tend to find this quite difficult. Getting this right and being open to that change is a huge opportunity.

julie-berry-rpcJulie Berry, director of infrastructure & IT, RPC

What was your biggest initiative or project in 2015? A project called Simplicity, where we de-cluttered our systems, ensuring that the lawyers have what they need without clutter. We asked them what got in their way and what really key things were not necessarily visible, where we could make life much easier. Some things were quite simple, such as giving every lawyer a secure encrypted USB fob. Others were more complex, such as revamping the AV facilities in every meeting room in London. The lawyers have responded very well: they felt that the firm was listening and responding to their needs.

Highlight a technological development that most excites you. The shift to a digital business excites me because it requires different technologies. We’re definitely making that shift. People now realise we are moving to a digital business and the benefits this brings.

What are your three main priorities for 2016? 1) More mobility. 2) Within that world of mobility, looking at underlying technology frameworks that allow people to make the choice of their application. How do we keep our client bases secure, but not necessarily tell people what application they need to use? How do we give them that freedom? 3) Quite tedious, but still hugely important: how can we get the lawyers to stop using email for everything? Email is still the bane of a lot of peoples’ lives because they use it for everything and it’s becoming a massive problem for them. We need to work out how we can assist.

What is your biggest long-term challenge – and opportunity? Huge quantities of documents with terabytes of data. How do we look at this, how do we analyse it, how do we transfer it and how do we move it about? It’s still in that world of digital, but the problem is the physical side of the quantity of data you are now looking at, or are having to transport somewhere. Email doesn’t do that job anymore, or people do that horrendous trick of sending 50 emails with ten documents attached to each email.

Brian Smith, head of IT, Europe and the Middle East, King & Wood Mallesons

What was your biggest initiative or project in 2015? For the EU and Middle East regions, improving the way our people interact with our systems. We started a pilot programme with Microsoft Virtual Desktop (VDI). We initially introduced it to our Riyadh and New York offices, and to an EU pilot group. Over the next year that will be implemented across the firm.

Highlight a technological development that most excites you. Significant improvements have been accomplished in audio visual services within our main meeting rooms. Our business demands, both locally for hosted events, and our Far East and Australia users drove our upscaling. The use of video conferencing and webinar type technologies improve business relationships. We continue to scale up functionality into our internal rooms. These services are a growth area for King & Wood Mallesons’ global collaborative approach. Polycom and Lync are our main providers.

What are your three main priorities for 2016? 1) Security is a key focus, which requires budgeting. 2) Bringing people closer together, through AV, Lync, and integrating telephone systems so that we’re one firm. At present, we’re still EU/ME centric in terms of technology – I’d like us to be more of one firm. Australia, China, Hong Kong currently run most of their own technology. We’d like to bring that all together so we act as one firm and can communicate more effectively. 3) Looking at our CRM systems so we can really engage the clients better and understand what we’re doing with our clients at a global level.

What is your biggest long-term challenge? Security. Making sure we adhere to our appropriate security policies and that everybody reads and understands them, and testing users to ensure controls are effective.

Legal Week Best Technology participantKing & Wood Mallesons, Pinsent Masons, Sackers, DAC Beachcroft and RPC all participated in the 2015 Legal Week Best Technology Report and Survey.

For more information about the Legal Week Best Technology Report, email lrosenthal@alm.com or call her on +44 (0)20 7316 9864.