Charles Russell Speechlys this week (2 May) hosted an IT Innovation Roadshow, dedicating the eighth and much of the seventh floor of its 5 Fleet Place office to IT vendors in a bid to help its staff engage with technology, help prioritise the rollout of new tech, and select the hardware for its move to an entirely agile desktop.

Vendors including Microsoft, iManage, Phoenix Business Solutions, Philips, HP, Handshake Software, Canon, Nikec Solutions, Plantronics, Mobiliciti and HighQ gave demonstrations of existing and new tech to fee-earners and support staff, who attended by department throughout the day and were asked to give instant feedback in order to help global IT director Robert Cohen (pictured) decide which upgrades and rollouts to prioritise.

Speaking to Legal IT Insider at the event Cohen, who conceived of and ran the innovative roadshow, working in conjunction with PTS Consulting, said: “It’s about giving the business a voice and getting them involved.”

Charles Russell Speechlys looks set in June to launch an agile desktop underpinned by Microsoft Windows 10, Office 365/Office 2016 and iManage Work 10. For the past three months Cohen and his team have been running a pilot with Office 365 and Cohen said: “All our backend is in Microsoft. Law firms should be looking at what the clients are doing and not mimicking each other. We want to get back to using Microsoft as standard.”

On a ‘work station of the future’ stand hosted by the Charles Russell Speechlys tech team, staff at the roadshow were asked to test tablets to replace their PCs, including the Surface Pro 4 and HP EliteBook x360. At the time we were at the station, the EliteBook was nudging ahead, with its solid keyboard finding favour with commuters.

That hardware was also available to touch and feel at the Microsoft and HP stand, while at the Plantronics stand, staff could test kit including its Bluetooth headsets. Cohen and his team will roll out Polycom’s voice and video collaboration solutions – which integrate with Office 365, Skype for Business – so that fee-earners can take calls through their laptop or mobile phone and join in Skype calls from anywhere.

Cohen said: “The pilot for 365 has already been done and all it takes is the opinion of the business and we’re ready to go. I don’t want to whet people’s appetite and say it will take two years to do a pilot.”

Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham merged in 2014 and Cohen added: “For the last two years we’ve been merging two firms with 160-170 different systems, updating our infrastructure and moving to new offices. Now is the time for us to start looking at the nice, client facing stuff that the business really needs and wants.”

This is a first of its kind roadshow in terms of the scale of law firm staff involvement and attendance, and the significance that is being accorded to their views. For IT vendors, the roadshow was a big commitment and they will be hoping that not all of their clients begin hosting their own mini ILTAs. However, many commented that having one-to-one conversations with fee-earners and staff of all seniority – including many partners – was an invaluable R&D opportunity.

Law firms are notoriously bad about engaging with technology, but at Charles Russell Speechlys, any member of staff who moans about technology going forward will be on fairly thin ice. One vendor said: “Rob has really pulled this off. He has brought the mountain to Muhammad.”

On the roadshow stands:

HandShake Software – the only vendor present that doesn’t yet have a contract with Charles Russell Speechlys. Tony DeCerce, director of TDC Global Enterprises, who is working with Handshake to expand its UK customer base, demonstrated HandShake’s personalised SharePoint intranet capability.

iManage demonstrated iManage Work 10 – Charles Russell Speechlys is one of the earliest adopters, having signed up in January. It is already installed in the back end. iManage general manager EMEA, Geoff Hornsby talked about designing tech for and by the user (see speaker sessions below).

Phoenix Business Solutions, which provides support and maintenance for iManage, demonstrated information management solution MatterView.

Charles Russell Speechlys is on an older version of Carpe Diem but Tikit showed fee-earners the latest version. In a talk, CTO Mark Garnish took staff on a tour of cloud technology and talked about Charles Russell Speechlys’ journey to the cloud.

Mobiliciti had a stand and at one of the sessions Phill Woon, mobile security and threat prevention specialist at Check Point, conducted a live hack of an iPhone in association with Mobliciti.

Charles Russell Speechlys is already a client of BT but not of its managed security services, which BT talked about at one of its two stands at the roadshow.

HighQ showed off its data visualisation capability, which within the likes of HighQ Collaborate allows staff to combine collaboration, project management and social networking in one platform.

Nikec, which Charles Russell Speechlys already uses for cost recovery and print management, showed off its Copitrak mobile print solution and Nikec Binder.

Canon demonstrated its latest print technology.

Thomson Reuters Elite demonstrated 3E, which Charles Russell Speechlys signed up to in January 2017, giving fee-earners an opportunity to become more familiar with the software.

Chrome River, which already counts Charles Russell Speechlys as a client, demonstrated its sophisticated expense report software.

Philips displayed new monitors for fee-earners to look at.

Speaker sessions:

VR and AR in the workplace: Kim Gasson CTO, Field Force Automation, BT

Security: Luke Beeson VP, Security UK, BT and Phill Woon Mobile Security and Threat Prevention Specialist, Check Point in association with Mobliciti

Digital: Melissa Bell and Rachael Helanor, Surface Specialists, Microsoft

The Cloud: Mark Garnish CTO, BT Tikit

User-Centred Design: Geoff Hornsby General Manager EMEA, iManage

New Ways of Working: Ben Wightwick Product Director, HighQ