As part of a huge project currently underway here at Legal IT Insider to profile all of the legal teams in the UK Top 200, we kicked off in the December Orange Rag with TLT, where we spoke to operations director Jeff Wright (pictured) about key IT roles at the firm, how the technology strategy underpins the firm’s growth, and where it is investing its time and money.
Year-end April 2017/18, revenue rose by 10% to reach £82m
Jeff Wright, Operations Director
Role and remit
Wright started out as director of transformation but has been promoted to director of operations and is effectively in a COO role. He has all of business services reporting to him bar finance, which reports to the chief financial officer.
The firm’s executive board is in charge of strategy. Its operations board runs the day-to-day business and includes representation from across all of the different practice groups in the firm but also business services.
Other key IT roles
At the start of 2018 TLT brought in Ian Lauwerys as director of IT and facilities. He succeeded Graham Sankey, who has returned to Australia.
Paul Amer formerly headed transformation and ran TLT’s project management office with support from Wright but that role is now vacant.
TLT has seen growth of 60% in revenue over the past five years – a mix of mostly organic but some inorganic growth.
It set up a greenfield site in Belfast in 2012 and Manchester in 2013, and the former has grown from a handful of people to over 100, sparking a move to Belfast’s River House, announced in November 2018.
TLT continues to grow in Bristol, London and Glasgow.
What underpins the firm’s technology strategy?
Supporting the firm’s growth is key, particularly whereit is through inorganic growth. The firm in 2012 merged with Anderson Fyfe to create TLT Scotland and both that and larger lateral hires are challenging the current infrastructure in place.
A key focus is how to dynamically increase and decrease in size depending on project demands and that means agile work space. Wright tells us: “Those are going to be two continuing themes so, along with many others, we continue to look at migration into the cloud but with the necessary themes around solid business continuity.”
TLT does a significant amount of work in the financial services sector, where major banks are very exacting around their security expectations and typically vet not just the firm but its entire supply chain.
Like many UK top 100 firms TLT’s cloud arrangements are fairly embryonic.
It uses Mimecast and its HR system is in the cloud, plus some of its infrastructure security is also in the cloud. Most of its core systems, from case to document to practice management, are still on premises (see below). TLT has looked at iManage Cloud but was deterred by the potential latency when integrating its multiple systems.
Wright told us: “We will be taking a graduated approach. We will move to the cloud but not yet.” Part of Lauwery’s role is to look at the transition.
TLT has split its IT and ‘innovation’ efforts and Wright says: “We have the same problem as everyone else: how do you keep the lights on but have the energy and investment for innovation. We’ve looked at some of the bimodal stuff that Gartner has preached in the past but when you get down to the detail, you’re still talking about how you balance research, trial and delivery.”
TLT has a transformation steering group to look at innovation and priorities for new projects and investment. Wright says: “Innovation is an over-used term for some of the things being talked about: the kind of multi-source resourcing, whether work is done by inside lawyers or outside lawyers or an LPO or across multiple providers; new AI or old AI or predictive coding and document review are already here and not ‘innovation’ but part of the future of how we work as lawyers.”
Investment in new tech
In May 2018 TLT carved out £500,000 of capital to invest in tech that is innovative and supports its lawyers.
At the end of 2017 it took a minority equity share in contract review provider LegalSifter, a competitor of LawGeex. Wright said: “We spent around seven to eight months looking for solutions. Having got through the process with a number of AI providers, one of our project managers spotted LegalSifter and within 30 minutes of seeing a demo it did around 80% of what we need.”
Pricing is, or at least will be, a big focus for TLT, which is one of the firms pushing the envelope when it comes to stepping away from traditional pricing models. The firm runs a number of outsourcing arrangements with financial services clients whether that be volume or complex work, depending on the clients’ needs and capability.
It has annual retainers with clients split by monthly payment. The value of the work is calculated in terms of points and the points are arrived at by the number of live cases in a month. The points system also incorporates an assessment of complexity and risk. The points system is reviewed each quarter.
TLT currently has two contentious and two noncontentious schemes in place. One is in real estate, one in complex wills and probate.
After a fairly lengthy selection process involving both Carpe Diem and Intapp Time, TLT has selected Intapp for time recording.
Once the time recording system is established and the data is good the firm will look to put a pricing tool on top. It uses QlikView Reporting.
• Practice management: SOS Connect
• Document management: iManage Work
• Case management: Lexis Solcase + OchreSoft Intelliworks + K2 Blackpearl
• CRM/Marketing: Lexis InterAction + Vuture + Enable PitchPerfect
• Time recording: Intapp Time
• Cost recovery: Copitrak
• Document automation: Hotdocs
• AI/Machine Learning: Late stage POC Kira Systems