Leading UK Mid Tier Law Firm move to the Cloud

TS&P were ranked in the Top 25 Law Firms in 2012, Top Ranked UK Chambers 2012 and Top Tier Legal 500 in 2011.

TS&P are a leading 220 strong team of Lawyers based across two UK offices, with a reputation for providing high quality, intelligent advice to individuals and businesses.  In early 2013 the management team at TS&P decided to move their IT infrastructure and systems into the Cloud.

Thomson Snell and Passmore’s Cloud Drivers

  • TS&P are growing in size and want to have their IT centrally managed across multiple locations, this simplifies application rollouts and upgrades.
  • More often, TS&P staff need access to their desktop, data and applications from remote locations outside of the office.
  • Disaster Recovery is extremely important to TS&P and for SRA compliance, ensuring all data is replicated between multiple datacentres.
  • TS&P’s internal IT Team do not want to be dealing with day to day support issues, but instead expanding the companies horizons through application aggregation, development and collaboration.
  • TS&P want their 200+ and growing user base to access their services using thin clients.

Cloud: Gain flexibility

“With cloud technologies you can implement a range of solutions within a short time frame, and this allows law firms to catch-up and often leap-frog their competitors” says David Bennett –Head of Information Systems at TS&P.

“Yet traditionally law firms would buy a product and get their own internal staff to implement solutions such as Microsoft Exchange 2010 and the Microsoft Office 2010, and each of these projects takes up time as well as resources and they probably aren’t as skilled as they could be”, he explains.

Their infrastructures are typically developed over a number of years, and so replacing part of them inevitably leads to some kind of compromise – and this can sometimes be counter-productive. Law firms often have to fit their ICT solutions into their other tasks. In his opinion such traditional ICT projects as implementing Microsoft Exchange 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010 take longer than their cloud-based alternatives. Yet the cloud offers a means to start again from scratch: “By moving to the cloud you can start again with your IT infrastructure by improving processes and by reducing complexity”, he comments while describing migration as being much like moving house.

Why work with VESK?

VESK’s largest vertical is now the legal sector because they have over 1,000 users in the industry.  This is in part due to VESK’s understanding of the applications required for most law firms whether it’s Elite (formerly LawSoft), Aderant, BigHand, SAP, Tikit, Eclipse or a bespoke Customer system.  Secondly, 2 members of the VESK Technical Helpdesk have many years of experience working directly for 5 of the UK’s largest law firms.

TS&P wanted users to have a standard desktop solution, which enabled them to have access to their Windows desktop and all LOB (Line of Business) applications when at branch offices, out of the office and on the move.  “This has improved our ability to work outside of the office and it makes it easier for lawyers to work at a time that suits them and their clients”, he explains.

He says that a number of other benefits emerged too from TS&P’s relationship with VESK:

  • We replaced the existing PCs with thin clients as we wanted to reduce the complexity of the infrastructure – nothing is stored locally, and there is very little that can go wrong with a ‘thin’!
  • All of our data is stored in the UK and we do not have some of the legal complexities that working in other countries offers.  We have an MPLS network implemented to support our environment and use Silver Peak WAN accelerators to improve performance.
  • All of the systems we use are hosted in the cloud or web-based and some of them such as MimeCast and Workshare are used by most law firms, but we have others like our HR system.

Cloud’s legal prevalence

With this in mind James Mackie, Technical Director at VESK, says that he has noticed that cloud technologies and hosted desktops have become very prevalent in the legal sector: “At the last Legal IT conference we attended in 2012 just one law firm had moved into the cloud, but at the last conference we attended, 9 law firms had moved fully into the cloud and they were all talking about it.” He has found that they are all attracted to the cloud. They are interested in hosted virtual desktops too, and that’s because their data is kept secure, replicated for disaster recovery and it is available from anywhere.

Bennett adds that the use of cloud technologies and hosted virtual desktops have become more prevalent in the legal sector. Yet mid-tier Top 50 law firms, which often have overseas offices, don’t in his view generally lend themselves to cloud applications. “Typically these firms have bespoke developments that can’t easily be moved into the cloud, and yet there are areas where they are using cloud services such as MimeCast and Workshare”, he reveals.

He agrees with Mackie that more mid-tier firms like TS&P are moving to the cloud, but there are many more firms that could make the move in his opinion. The move to the cloud in the legal sector is therefore much slower than Bennett had expected, but the main barrier to cloud adoption is the law firms’ internal approval processes – not the technology itself. As the cloud often requires a change in organisational culture, and resistance to change typically comes from their internal management who’ve too often adopted a wait and see approach to see if the cloud makes sense to the business.

The Legal Cloud sector over the last few years has moved quickly and expanded fast.  The general consensus is that we’re now at a point where there are no more concerns over security and fear of the new.  Cloud is firmly in the mainstream, it’s being used by everyone from FTSE-500 businesses to some of the largest Law firms in the UK.

