Taylor Wessing has made the decision to move 80-90% of its data into the cloud with Microsoft Azure over the next two years as the top 20 UK firm, led by chief information officer Kevin Harris, also prepares to automate all of its legal precedents with ContractExpress.

The firm began discussing its data centre options at board level last October, prompted by an ageing secondary data centre. The three key considerations focussed on by the firm, which also set up a project board to help lead the decision making process, were security; the ability to guarantee where the data is held; and client perception and buy-in.

Harris, who joined Taylor Wessing from KPMG in January 2015, said: “The security is better than we can provide. There is no financial investment we can make that will match Microsoft.”

With regard to location, he added: “Amazon or Microsoft are used to dealing with big banks and you can now choose which data centre your data resides in. There is an element of trust but they have so much invested in this they couldn’t afford a breach of trust.”

Feedback from clients has been positive and so the firm now plans to put its disaster recovery back up servers into Azure in the next 18 months and transition from there.

“There will always be bits of software on site and if a client demands that their data is held on site we will have that capability,” Harris says. “We will keep up to 20% of server capacity in our current data centre but expect that 80-90% will be in Azure in the next two years.”

Taylor Wessing in Germany, which has notoriously strict data protection law, will remain on premises, although notably Microsoft announced last autumn that it plans to build a set of data centres in Germany to circumnavigate US surveillance. Harris and his team, meanwhile, are talking to iManage – which in 2015 announced that it will offer a hosted document management system in Azure – about moving onto the cloud platform.

The move comes as Taylor Wessing also engages in a significant project to automate its precedents using Business Integrity’s ContractExpress solution. Business Integrity was acquired by Thomson Reuters in 2015.

Until now, Taylor Wessing has used HotDocs in the finance department and Evident Legal Service Platform for selfservice document creation on its website but ContractExpress will now be used universally.

The firm, which is hiring in a team of between three and five people of mixed legal and technical skill, is starting by automating the precedents of the finance and real estate teams, which it envisages will be complete by Christmas.

The longer term goal is to automate between 500-600 precedents in two-to-three years. Over the past two years, Taylor Wessing has been working on improving its precedents, and has set up a central repository called Uno, which launched in mid-2015. Harris said: “In the last two years we’ve done a lot of work to get our precedents sorted out so we have a good starting point.”

All precedents, automated or not, will now be accessed through Uno to acclimatise fee earners and encourage a change of habits. But ultimately, Harris, who was formerly digital strategy lead at KPMG, responsible for the formation of its digital strategy, and before that COO and CIO of Deloitte Technologies, says, “the way to get everyone to use it is to switch off the other stuff.”