The winners take all

Berwin Leighton Paisner collecting awardIT Achiever of the Year
Winners:
Nicholas Bartlett,
Linklaters; Daniel Freedman,
Dundas & Wilson

Entrants for this award were judged on the impact that they made, either on their firm’s overall use of technology or to the legal IT field in general.

One of the most important issues for any law firm IT department is how best to exchange data with clients and third parties. Millions of working hours are spent keying in and then re-entering data simply because systems cannot directly communicate. This slows down legal transactions in a way that is detrimental to both firms and clients.

Currently, XML standards for data exchange look most promising, while the property industry’s Pisces initiative is the interoperability standard with the greatest potential to revolutionise the practice of law.

Nicholas Bartlett and Daniel Freedman were among the very first lawyers to grasp the power of Pisces. Their subsequent efforts to promote and enhance the standard through the creation of a legal industry working group, the development of a Pisces-compliant XML schema for law firms and a nascent range of applications for collaboration with commercial property clients, have ensured that most of the biggest names in property law have now signed up as members.

If Pisces delivers what it promises, their two years of toil will not be in vain: a true common standard that can be extended into most other legal practice areas would be the achievement not just of the year, but of the decade.

IT for Litigation Support/ADR
Winner:
Bryan Cave

Entries were judged on return-on-investment, demonstrable efficiency savings, productivity gains and how the project has changed the working practices of litigators.

International law firm Bryan Cave is one of very few firms that can truly claim to have a global strategy for advancing the field of litigation support technologies.

On the technical level this encompasses a worldwide rollout of an integrated suite of software applications for trial preparation, multi-jurisdictional arbitration and electronic presentation of evidence in the courtroom. Some of these are standard packages widely used in the US, such as Summation and Litigator’s Notebook, while others are bespoke.

In some cases the firm has allowed its members – most notably, associate Matthew Browndorf – to work on secondment with the product vendors to improve the products for use in a range of jurisdictions including the UK.

The other area in which Bryan Cave has achieved excellence is in training its litigators to fully understand the products they use at their desks and in court, based on an understanding that all the technology in the world cannot improve efficiency without knowledge of how to use it.

Senior management – for example, London lead partner Charles Attlee – have made it a priority to support the litigation department’s global strategy to the hilt.

But Bryan Cave’s commitment goes beyond rolling out technology for internal use. The firm is running a commendable campaign to promote the use of IT within the English judiciary and public sector legal bodies.

The Communication Award
Winner:
Berwin Leighton Paisner (pictured)

Mobile access to a law firm’s network; home working arrangements; cost savings achieved through intelligent routings or use of IP telephony; and innovative use of video conferencing were all examples of eligible projects. The judging criteria was focused on value to the end-users, quality of service and cost.

Large law firms are more dependent on telecommunications for the efficient running of their businesses than almost any other type of commercial organisation, but Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has gone further than most. A telephony integration project links the firm’s customer relationship management (CRM) applications with e-mail and the internal phone system in a rare move that ensures fee earners are using CRM to its full potential and gives them a range of direct-dial options from their PC.

The firm is committed to the cutting edge: pioneering the use of IP telephony in its office, archiving voice profiles and providing desktop audio and video conferencing facilities.

To support mobile lawyers, BLP has developed Infomobile, a mobile access platform for its fee earners that delivers most of the applications associated with notebook computers through standard WAP-enabled mobile phones, which can connect to the main network in 25 seconds and require minimal training. Services include access to e-mail, calendar and contacts; viewing e-mail attachments rendered from Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word and Excel; an internal phone book; access to the CRM system; and a daily news and business bulletin. The firm’s IT department can also use Infomobile to access the network and servers, enabling them to carry out some maintenance tasks remotely.

Best Desktop Solution
Winner:
Eversheds – Eversheds Complete

The winning application had to support one – or a number of – defined and specific business processes such as client engagement, bid preparation, conflict resolution, case management and so on. Ease of use, simplicity of interface, innovation and evidence of internal and external content integration were taken into consideration.

Eversheds has made giant strides in the deployment of technology in the past two years, with its once highly fragmented infrastructure now centralised. But one of the most impressive advancements – and certainly the most visible from an outsider’s perspective – is the development of a genuinely world class client portal system.

The portal, Eversheds Complete, provides access to all relevant case and matter information, a range of extranet collaboration and data storage facilities, knowledge-based products and other subscription services from a single home page without separate logins.

The firm’s bold entry into the market as a data aggregator for in-house counsel has now matured into a strong service offering, based on a series of partnerships with leading content providers and offering clients the fruits of Eversheds’ internal knowledge management and online training.
Since its launch, the portal has become much more client-focused with the addition of a client advisory panel. The past year has also seen a dramatic expansion of Eversheds’ online services for clients and fee earners, delivered through the portal, with the launch of Eversheds Knowledge Banks – an IT-driven project that captures knowledge from the firm’s fee earners and offers it to clients.

Best Electronic Delivery of Legal Services
Winner:
Addleshaw Booth & Co – Enact

An award for the most significant and successful advancement in the functionality of a firm’s client-facing systems. The judges took into consideration what was delivered; what it was used for; and the level of uptake by clients.

When a group of key corporate clients asked Addleshaw Booth & Co to set up a fast-track conveyancing unit, the firm responded to the challenge by creating a technology-driven business, based on a vision from partner Richard Dinning.

The firm’s IT team, led by Damian Griffiths and Adam Middlemass, went back to first principles to develop a highly-specialised system of case management and workflow applications based on truly cutting-edge technology.

Achieving the vision required not only completely new IT systems, but also new business processes and new management approaches – at considerable risk to the firm’s finances and its relationship with key clients.

The hub of Enact is a heavyweight, bespoke case management system featuring unique document assembly capabilities. Operated on a daily basis by legal assistants, the system took more than 12 years of IT development time to build.

The business, which serves large commercial interests – and indirectly, consumers – in the residential property and conveyancing markets, delivers a high quality service across a volume business and has undoubtedly improved Addleshaws’ standing in the marketplace.