Slater and Gordon in world Microsoft first

Slater and Gordon has become the first company in the world to deploy Microsoft Managed Desktop, as the hedge fund-owned UK firm also ousts dedicated legal technology in favour of the Microsoft stack, we can reveal.

MMD was launched in September 2018 and brings together Microsoft 365 Enterprise, device as a service and cloud-based device management.

All of Slater and Gordon’s circa 1,450 staff now use Surface Pros, and Microsoft automatically manages, updates and protects the devices, including taking care of patching.  Access to Surface Pros is through facial recognition, reducing the risk of security breaches.

The tech giant uses AI to determine which devices are ready for feature updates or, conversely, whether a specific app is blocking the device’s ability to update.  It can isolate and shut down a single device where a security risk is established.

While Microsoft said at the launch of MMD that it was partnering with the likes of Lloyds Banking Group, Dell, HP and Accenture, Slater and Gordon is understood to be the first company anywhere in the world to deploy it.

The 18-office firm is being supported by Insight, a leading UK-based Microsoft partner that has a leasing agreement with Slater and Gordon to help fund the project.  The plan is to refresh its tech every three years.

Approved in October 2018, the new offering is part a raft of changes being led by chief technology and transformation officer Yvonne Ferguson as part of a £30m, three-year technology investment drive by the firm as it aims to transform the way consumers receive legal services.

The firm is one of the best-known names in the legal profession thanks to being the first to float in 2007 and a well-trailed subsequent decline.

Having launched in the UK in 2012, Slater and Gordon’s disastrous £1.3bn acquisition of Quindell’s legal division in 2015 led to a dramatic share price drop and a High Court battle.  In 2017 the UK arm was split off and control handed to Slater and Gordon’s senior lender, hedge fund Anchorage Capital, with £386m in secured debts being written off.

Anchorage has over the past 16 months put in place a strong leadership team led by experienced chief executive officer David Whitmore, who was a partner at Anderson and a senior executive at Compass Consulting and ISG.

Ferguson, whose CV includes senior management positions at Transport for London, Royal Mail, Ministry of Defence and WPP, joined Slater and Gordon in 2018 tasked with digitising and broadening out legal services at the firm.

Slater and Gordon, as part of a broad shift away from dedicated legal technology, has stopped using BigHand digital dictation and switched to Microsoft’s speech recognition and digital dictation tool Cortana, through which users can dictate onto their Surface Pros.  Some use Siri to dictate into their iPhones.

Slater and Gordon are consolidating around Tikit P4W – Thomson Reuters MatterSphere will be out by the end of the year – but the firm will also consider whether it can use Microsoft Dynamics 365 for its case management needs.

Elsewhere, QlikView has been replaced by Microsoft Power BI for reporting and analytics.

The firm, which is moving all its data to Azure, has moved into new premises on High Holborn, London, downsizing from five floors to one – fee-earners now work in an agile way, including hot desking and working from home.  Previously all of them worked from a desk in the office and were not able to work remotely.  It is understood that Slater and Gordon have reduced the number of support staff they employ, largely through not replacing employees when they leave.

New follow-me printing has resolved one of the biggest gripes in the firm – that the printers didn’t seem to work, and users now have the same pass card for the office and printers.

Slater and Gordon are an Aderant client and it will be interesting to see what the outcome will be of their PMS review, when it eventually gets there, given the drive away from legal technology.

So far this year the IT team has cut 10% of its costs due to rationalising what is not used and duplication.

The market will watch with great interest whether Slater and Gordon and their high level, but non-legal senior executive is successful in its mission to replace legal technology with in-built Microsoft functionality.  It is certainly not the first to come up with the idea: many firms have tried and struggled to, for example, use SharePoint as a document management system.  SAP has proven difficult without the legal wrapper of Fulcrum GT.

But within Office 365 Microsoft’s offering is becoming more compelling and what is certain is that Slater and Gordon’s corporate culture – away from the constraints of the partnership model and driven by a heavyweight hedge fund – means that the decisions being made now are driven by commercially minded, experienced managers who are motivated only by efficiency gains.  It is going to be fascinating to see how far they get.