Top 50 Law Firm Profiles: Eversheds Sutherland
Eversheds Sutherland: At a glance
Team size: 100 approx
William Jenkins, IT Director – Delivery and Operations (responsible for internal tech systems, reports to international managing partner Keith Froud)
Andrew Mcmanus, IT Director (responsible for client-facing technology and innovation, reports to international managing partner Keith Froud)
Investment in IT:
Unable to provide figures but the investment is growing, particularly in client-facing technology and cyber security.
Led by Andrew Mcmanus. Outsources app development, partners with tech companies for co-creation, leverages Idea Drop
LexisNexis InterAction (introduced 2017)
Intapp – conflict management
Sharedo from slicedbread – Client portal (introduced 2018)
Client technology solutions; solid management systems; innovation
Andrew Mcmanus, IT director, Eversheds Sutherland
What is your remit at the firm?
I am the IT director, but my focus is exclusively on client and legal technology. I also spearhead our innovation push, making sure we are constantly looking at different ways of working. That is not just about tech, but about coordinating our team’s ability to come up with new ideas and supporting those ideas, and not necessarily just with technology.
So you have another team keeping the lights on, as it were?
Yes, we have a separate team that looks after the platform of technology that sits behind the scenes, making sure we are billing correctly, storing our documents in the right place, that our emails are working, and our data is secure. Will Jenkins heads up that team. He and I work very closely together as you can imagine.
This change is something that has happened in the last six months. When I joined four and a half years ago, I was IT director of both areas. But four and a half years ago, were our clients and our lawyers demanding so much technology? Was technology affecting the legal sector as much as it is now? Clearly not. And we are keen to make sure that we don’t spread ourselves too thinly.
One of an IT director’s biggest challenges is what I call the two canoe problem. If you stand in two canoes long enough they are going to drift apart. We have one canoe that is keeping the platform working well, making sure you can log in anywhere in the world and that our clients’ data is being looked after. Then there is the opportunity that technology offers in terms of disrupting the legal sector. That focus on the future and innovation is the other canoe. Trying to do both at the same time – not just me, but the team as well – is a real conflict of priorities I think.
How big are the teams?
We have around 100 people in the team, collectively. The majority are in delivery and operations. We also outsource a fair chunk of the work. Our data centre and our service desk are run by a third party. We also outsource an increasing amount of application development.
How are the internal teams structured?
Both Will and I report into international managing partner Keith Froud and I have close links into our co-chief executive officer, Lee Ranson. Within Will’s team there is a fairly simple split between operational delivery, programme delivery and security. My team primarily focuses on client technology and innovation. We then have our business partners who are embedded in the organisation and who, frankly, are there to encourage shadow IT. I also have a platform manager, looking after client facing systems. We have a team of people who look after those as product managers. We have a product manager for document automation, for example, and a product manager for client portals. Finally, we have an enterprise architect, just to make sure everything is being looked after and is fitting together nicely.
What is your top-level IT strategy?
Top level, we are certainly focused much more on client delivery. What is it clients need from Eversheds Sutherland and how is tech supporting that? Then we have the delivery of solid management systems: practice management, document management, time capture, as well as core email systems. Third, we have innovation. How can we do things differently? How can we understand the art of the possible and get our lawyers up to speed and aware of our current and future technology capabilities?
What level of investment does technology receive from the firm?
I’m afraid I can’t share numbers but it is growing. We benchmark ourselves and we compare with other law firms favourably. We are investing more in all those elements that I mentioned. With client-facing solutions, in particular, we are investing more and more each year. Cyber security is another big growth area, in terms of people and investment. We benchmark to make sure we are investing wisely but, more importantly, that we are not doing too little and are finding great investment opportunities.
What core systems do you use?
We introduced LexisNexis InterAction, in the US and the UK, in 2017. We use Intapp, heavily, around conflicts and process automation. Most recently, we introduced Sharedo from slicedbread. Rather than replacing existing systems, Sharedo is effectively a client portal solution for our major global clients.
What are your plans regarding new technology?
Loads! The challenge for us, just like every other law firm, is that there is always so much that you could do when it comes to practice management, document management or even email migration. We are looking at refreshing a lot of those systems, making sure we have best of breed. Most interesting is the growth in the numbers of client-facing, or client-impacting, systems. Clients obviously have their own data. A property business, for example, will have its own property portfolio. As a law firm, we also hold the legal information in that area. What we are seeing is those two sources of data coming together. That is where most of our client-facing systems are focused. It means we are able to advise clients on their own business opportunities, not just the legal aspects of it.
You mentioned your business partners encouraging shadow IT. So you clearly view shadow IT as a positive thing.
I’m a big fan of it. It sounds a bit weird, but sometimes people think we, in IT, have to control everything. If we can get our lawyers, and our support teams, to find solutions that improve the way we service clients or make our operations more efficient, then that is a good thing. As long as we can control the risk and the interaction of any system with the core data set, then I encourage it. Do I want them to go out and buy lots of things without telling me? No, I don’t. That’s where our business partners come in. But do I want more than just the IT department looking at opportunities for technology? Absolutely. I think that’s what shadow IT is all about.
What is the firm’s philosophy when it comes to innovation?
If we are going to disrupt and change the way we do business, we can’t do that alone. I don’t think we can go and develop all the systems we need by ourselves, or buy all the systems we need off the shelf.
We invest in application development, through our third party. And whilst we haven’t formed a JV, that model allows us to expand that service to deliver client-facing solutions with agility. We also partner with tech businesses, effectively co-developing products that we offer to clients. The tech vendor fronts those up.
Then there is the work we have done with Idea Drop. Idea Drop is effectively an ideation platform that we have recently deployed. Idea Drop allows anyone in the firm to drop an idea, from something we can do differently in the staff restaurant, right up to, ‘why can’t we have a client portal that is interactive’? Those ideas are funnelled up through a voting system and at the end of the week those ideas with the most votes are progressed.
Idea Drop is really the biggest change we seen over the last six months. It means that a lot of people in the firm that don’t normally get air time, such as junior lawyers and operations teams, are coming up with absolutely fantastic ideas. They are not necessarily massive tech programmes. Sometimes they are things we can just do without huge investment.
If we were toasting your success in five years’ time, what would we be toasting?
If we can change the way we are working as a firm and that change is not driven just by me and my tech team through the traditional IT project route, but if lawyers and innovation teams are coming up with new ways to service clients using technology themselves, I think that would be a tremendous success.
The other thing would be seeing data as a tangible asset that we measure. There is a move away from people viewing a transaction as a manual, stage-by-stage process, and towards collecting data so that we can start to automate those processes using AI and machine learning to increase speed and reduce cost. In five years’ time, I would like to see us valuing data as an asset in much the same way that we value our property, or our lawyers or other tangible assets.
This article first appeared in the March issue of The Orange Rag, click here to download: http://www.legaltechnology.com//wp-content/uploads/2019/02/insider320.pdf