Australia in focus: Corrs Chambers Westgarth – NetDocuments and open plan are go

sydney-opera-house-1452627-638x474The second part of our Australia in Focus feature in the July/August Legal IT Insider, Corrs Chambers Westgarth has become the first large Australian firm to go live with NetDocuments’ document management system and email as it also completes the final stage of a four year move to entirely open plan working.
The innovative four-office Australian independent law firm was one of the first in the world to look at open plan working. This year Perth became the fourth and last office to make the transition, after a huge change management program involving an overhaul of workspace and technology.
The ahead-of-the-curve decision to become open plan was made in 2011 and driven by the expiry of a 10-year lease. Sydney became open plan in 2013, Brisbane in 2014 and Melbourne in 2015.
One of the major learning curves from moving open plan was an increased need for electronic filing and the 600-plus lawyer firm is now live on NetDocuments, after the document management system provider created an Australian data centre to facilitate Corrs’ switch from OpenText.
Corrs’ chief operating officer Jon Kenton said: “We were the first Australian client and the first firm globally to go live with NetDocuments and ND Email – we have been in touch with a number of firms globally to provide feedback and advice on how to roll out ND Email.” [See note below – Ed]
Other resultant changes to technology at Corrs include the move to VoIP phones, improved wireless networking and Follow Me printing, as well as improved AV and headsets. Kenton, who says the firm bought “every shiny thing going” in order to ensure the success of the move to open plan, said: “We have a lot more equipment in our meeting rooms and the functionality is controlled by your iPad so anyone can set it up how they want it.”
Everyone at the firm has their own desk but they have a locker for surplus ‘kit’ such as gym bags.
With moves towards open plan taking place in a number of UK law firms such as Olswang, and this year rolled out at Bird & Bird. Kenton said: “Our director of IT has talked about open plan at ILTA for the last 2 years and there has been limited attendance – the feedback has been that the idea of open plan was something that ‘our firm would never do’ so people didn’t attend.”
Other Australian firms to subsequently become open plan include Gilbert + Tobin in Sydney and Hall & Wilcox in Melbourne. Kenton added: “We see it as an opportunity to reflect our values. We’re an inclusive and collaborative firm and having everyone in their own separate box didn’t help us collaborate or seem open.”
Learning curves from moving open plan:

Don’t insist on silence – it’s better that people move to quiet rooms if they can’t concentrate

Don’t try to find names other than ‘open plan’ – it just looks like you’re trying to mislead people

Identify each person’s concern with the change ie what aspect do they find unsettling – it will often surprise you.

This article first appeared in Legal IT Insider’s July/August newsletter
Note: In the July/August issue of Legal IT Insider we elevated Corrs to the first Australian firm to go live on NetDocuments when in fact it is the first large firm. Lavan Legal in Perth was the first – it rolled out NetDocuments DMS and email management in 2013 – and we recently caught up with Marco Marcello, Lavan’s manager of information systems. We’ll publish the highlights of that conversation and Marco’s insights shortly.