More bangs for your buck – rebuilding legal IT

Janet Day, the Director of IT for Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP (BLP), is well known for challenging the status quo within Legal IT, and her work over the recent years has been particularly revolutionary. Within BLP, she has changed the way the lawyers work with technology both in the office, at home and in the field. In addition, new systems and communication avenues allow for much more collaborative work with clients, and beyond the specific improvements to BLP, she has worked tirelessly to improve the way the world thinks of information technology, especially legal IT.

In the recent Legal IT Today #1 article “A near commonality”, Janet Day gives her view on interesting differences and similarities in legal IT between the USA and the UK, coming to the conclusion that the today the main difference when it comes to technology is not between the US and the UK, but between lawyers on the move and lawyers who are largely desk based.

“For some time there was an assumption that American lawyers made more use of technology than their UK counterparts; then as practices did become more global it became clear that in our own quiet way the UK were actually gaining advantages from the business support which technology can give.” /…/ “Lawyers on the move consume different types of information than those who are largely desk based. Not only is the information consumed and needed different, but the consumption mechanism differs as well.” Whereas a desk based lawyer culls much of that information from around the coffee-machine conversations, the travelling lawyer is more dependent on online provision of information – whether by virtue of their own searching or by firm generated information.” /…/ “In an increasingly financially focused world it is the role of technology to make it easier for the lawyer to deliver and demonstrate that they are delivering true benefit to the client. Lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic face the same pressures as do their clients. They look increasingly to technology to make possible to deliver more to the client in less time with less effort. This is where the focus on technology provision – probably globally – now sits. Arguably not only geographically common – but unchanged since technology started to provide support to practicing lawyers – more bangs for your buck.”

In connection with the London Olympics, firms based in London had to find a way to meet the transportation problems and enhance the support for lawyers to work from home. Most other firms simply focused on speeding up the network to the remote accessing systems, whereas Janet Day decided to rebuild the entire desktop platform of BLP into a virtual one, allowing flexible remote working from almost any location, while offering the full functionality of a workstation at the office. In addition, a virtual desktop is an ideal way of solving the constant “Bring Your Own Device”-discussion without compromising on security or functionality.

But, as a successful leader in legal IT, Janet Day, has always emphasised the need to keep moving forward with the clients and always worked closely with partners and fee earners in developing client-facing solutions.  As Janet points out, “it is important to ensure that we can work increasingly effectively with the clients’ business models – not try to force them to adapt to ours.”

With Janet Day as the architect, BLP has managed to develop several innovative and award-winning solutions. One of the solutions is the BLP Lawyers On Demandservice, which was one the earliest alternative services offered to general counsels to help them face the continued pressure to control legal spending. The service has won innovation awards from the Law Society, The Lawyer, the FT Innovative Lawyer, and InnovAction (College of Law Practice Management) and was created a reaction to the growing trend for clients to move against firms’ traditional hourly-rate charging format. Find out more about the service in the Managing Partner article “Flexible Staffing”.

Furthermore, the BLP Collaboration System was launched in 2011, where BLP under Janet Day’s guidance has implemented a range of custom pages to differentiate BLP’s offerings. BLP has also introduced a new communication service to allow effective communication within and without BLP, as well as custom systems designated to help deliver large documents to clients. The Collaboration Systems was awarded as the second best use of systems to enhance the client experience in the Managing Partner Awards 2013.

In the LegalWeek article “Taking it personally – consumerisation brings a little style into legal technology”, Janet Day explains how BLP focuses on the virtualisation of the desktop infrastructure so that the firm’s 1,500 lawyers can work remotely and securely on both laptops and handheld devices; investing in management and business information tools; and ensuring that IT operations and processes keep pace with regulatory and compliance standards: “Everyone realises that you need the right tools to do the job and these are the three key areas where we feel we need to make our IT spend.”

Janet Day is famous for her inspiring lectures on conferences and for her controversial approach to the use of IT and its love affair with the legal profession and believes people are more important than technology. Find out more about Janet Day’s work at BLP here: “The Architecht – Rebuildig Legal IT”.