Ashurst tells Microsoft ‘take us to the cloud’

Ashurst led by global head of IT Bruna Pellicci has formed a Microsoft legal working group designed to put the software giant at the centre of law firm efforts to move their infrastructure into the cloud.

The working group, which has now met twice and includes law firms such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, RPC, BLM, Bird & Bird and Clyde & Co, has brought in senior representatives from Microsoft in a bid to help answer recurring law firm cloud challenges such as the security issues raised by client RFPs.

Pellicci said: “I started this because we are looking to refresh a lot of our infrastructure and I thought ‘putting Exchange in the cloud, rather than going out and buying lots of servers again, should be explored.’

She adds: “We’ve been talking to Microsoft for a while as their vision is cloud first. I said to them ‘we have restrictions and client requirements which we need to adhere to and some cloud solutions don’t meet them.’

“After various discussions, I suggested setting up a legal working group where Microsoft can support us in moving to the cloud.”

Large law firms are increasingly looking at moving their data to the cloud but as yet very few have taken the step, with Taylor Wessing one of the few City firms already in the process of moving to Microsoft Azure.

Pellicci said: “When you look at the investment model for the cloud, it’s not cheaper but different. You’re not having to refresh systems every four to five years but rather on an annual pay as you go basis. It’s a better way to invest and use your money: rather than a big lump sum, you can spread out the investment.

“Plus, you are getting the latest technology and don’t worry about upgrading as many services and patching. That starts to free up the IT team to focus on new things rather than just running a service.”

At the second meeting on 29 June law firms ran through with Microsoft their clients’ requirements and Pellicci said: “We’re looking at where Microsoft complies and where it doesn’t and how they can make Office 365 and Exchange in the cloud work for us and our clients.

“It’s not going to be the fastest process but we’re making progress.”

Microsoft, which will talk at ILTA in August about helping law firms move to the cloud, is represented at the meetings by, among others, industry business manager Mickael Gartner.

Attendees from Ashurst include ex-managing partner James Collis and technology partner Christopher Bates, who is a member of the technology steering group. Chris Vigrass, Ashurst’s co-general counsel is looking at the issue from a risk perspective, while members of the Ashurst IT team are also involved.

Following the meeting, Ashurst is meeting with Microsoft to go through 50 different concerns and queries raised collectively by participating law firms.

Pellicci said: “We’re putting all the concerns and queries on the table to go through with them. We’re taking them through our requirements, looking at the clients need and the options available to determine the best solution. But ultimately there is still some hesitation in the industry of putting data into the cloud.”

Ashurst is one of the many City law firms looking at moving to Windows 10 and Office 365 in the cloud – a trend accelerated by the recent global cyberattack, which saw many of DLA Piper’s core systems go offline for over a week.

Pellicci said: “At the end of the day, Microsoft is more secure than anything else. We’re all trying to do the same thing and the sensible thing to do is work collectively: this is about getting ourselves and our clients comfortable with these new ideas and we also need to ensure we keep pace with new developments.”

“If you started a new business, it is highly unlikely you would put your technology on premise and run it all in house, you would consider Microsoft, Google and Amazon as a starting point.”