As we first revealed in the Orange Rag on 27 June, The Law Society of England and Wales has moved to Office 365 and is in the process of moving its apps, data and infrastructure to Azure, we can reveal, as part of a £10m transformation plan kick-started 18 months ago, as the body creates its own IT department and moves away from the historic model of sharing back-office services with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
As part of the transformation plan, the Law Society hired Jane Deal as its IT director and Gareth Preece as head of IT, as well as building up its support functions.
Deal was previously a director of Experia Consulting, according to her LinkedIn profile, where she had “significant experience in IT leadership, business change, and business design.”
We asked the Law Society about the move to the cloud, the hurdles and whether this shift is symbolic for the rest of the legal market, as law firms increasingly consider their own moves to the cloud. The Law Society, which initially had concerns over the security of cloud technology says: “We see more and more cloud-based services meeting and exceeding the standards around all these considerations.”
When did you first start looking at moving to the cloud?
Our IT Transformation Programme, set up 18 months ago, has been considering and adopting cloud services for TLS over that time period. However, our serious consideration of modern and cloud-based technologies pre-dates that – and originates in our drive constantly to modernise and improve our services to members. Indeed, moving onto more modern platforms was part of our reasoning for creating our IT Transformation Programme in the first place.
What were the key considerations in that decision?
Cloud and software-as-a-service technologies have now, in our view, reached a level of both maturity and inevitability in many common business areas that it is now a good time for us to consider migrating to them. Maturity can be measured in terms of functionality (how rich and flexible cloud technology offerings are), security (how safe cloud technologies are for our data and for that of our members), compliance (how cloud tech can meet evolving compliance needs such as GDPR), and affordability (whether it makes business sense to move to cloud technology).
We recognise that many people in the marketplace (including ourselves) have initially had concerns about the security and flexibility of Cloud services.
While we assess our technology choices on a case-by-case basis, we see more and more cloud-based services meeting and exceeding standards around all these considerations.
What were the hurdles and how did you get past that?
Broadly the hurdles of adopting new technology to improve business and customer process are similar regardless of the technology being implemented. They are around taking people in the business on the journey with you,and ensuring that business processes are addressed and modernised on an equal footing with the technology to drive out benefits. Fortunately, there are a host of change management methodologies, techniques and tools out in the market. We are adopting these best practices when it comes to our IT change, recognising that all IT change entails business change.
There are some specific challenges with Cloud services, for example:
- Moving from a commercial model and mindset of “buying” a piece of software to a “pay-as-you-consume” business case
- Moving from a mindset of “owning” data (on our premises and servers), to place of being a sovereign guardian over data.
- Moving from the idea of heavily customising “our” system to the idea of configuring flexibly to allow constant improvement and upgrade
But these sorts of challenges are part of the wider business change of becoming an increasingly flexible, customer-focused business that underlies the movement toward newer and better technologies in so many industries.
Who is leading the project internally?
We have a dedicated Programme team and Programme Management Office leading this change for our business.
Who are you using for advice/guidance/a systems integrator?
We have ensured that we have guidance internally (by building a programme team and technical office that has rich expertise in the changes we are making) and externally (by seeking initial advice on the formation of our Programme from a major systems integrator, and by continuing to build delivery partnerships with strong firms in the market).
Is your move symbolic for the rest of the legal market?
IT and business change are a constant in many markets – and the impact of cloud technologies is being felt across many industries at this time. While we imagine many law firms are facing similar questions and decisions, we can only talk about our own experience and our own systems changes.
We are also part of a much wider market – that is the marketplace of member-focused organisations more generally. Once again we imagine many peer member organisations are facing similar challenges.
For information, on 14th June the Law Society launched a Public Policy Commission looking to explore the impact of technology and data on human rights and justice. We have also recently unveiled a partnership with Barclays which aims to bridge the gap between emerging innovations and law firms creating an ‘eagle lab’ in Notting Hill, West London.
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