DACB to shift 3E to Azure

This story first appeared as breaking news in the April Orange Rag

DAC Beachcroft is set to shift its Thomson Reuters Elite 3E practice management system into the Microsoft Azure cloud, becoming one of the first large law firms to do.

The UK top 20 law firm stood up its development and test servers for Elite in Azure at Christmas time.

Speaking to Legal IT Insider about the move, IT director David Aird said: “It’s been a lot of hard work but this is the right thing: we’ll be more secure and we don’t want to be in the business – especially as we get bigger – of having our own data centres all over the place.  It’s not scalable.”

DAC has over 2,500 staff in offices across Europe, Latin America, North America and Asia-Pacific.

Aird, who joined DAC in October 2013 from leading facilities management company Mitie Group, told Legal IT Insider: “The first thing was explaining to the executive team that this is the right way to go and then working with marketing and our risk teams in formulating the plan and going out to clients.  They were very supportive.  While we obviously worried, those clients we spoke to were sending out their own case studies about their use of the cloud, so by the time we came to discuss it they had moved on a lot themselves.”

Despite the inexorable march towards infrastructure and software as a service, the legal sector has been slow to adapt, and one of the biggest fears among firms is that hosting core data in the cloud will mean they are precluded from taking on certain client work.  However, Aird says: “People have moved on and are more intelligent about what they say – we’re not seeing so much about ‘is it in the cloud?’.  Ours is Microsoft Azure but our data is hosted in the UK.  People are more concerned about where their data is – historically using some cloud services you couldn’t have been sure, but we can supply all of that information about third parties through the Microsoft Trust Centre.  These days it’s not so much about ‘is it cloud?’ but ‘what are the safeguards?’”

He adds: “Sometimes IT people, rather than finding a solution, only see the problem.  It doesn’t seem to be a huge issue for us.

DAC selected 3E in 2018 after an extensive review.  However, Aird says: “I wouldn’t underplay the importance of the fact that we had Enterprise and that relationship with Thomson Reuters and we liked the product.”

While TR is in the early stages of launching a SaaS version of 3E, that move came after DAC had already begun looking at IaaS.  Aird says: “It’s all quite new so we had lots of conversations with Thomson Reuters about supportability and things are looking good.”

He adds: “For me and some of my team this is not new but it’s newer for Thomson Reuters and law firms generally – but we just need to plan and do it properly.”

While cloud used to be seen as a way to keep costs down, Aird says: “Gone are the days when you used cloud because it’s cheaper – it’s the flexibility.  3E can be thirsty on disc space and memory so you’re faced with waiting a week for a new hard drive.  The way we’re doing it now, you can immediately scale up as and when the firm grows.  We don’t have to keep going back to the drawing board.  We also avoid that every three-to-four years hardware refresh – that’s all down to Microsoft, we don’t have to tool down.”

A survey conducted in the run up to #GlenLegal19 revealed a dramatic increase in cloud adoption rates, with well over three quarters of law firms saying their HR and payroll systems will be in the cloud next year and just under three quarters saying it will be SaaS.

However, the only exception was PMS, where just under three quarters of law firms said they will still be on-premises next year and very few said they were looking at SaaS or IaaS.

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