A transformative relationship

From moves off-premises and open-plan, to unlocking the latest opportunities for widely dispersed teams, Wedlake Bell has long had Stridon at its side on the strategic roadmap, says head of IT David Hymers

Now that firms largely have employees with laptops everywhere, it’s easy to forget quite how far the concept of agile working has come in just a few years.

When David Hymers, head of IT at Wedlake Bell, was managing through an office move in 2016, the scale of change was immense – certainly for a traditional law firm. “There were boxes of paper everywhere – and we were agile only in the sense that you could move your desk from one floor to another,” he says.” Everyone had a cellular office, and the IT was all on-premises. We once had a flood, where the only option was to switch everything off.”

All of that was about to change, and help would be required to make a bold vision of much smarter working an efficient reality. Fortunately one of the firm’s then partners recollected the value Stridon had provided during an earlier merger scenario – another highly demanding period of change for any law firm.

“I started having conversations with Stridon myself, and was soon struck by the strategic mindset and how well they communicated,” Hymers explains.

And that was that. Stridon advised Wedlake Bell on everything from replacing the back-end infrastructure and a new external data centre, to selecting wide-screen work monitors and optimising Wi-Fi signal throughout the new building.

There was some future-proofing in terms of space needs – it was then already in Hymers’ mind to move lawyers over to Microsoft Surface Pros as standard in a further phase of agility-focused work, and this needed testing. And today Stridon continues to provide ongoing day-to-day support, which also frees internal expertise to focus more energy on the likes of client service and product innovation. “If extra internal resources are needed, they can quickly step in to supplement us,” he adds.

A relationship as close as this would require those communication skills of course, and the two sides recently established a regular monthly catchup call to update one another and share, however far particular projects have progressed.

Time for Teams

A relatively new one on the agenda is the path ahead for Microsoft Teams – something Wedlake Bell didn’t have in place before the first lockdown, but which has certainly become a top priority since, given changing communication and collaboration needs during the pandemic.

Hymers Wedlake Bell

There is, of course, a lot more to the stakeholder management of a law firm transformation project than that. “Around 10 years ago, your IT team would have chosen a new system, set it all up, and pushed it out to people with perhaps an hour’s training,” he says. However, Wedlake Bell has since appointed itself a dedicated business engagement specialist; somebody who will demonstrate new technology’s features and the productivity gains in person (clearly when proximity is less of a problem than today). This is what happened with the Surface Pros and accessories, for example.

“Recent projects such as Teams, electronic signatures, document assembly – these are all also great examples of changes where the lawyers’ own input is really essential to success. You need to engage early, or the risk is they just don’t bed in – it can become a real struggle to get people to use them.” Another example he gives is a new piece of work – and long-held aspiration – to automate the client engagement letter using a template management system. “And you need the lawyers to help you to shape a product like that,” he says.

“In the second half of 2021 we’ll now move on to work with Stridon on optimising other parts of the Microsoft stack – and there’s a lot – surrounding Teams.” This will involve running workshops with different business units to understand their specific manual processes and “pain points”, he says, and so hope to map new capabilities to improvement opportunities more effectively.

Threat value

A final strand of Stridon support has also been evidenced in Wedlake Bell’s Teams rollout – its comprehensive expertise in different aspects of information security. “Going right back they helped us with system two-factor authentication and single sign-on, and now it’s setting up all the governance surrounding Microsoft 365 to avoid being hacked,” explains Hymers.

Advised by Stridon, there are new technologies in place for vulnerability-scanning, for homeworking specifically, and for user monitoring and threat detection – as well as a fresh ‘user security awareness system’. “Alongside regular cybersecurity training, we now have a process of sending phishing emails to test people every few weeks,” says Hymers. It’s an example of a people-focused push likely to go down very well with all law firms’ increasingly security-conscious clients, but also key to the next generation of a firm’s agile working – in and out of offices – as those patterns and users now emerge.

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This article featured in the June 2021 edition of Briefing Legal’s magazine – Platforms for Progress.

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