This article first appeared in the latest Legal IT Insider

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has become the first global merged firm to roll out a single active directory that brings Exchange email, AirWatch and BlackBerry within one worldwide domain for all devices and applications.

The move, led by chief information officer Haig Tyler, coincides with the 2294-lawyer international law firm rolling out a distributed version of Aderant Expert to bypass the performance issues naturally arising from the fact that its offices, particularly Australia and London, are so far from one another.

The Global Active Directory, or GLAD, is in place in London and Australia, with the project now around 87% complete. Tyler, who joined HSF from BUPA in April 2012, said: “The Global Active Directory is analogous to a single global travel card, so anywhere you go you get seamless WiFi, email and calendar – it just works.

“I believe we’re the only global merged law firm to have this so we’re either very right or very wrong but it’s a wonderful place to be.”

HSF, formed in 2012 from the merger of the UK’s Herbert Smith and Freehills in Australia, has used AirWatch for around three years but incorporated a new version of the mobile device management system within GLAD.

As part of its tech mobility drive HSF is also starting to roll out Microsoft Surface Pros to users, having done an extended pilot to the end of April. Tyler, a former Deloitte Consulting senior manager, said: “Around 20 users have been rolled out so far, with around 50-100 expected to be rolled out in the next couple of months.”

Staff, who are able to bring their own devices to work, will be able to carry on using a laptop if they wish and Tyler added: “The intention is to give the business users exactly what they want.”

HSF has also completed a network infrastructure upgrade so that it has seamless WiFi in all its larger offices, expected to be in all offices by May 2016.

Tyler said: “The feedback over the past couple of months is that it’s working well.”

Meanwhile, having signed up to Aderant Expert 8.0 practice management solution in 2013, HSF has been working with Aderant on developing a new, distributed database variant of Global Expert. Tyler said: “It has been built to get around the fact that our users are so globally distributed. If you have one single system based in the UK, performance in Australia may be poor. And if it’s based in Australia, performance in the UK may be poor. So we have broken it up but it will continue to operate as one system and the users will find just one system.”

He added: “We’re rolling it out this calendar year and will have mobile time recording capability and are potentially looking at something client facing.” HSF, formerly a Frayman Group client, is integrating Intapp Open within the new system.

Other initiatives this year include Skype for Business, where Tyler and his team are putting out a large pilot group in a couple of months with a view to rolling it out more widely. A successful 200-user pilot for Cisco AnyConnect, which enables multiple security services across PC and smartphone-based mobile devices, also looks likely to see the solution adopted.

Further developments will see the firm, which has 24 offices spanning Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the US, open new data centres in Hong Kong and Johannesburg, which is due to go live this June. The firm’s other data centres are in London, Sydney and Dubai. Aside from a secondary data centre in Exchange House, all of HSF’s data centres are outsourced.

It is evident that investing in and using technology has been identified as a key strategic priority for the firm, and on a smaller but significant scale the global council and global operations committee now use Diligent’s digital board meeting solution in a drive to go paperless.

Tyler said: “Innovation in technology is a clear part of our new business strategy with very strong support from within the highest levels of management. The strategy is being driven forward not just for internal effectiveness and efficiency but also to be client facing, including using apps and portals and putting digital innovation at the heart of the way we operate.”