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Allan Carton

Allan Carton is Managing Director at Inpractice UK helping legal practices tap into new business opportunities, developing new propositions, better CRM, client management and improved processes; all making better use of technology. Email acarton@inpractice.co.uk. Twitter @AllanCarton.

customer by charles roderick

CRM is high on the agenda again, prompted by increasing recognition of the value of informed relationships to help deliver more of what clients’ value. Making that happen requires accurate, up-to-date information about clients and other contacts to work with, that people can rely on with confidence.

Accuracy of personal data is probably top of that agenda for most right now though. GDPR has added the incentive now to explore better ways to manage personal data and to ensure its security more proactively and effectively. As ever, the GDPR’s mandatory compliance requirements from government is prompting action where there has been complacent inaction in the past – so take advantage of that.

As a result, there have recently been more useful, constructive and progressive discussions going on more widely within law firms about “data” than ever before, backed up with new plans to radically improve the quality of data they hold. This has become a catalyst to prompt new initiatives, supported by new technologies and strategies, many of which were already available before but just were not explored.

Blended Learning

It is time for legal practices to introduce more effective and comprehensive training, not just for lawyers, but for management and support staff too. In this article I explore why and how you might introduce a structured blend of training across your practice that includes more affordable and manageable e-learning alongside traditional face-to-face training.

young girl in a horror in front of laptop

Most legal practices have yet to get to grips with the idea of “cyber resilience” but it is a strength that they urgently need to acquire now. Only then can a legal practice develop and deliver new IT-supported service propositions that can add significant value to services for clients, introducers and business partners.

(with Frank Manning)

There is now a wide variety of options available to law firms in the UK, to move away from the pain of managing servers and extensive IT on their own premises, whatever size of firm they are. Legal practice management system suppliers are still mostly at some stage on the journey from supplying dedicated IT systems on the firm’s premises (on the decline) to delivery of their software from a remotely hosted and secure (perhaps shared, making them “true cloud”) servers in a data centre managed by the supplier, the firm or a third party depending. All the firms that we work with are heading in this direction.

More than 2,200 UK legal practices and ABSs now use a hosted practice management system (PMS) with their system and data held (hosted) in a secure, remote location, accessed via the internet, in preference to keeping servers and software on-premise in their own offices. That is roughly 20 per cent of all law firms and ABSs, adding up to more than 13,000 seats. In the small and mid-size legal practices where we operate most, legal practices and ABSs using hosted PMSs range from one to more than 500 users, so there are attractive options for all legal practices.

Microsoft Office 365 is a suite of securely hosted (“Cloud”) online applications available now direct from Microsoft that has potential to radically improve use of IT for a wide variety of law firms, not just small firms. However, it may have an Achilles heel for users in the UK; nothing to do with the technology but down to US legislation designed to give their government powers to combat terrorism.

Microsoft already “own” the lawyers’ desktop, where lawyers live in Outlook for emails and appointments and produce documents in Word. Microsoft also deliver behind the scenes on infrastructure, software and services in the cloud, operating systems, SQL, reporting services, business intelligence, virtualisation, thin client, SAN technologies … and much more.

A follow up to the article in the last issue reviewing which legal practices are using hosted practice management and other hosted applications. Now – the user feedback.

A hosted system is created where the bundle of computer applications that lawyers use (Word, practice management system, digital dictation etc) that would traditionally be run and managed in-house are run and hosted remotely by a third party on servers outside the offices, all accessed securely through the internet or leased lines.

We all know that people who come to your website are impatient and want information straight away. If you don’t get their attention fast, or the information they want quickly, they go looking elsewhere. There are plenty of other options to be explored on the web, whatever you are looking for. But there’s more to it than that in the increasingly sophisticated world of internet marketing, where most law firms have only just begun to “engage” browsers.

Software as a Service (SaaS) has been with us for several years with hosted applications that deliver information to lawyers. In the examples below, we show how much further this has moved, with law firms using a variety of software services via the internet from simple applications to the whole of their IT systems. Adoption of SaaS solutions should be explored by all firms as there are now solutions that can fit the needs of firms of just about any size and focus.