Time’s up for old email infrastructure
Documents are the lifeblood of the legal profession, and over the past 10 years, the commercial law firm Philip Lee had seen the volume of digital files multiply in place of physical files, while the firm had grown in size by almost 50%. The 2019 law firm of the year specialises in commercial law for leading global clients across industries including energy, finance, food, media and pharmaceuticals. To support those clients, the firm also added to its head office in Dublin, by opening offices in Brussels, London and San Francisco.
All of these developments intensified the technical demand on its IT systems significantly. At the same time, the firm had been managing its Exchange 2010 email server internally, with a Windows 7 desktop environment that would no longer be supported by Microsoft. It needed to migrate to a new technology platform but doing this would need to be a carefully managed process to ensure the firm’s
business would continue seamlessly.
A managed migration plan
Looking to upgrade the firm’s email and desktop operating system as part of a single project, Philip Lee’s newly installed IT manager Jason McGovern chose SureSkills. He had worked with the technology specialist in previous roles and was confident that SureSkills’ consultative, relationship-based approach would be the right fit. Rather than prescribing an off-the shelf technology solution, SureSkills met with the firm and assessed its infrastructure and together they developed a flexible project plan that took account of the firm’s needs.
“Being a commercial law firm with offices in different locations, we have clients in different time zones, so email has to be online almost 24/7. Solicitors’ work is based on billable time, so they need to be able to work on demand with no downtime. We had to be careful around planning to keep downtime to a minimum. Sometimes we had to work out of hours and SureSkills accommodated that,” explains McGovern.
SureSkills managed the migration from the old platform to Office365 and to a more recent version of Exchange, where the firm’s email would be hosted in the cloud instead of on site. To ensure a smooth handover, SureSkills also managed discussions with the firm’s other main technology suppliers including Mimecast, an email security and archiving provider.
Benefits across the board
The migration project led to multiple benefits for the firm’s 140 staff including partners, associates, consultants and administrative personnel. It was a significant improvement on their old IT, delivering enhanced productivity, enhancing remote working, offering greater redundancy and fallback
options, improved security and confidentiality, while easing the pressure on internal IT resources.
As a result of the upgrade, Philip Lee has moved from being a predominantly desktop-based firm to one with increased productivity through mobile working. The firm’s legal staff can now securely access emails and documents on laptops, tablets or smartphones from any location through the cloud. “In an industry where work is so time sensitive, every second counts. Having your whole office as a resource you can take with you is a huge benefit of remote working and it creates huge efficiencies for our staff and enables us to provide a better service to our clients,” says McGovern.
Many companies have struggled with providing true redundancy because it involves buying and maintaining duplicate IT systems in a second site that can switch over if the primary hardware is unavailable. Few firms had the budget or resources to do this, but because Office365 and Exchange are hosted in the cloud, Philip Lee’s primary systems are always online. “To have the ability to be able
to pick up a laptop or phone and continue working or discussing a case with clients is invaluable. If our service was out for a day it would have a huge impact, not just on us but on our clients, and it could affect our work in court if we had to miss a deadline,” McGovern points out.
As a legal firm, Philip Lee is entrusted with commercially sensitive information. The new Exchange infrastructure provides further layers of encryption, in addition to Mimecast, for when data is being sent or stored. It has helped with the firm’s GDPR compliance efforts and will help it to achieve the ISO:27001 information security standard which will give clients further reassurance that it takes the proper precautions when handling important data.
Moving Exchange and Office 365 to the cloud has also eased the burden on the firm’s IT team, who estimate they have saved up to 20% of staff time they used to need to manage the older physical hardware when it was on site. This has allowed the department to pursue training that allows them to provide more high-level direction for the firm’s technology strategy. “We have senior partners who would like to progress IT – as all industries would – and this gives us the opportunity to present more enhancements to the firm,” says McGovern.