IT In The Dock

 

To compete in their market a law firm has to adhere to the same pre-requisites as most other businesses; keep costs under control, retain customers and gain competitive advantage. If those goals represent the strategy then the tactics, according to Orchard Solicitors, are to; keep ratio of fee earners to support staff low, maximising revenues, reduce costs of running IT and communications infrastructure, provide remote access to office applications and deploy technology to help the company compete on a larger scale.

Formed by a management buy-out in 1995, London-based Orchard Solicitors has achieved year-on-year growth of almost 30 per cent. The firm’s client base ranges from start-ups to listed companies in sectors including healthcare, IT, property and media, and its philosophy has been to build a broad based City practice which could justifiably describe itself as a microcosm of a major city firm.

According to David Orchard, Managing Partner at City based Orchard Solicitors; one of the biggest pressures facing law firms today is managing the expectations of clients who are now experienced users of technology and adapting of our working practices to meet those expectations. When I was a lad, typically a lawyer would send out a letter and not expect to have to deal with that matter again for a week, and then fax came in and we were looking at a response in a couple of days. Today the client says “I sent you the email, why aren’t you dealing with it?”

“We have found as a practice that without the technological infrastructure to meet those needs, and with a lot of other law firms in the market place, if you can’t deliver someone else will. Being a relatively new firm, we are only ten years old; we have grown on the back of technology. Technology has played a significant part in making sure the ratio between fee earning lawyers and support staff has been kept low. Further, the technology we have deployed enables Orchard Solicitors to punch above our weight and provide a presence in the market that belies our size.”

The use of technology has been instrumental in maximising Orchard’s resources and talent, enabling consistent company growth and industry recognition. But in 2004, with a traditional BT hard wired analogue telephone system in place, Orchard had grown to the point where it had exceeded the capacity of that system and was faced with either buying an expansion to that system or looking at alternative solutions. Orchard enlisted the help of leading technology reseller Universal to provide a suitable solution.

Simon Jones, IT Manager at Orchard Solicitors, said: “Our staff needed a system that could help them work more productively and could reduce the reliance on support staff. We wanted a system that would be flexible and dynamic with business focused applications.”

Clients visiting Orchard’s offices were asking for access to email, and would have to locate an analogue internet socket, plug in their own modem cable and hook up via a dial-up connection,” Jones continued. “We wanted to be able to offer them access to guest network accounts that could easily give access to portals, email accounts and telephony.”

 
The Solution
Paul Taylor-Partner, Orchard Solicitors and Simon Jones IT Manager, Orchard Solicitors

Reseller Universal had worked closely with Orchard to configure a system that would achieve all the firm’s goals. Orchard chose to install a Mitel Networked Business Solution including the Mitel 3300 Integrated Communications Platform (ICP), 5215 and 5220 IP handsets and applications such as Mitel Unified Messaging, Presence and Availability part of the Mitel Your Assistant application and the Mitel Teleworker application. Universal installed Orchard’s IP network at a pace that best suited the customer, starting with telephony and voicemail, then adding the applications as the business required.

Orchard uses the Mitel Networked Business Solution to give

staff access to voice and data applications, offering flexible, mobile information access. Specific tools used regularly by lawyers have also been incorporated into the IP network. All Orchard’s lawyers now have remote access to the digital dictation system to dictate correspondence, which can then be sent back as an email attachment, enabling faster processing of case work.

IP Telephony is also being used to improve client services. When visiting Orchard’s offices, clients can connect their laptops to the IP network by plugging them in to the Mitel desktop phones, enabling fast and professional internet access. All Orchard’s Mitel phones have mini Ethernet hubs in the back and the clients log on using guest accounts.

Simon Jones believes that IP Telephony improves Orchard’s competitive edge: “Due to the affordability and scalability of the Mitel Networked Business solution we can readily deploy very sophisticated applications that present a highly professional outward face of our business to our clients. For example, when staff are on the move they can use Mitel’s unified messaging application to check emails through the mobile phone, or alternatively can receive all messages as emails, saving time and maximising our resources. The effective use of this technology in effect levels the playing field.”

Orchard is in the process of rolling out the Mitel Teleworker solution for its fee earners, so that the firm’s clients can reach lawyers wherever they are. The Teleworker solution enables staff to log on to the company network from any internet connection and instantly work as if at their office desk. Incoming and outgoing calls are routed directly and the user has the same direct dial phone number, in addition to access to the office applications and emails. Mobility is a key issue to Orchard and being available and able to communicate from home or on the move is crucial and Managing Partner David Orchard explains.

David Orchard, “Contactability is an issue. When I travel overseas on business and I know have broadband I take my Your Assistant IP soft phone with me. This allows me make voice calls from wherever I am in the world from the system located in our London offices. Of course, the location is independent; it could be a hotel bedroom with broadband access or hotel foyer with Wi-Fi wireless access to the internet. The strength of this is that clients can get hold of me and I can respond accordingly. That is chargeable work so the return on investment is pretty quick – for what the soft phone cost.

Paul Taylor, a Partner at Orchard Solicitors echoes his colleague in saying, “Wherever you are; email and voicemail are pre-requisites plus the ability to log on to our server and access documents. We need remote access to the digital dictation system to dictate correspondence, which we then receive back as an email attachment. One of the great benefits of technology today is that it is no longer the preserve of the large enterprise. Affordability and scalability of the solutions means that we can readily deploy very sophisticated applications that present a highly professional outward face of our business to our clients. The effective use of this technology, in effect, levels the playing field.”

 
Solution Components
Mitel 3300 Integrated Communications Platform (ICP)
Mitel Your Assistant
Mitel 6510 Messaging Server
Mitel Teleworker Solution
Mitel 5215 and 5220 IP Phones
 
About Orchard Solicitors
Orchard Solicitors is a broad based Citypractice providing large firm expertise in itschosen specialisations whilst at the same time offering a higher degree of partner contact and
involvement than that which would traditionally be experienced when dealing with large London firms. The Firm provides specialist legal services and general counsel advice. Orchard’s size and approach makes it particularly attractive to the SME Market, where a large client base has been developed, to whom the firm is the exclusive provider of
legal services.
 
Mitel – www.mitel.com
Universal Group – www.uoa.com
 
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