We used to have long conversations with the former managing partner of this firm, back in the days when they were still running AIM Unix systems so it’s good to see this catch-up…

Cartmell Shepherd, one of the largest law firms in Cumbria, has undergone an IT strategy review to support them through their ambitious growth plans of the next five years. Catering for both commercial and private clients across a range of specialisms including agricultural law, employment law, and litigation, Cartmell Shepherd recognise that maintaining and further improving their high standards of customer care will prove critical in attracting more work from new and existing clients.

Understanding the importance of having reliable, scalable business technology as a platform to support its strategic ambitions, the firm approached Waterstons* to review their current systems and technology platform. The output of this review was to develop a far-reaching IT strategy to support the business through the challenges it faces during the next five years.

Developing the Strategy
Drawing on extensive experience of similar projects, Waterstons brought together a team of consultants with an understanding of the legal marketplace to examine Cartmell Shepherd from both the business and technology perspectives. Various tasks were performed in order to gain a full understanding of the firm:

•    Assess the status quo – Through interviews with 14 individuals from across the firm, the primary systems and high-level business processes were identified.
•    Clarifying the Business Strategy – Using techniques such as the Kaplan and Norton Strategy Map and Treacy and Wiersema Discipline Driver model, Waterstons confirmed their understanding of Cartmell Shepherd’s business priorities and ambitions.
•    Infrastructure Audit – An audit of the current infrastructure was undertaken and recommendations for remediation and a roadmap to allow for growth developed.
•    Strategy Development – Internal workshops and brainstorming sessions were undertaken to develop the strategic programme for the future.

Throughout the project, Waterstons met regularly with Cartmell Shepherd stakeholders to discuss findings and progress.

The Firm’s Focus
Cartmell Shepherd represents the very definition of a customer intimate business; each client comes with a different need and requires a different service; they excel in tailoring their approach and outcomes to individual requirements. However, as a business Cartmell Shepherd has not lost sight of the need to perform with repeatable quality and consistency, so strong elements of operational excellence are evident in their practice and process.

Realising the Benefits
Waterstons’ derived five year strategy identifies quick wins, short, medium and longer-term priorities for investment in infrastructure and business systems enhancements.
The strategy sets out a programme of projects which can be undertaken in order to deliver real improvements. Any business expenditure must be justified, and mindful of this, Waterstons place great emphasis on developing a robust business case for any project.

Waterstons’ proven methodology The Five Ways was used to assess these projects in order to ensure they deliver benefits by meeting at least one of the following objectives:
1.    Enhanced productivity or reduced costs
2.    Reduction in business risk
3.    Better communication and collaboration
4.    Enhanced business intelligence
5.    Improved levels of customer service

Key to the strategic programme are a number of projects which set out to standardise the use of existing technology; implement new, cost effective infrastructure and systems to improve productivity; and set a platform in place for the implementation of new business systems and integration of existing systems

Figure 1: Summary of projects recommended to Cartmell Shepherd and their associated benefits

By completing the full programme of projects Waterstons estimate Cartmell Shepherd will achieve a net saving of £230k after the cost of implementation has been covered (Figure 2). In calculating these potential savings, a significant amount of conservatism has been applied in terms of realisation; even allowing for this, it was clear that over the course of five years the IT Strategy would not only pay for itself but would also allow significant additional savings to be made in the future.

Figure 2. Timeline showing major phases of the IT strategy programme, each generating savings to largely fund the following phase. Following year 2, cumulative savings exceed cumulative costs for the programme, ultimately achieving a total return of more £230K after five years.

“Waterstons’ IT Strategy demonstrated that we could not only improve our business through the use of technology, but also reduce costs and enhance our service Waterstons’ ethos closely matches ours, and their understanding of our needs meant the IT Strategy exercise was not technology-led, but business-led, and can deliver a real return on investment. –  When Waterstons’ team presented the strategy to our senior team, it was wholly adopted. – We have already embarked on the projects identified, and are looking forward to the benefits that they will deliver” …Jonathan Carroll, Partner, Cartmell Shepherd

* Waterstons provide a range of value adding consulting, technology and services to companies across the UK.  Waterstons’ ethos is firmly centred on the innovative and creative use of technology to help businesses achieve their strategic goals. Current clients include Newcastle International Airport, Fox Head Europe, Durham Business School and Vopak UK. www.waterstons.com