One of the highlights of Legal IT Insider’s monthly digital magazine, our latest IT directors to give us a fascinating insight into their strategic priorities for the next 12-18 months are Kevin Harris from Taylor Wessing; Nathan Hayes from Osborne Clarke and Steve Sumner from Taylor Vinters.

Kevin Harris, chief information officer, Taylor Wessing

1. One of my key priorities for the next three years is finding technology that will grow or at least maintain margin. Law firms are not going to be in a position to be competitive unless we apply better technology. This includes document automation and artificial intelligence for doing market research. Not just market research but using analytics and data to look at court cases and case history to give predictive analysis. On the litigation side, it’s much harder to automate so we are looking at large data sets to help predict the outcome of court cases.

2. Our second priority is all around collaboration and working together to break down practice silos. Being multi-practice, we are looking at ways to crosssell and make sure people can work on matters from across a broader background. That means unified communication and agile working – really getting people out of their offices and breaking down boundaries so they work together and share client information.

3. My bread and butter is the back-end infrastructure and how we go about growing our IT capability without growing headcount, which leads us to the cloud. We have demand not to increase headcount but much greater demands from clients and threats from cyber security. The challenge is how we bring that together and one way is to rely on the cloud more, so we get a certain level of security without having to spend more. The infrastructure in our team then changes from guys with screwdrivers to guys that make strategic decisions.

Nathan Hayes, IT director, Osborne Clarke

1. Innovation. Over the past few years we have seen a paradigm shift and both law firms and lawyers are not only much more open to changes to their working practices, but are now actively driving those changes and looking to technology to help achieve that. My first strategic priority is not only to deliver technologies that enables those changes, but also technologies that have the potential to redefine the way in which we deliver our legal services. That will no doubt range from the introduction of more Legal Project Management capabilities through to more business process and document automation to the introduction of AI-based technologies.

2. Agile Working. OC has been a proponent of agile working for many years, however with the increasingly intense competition to attract and retain the very best people, it is becoming an even more important tenet of our IT strategy. While continuing to provide the best technology in this area is important, be that hardware such as high-end smartphones or services such as Skype for Business, the real focus of this second strategic theme is on collaborating with our lawyers to develop new agile working practices, incorporating that thinking into our new working spaces (such as our office in Reading) and providing our people with the training and coaching to enable them to get the most of the technology available to them.

3. Information Security. Keeping our and our client’s data secure is paramount for law firms yet our ability to achieve that is coming under increasing pressure. The increase in complexity of our IT systems for numerous reasons including a higher utilisation of cloud based services, combined with the increased information security threats that are being signposted even in mainstream media, are a few of the main drivers behind that. At the same time we are seeing an increase in the reputational impact of information security breaches, as both governmental and regulatory penalties for such breaches are being increased significantly. It is for these reasons that Information Security is my third strategic priority.

Steve Sumner, director of IT, Taylor Vinters

1. Security, Security and Security are the three priorities for us, or rather the first priority is security in bold three times over.  If you had asked me 12 months ago what my priorities were, security would not have been number one, however in 2016 it is clear that the risk to the firm of losing its data either by it being encrypted or removed without permission is ever increasing and ever more likely, imagine a world with no documents and email, not a nice thought.   As a mid-market firm without the resource to operate a security team to focus on that risk we seek to use technology and service providers to predict, prevent and remedy this risk to our business, so 2016 will see a significant increase in our spend on security. It is now a cost of doing business and I would not be surprised to see it reaching 10% of budget this year. 

2. Priority two is two things together, infrastructure and cloud.  We have had our production infrastructure running very successfully under managed service for five years now, full service disaster recovery and business continuity have been delivered.  That is private cloud but the public cloud market is maturing now and questions are being asked about the use of public cloud, what will we do, never forgetting the requirements of our regulatory authority, more of the same or something radical?  We have to decide.

3. Priority three is mobility, or what I would call “universal delivery”, laptops, tablets and smartphones working in the way that a desktop environment does, providing document management, integrated telephony, email, video conferencing, time recording and knowledge. We have been working with the electronic master file for several years now so it is a logical extension to capture and deliver data to those files from out-of-office devices.  It has to be secure, easy to use and enticing to get the best benefits to our staff so we are working with suppliers to get to that ideal world.