IT-enabled improvements

“Implementing IT solutions isn’t a specialist form of magic as it’s an enabler to help you make improvements”, says Bennett. One issue is that like other organisations, law firms have a number of specialised business areas and specialists that operate using different working practices. TS&P therefore decided to standardise the way its IT is delivered across the firm, and this is forcing the company to change how it works.

Yet there wasn’t any significant investment in IT since the beginning of the recession. “When the recession hit most companies stopped spending on capital investments and as a result of this they began to really sweat their assets”, he says. Rather than updating and refreshing their IT many law firms concentrated on making do, but as the recession continued they found that their software and hardware had reached the end of their life cycle. Cloud technologies in contrast don’t offer so many constraints in his experience, but there is the risk that you do get someone else to do much of the work for you and so you don’t control the servers.

To resolve this issue, IT teams have to build relationships with cloud vendors like VESK. Their role therefore becomes more about working with third parties and managing suppliers. “This to me is the biggest restriction of moving to the cloud because you are trusting other people to help you to deliver your IT”, he elaborates. Yet over the course of a fortnight after the collapse of 2e2, VESK worked with TS&P to build a completely new environment. This occurred while the administrators looked for a new buyer for the bankrupted IT services company.

Focus on business development

“VESK will allow TS&P to spend more time focusing on business development, rather than worry about scaling, improving and updating its IT and IT department”, suggests Mackie. He reveals that one of the key issues from TS&P’s perspective was about how fast VESK could help the law firm to move so much data over to the new cloud platform so quickly. Yet it was achieved because VESK owns its own cloud infrastructure: “VESK managed to install a dedicated 100Mbps line straight into TS&P’s datacentre in 6 days, and this would normally take 60-90 days.” The installation of the leased line enabled VESK to rapidly migrate all of the data.

However, Bennett discloses that TS&P had already had a relationship with VESK before 2e2 collapsed. Their prior experience of working together meant that TS&P already knew about VESK’s balance of flexibility, openness, agility and defined business processes. All of this made VESK an attractive prospect for assisting with the data and cloud migration.

As a result of this good relationship TS&P are investing in the new version of Lawsoft, which is called Thomson Reuters Elite. The law firm is also looking at investing in a cloud-based phone system and Bennett says his company is looking at invoking presence information through the VESK platform. He adds: “We have started to put new products through VESK and we have added indexing for our Practice Management System – as well as implementing GMetrix’s eLearning platform on another Citrix server that VESK provides TS&P.”

As for measureable results, Bennett concludes: “We have seen a change in working patterns as lawyers are regularly working between 5.30am and midnight, and we are seeing an increase in weekend work.” This key result is that people are improving their productivity and meeting client deadlines by working from home outside of the normal working hours. It also means that as a result of VESK’s help, the impact of the collapse of 2e2 was minimised and Thomson Snell and Passmore can focus on what it does best – advising its clients as a law firm and developing its business in the knowledge that it’s in safe hands.

TS&P’s ICT Requirements

TS&P required a Total cloud solution requiring all of their LOB (line of business) applications, the standard set of Microsoft (Exchange 2010, Office 2010 and Windows 7) applications and all user data migrated to the Cloud.  An inventory was taken of TS&P’s existing server estate comprising of a mixture of physical hosts and virtual machines.  A detailed MPP, Migration Project Plan was delivered by the Senior Project Management team at VESK detailing timelines, deliverables and responsibilities.

TS&P required the following applications and associated data migrated for all 220 of its team:

  • Thomson Reuters Elite Envision / Lawsoft
  • BigHand Digital Dictation
  • Workshare Deal Room
  • Secure Printing System
  • BrightPay Payroll Software
  • CCH ProSystem PMS
  • Oyez Forms
  • A Document Management System
  • Microsoft SharePoint 2013
  • Sage Accounts
  • Microsoft Lync 2010
  • Microsoft Office 2010
  • Microsoft Exchange 2010
  • 2 x Bespoke SQL / Java applications

In addition to the application set, TS&P required specific technology integration to enhance the overall IT experience;

  • A 100mbps Cross Connect
  • WAN Acceleration
  • Thin client build and package rollout

How VESK managed to migrate 220 users in 24 hours

Initial Implementation

A new Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) desktop infrastructure was configured – dedicated Domain, Web Interface/Secure Gateway, Exchange 2010 (non multi tenanted). A Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop platform was built with full HDX 2 and HDX 3D Pro for a High Definition user exeprience. All desktops were configured with a standard, templated build including our standard applications as well as TS&P’s line of business software.

The benefit of the VESK VPC is that TS&P are completely separated from the rest of our network.  However, TS&P still benefit from the economies of scale that the VESK Public Cloud offers.

About Thomson Snell and Passmore

TS&P were ranked in the Top 25 Law Firms in 2012, Top Ranked UK Chambers 2012 and Top Tier Legal 500 in 2011. TS&P are a leading 220 strong team of Lawyers based across two UK offices, with a reputation for providing high quality, intelligent advice to individuals and businesses.  In early 2013 the management team at TS&P decided to move their IT infrastructure and systems into the Cloud.