Dentons 3E: The master plan is coming together

This article was corrected on 2 March to take out the reference to DLA Piper being on Thomson Reuters Elite 3E – DLA is still on Elite Enterprise.

This article first appeared in the January Orange Rag

Dentons has selected Thomson Reuters Elite 3E as its practice management system as it delivers on a mammoth five-year IT strategy or ‘master plan’ that, global CIO Marcel Henri tells us, is coming together.

Working in concert with PwC and sponsored by chief financial officer Neal Livingston, the PMS selection process saw Dentons consider Aderant, SAP Fulcrum, Oracle and Elite. The 10,000+ lawyer firm got down to a shortlist of two – Fulcrum and Elite – before deciding on the latter.

Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Henri said: “One of the reasons for choosing 3E is that SAP would have necessitated a centralised model, but we were looking for a hub approach.

“Oracle have a solution, but we felt that we didn’t want to be the ones to break it in. Our firm is very large and still scaling and the risk profile was too high with too many unknowns.”

While Elite 3E is used by some of the world’s largest law firms, Dentons, which operates in over 80 countries, will nonetheless no doubt put it to the test.

“The punchline is that we’ve got accounting, billing, reporting and analytics and we’re doing something reasonably unique: inter-verein billing,” says Henri. “Matters being worked on by different regions can stem from one bill.”

While Elite has begun rolling out its cloud PMS outside of the US Henri said: “Cloud is still nascent. For most of our locations we will want to use our regional hubs in Azure but we haven’t ruled out trailing the cloud version in one of our jurisdictions.”

While Dentons is listed in our UK top 200 as an Elite Enterprise client in fact, as you would expect from a firm that has grown through such aggressive acquisition, it has a mixed bag of around 30 systems, making the change management and data importation much more complex.

The plan is to have multiple waves of go lives, with the US, Canada, UK, Middle East, Europe and Singapore going first. Dentons is still deciding whether to stagger the roll out across regions that have the biggest revenue or take a purely geographical approach.

Despite a push towards uniformity it is likely that there will be certain jurisdictions that remain on their current PMS, where adoption and market penetration of that system is high.

With regard to how that impacts upon analytics, Henri says: “We’re not just doing a software upgrade, we’re redesigning processes and taxonomies. It’s something we started a few years ago so there is more alignment around a common lexicon. We’re expanding our data warehouse and moving to an enterprise database, collecting more information from our regional platforms. We’re working with Pinnacle and Microsoft on reporting tools.”

The sheer volume of work involved in the five-year strategy is enough to make your eyes water and Dentons is in the process of rolling out Chrome River; a dev and test site in Azure, and SAP SuccessFactors for HR.

In January 2019 the firm signed a three-year deal with iManage that will see it adopt Work 10 globally. Henri said: “Our ‘law firm in a box’ hosted platform is helping us to onboard new regions. We’ve recently delivered iManage to Kenya, Hong Kong, Johannesburg Cape Town and Uganda. Next year it’s Colombia, Peru, Mauritius, and Barbados. We’ve done our first upgrade to version 10 at the front end and things are going well.”

While Dentons hasn’t selected the iManage Cloud, Henri said; “Every single new thing we’re doing is in the cloud in partnership with Microsoft. Our talent management will be SAP in the SAP cloud. In the future it’s very likely we will consider the iManage Cloud.”

Henri doesn’t like the term ‘keep the lights on’ but it’s no surprise that the business as usual team is separate from the innovation team, headed by John Fernandez, who is looking to scale the team. Henri says: “It’s difficult to mix church and state for security reasons: you need to have checks and controls.”

When we spoke to Henri in 2015 about Dentons’ growth strategy, he focussed on his mandate to pursue integration, and  the firm was moving away from a regional support model towards operating along the lines of three global pillars. The first is the white glove client facing service to keep customers happy. The second is the business technology operations and ‘follow the sun.’ The third is business technology solutions – the innovation team and what tomorrow looks like.

On top of those pillars, which have been rebranded Connect, Scale and Innovate, Dentons has since added a fourth pillar: Engage.

Henri says: “We’re building this platform but it will only work if people engage with it. Every time we have a partner meeting it gets bigger and more successful but we need to find new ways to engage and maintain a dialogue.”    

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See also:

Dentons signs three-year global deal with iManage

And read our interview with Marcel Henri in which we first set out the five-year strategy here: