In an increasingly hybrid world, legal firms need to be equipped with the digital tools to succeed and empower employees. However, they also need to balance security, regulatory compliance and document management with anywhere collaboration and productivity.
Osborne Clarke is an international legal practice with headquarters in London, and offices around the world. The Firm’s goal is to help clients succeed in tomorrow’s world. One of the ways it does that is to equip all its people with the right digital tools, right processes and empower them with the right skills to use those tools effectively.
To empower employees, they took a different approach to the typical linear style taken for digital modernisation. “When you’re trying to fundamentally change the way people deliver work, its different,” explains Nathan Hayes, IT Director at Osborne Clarke. By directly engaging with people to solve business issues, Osborne Clarke was able to build internal champions. At the same time, they are improving processes and developing best practices to enable its people to work smarter.
Speed up digital modernisation and empower employees
Osborne Clarke had already started to modernise its business ahead of the UK’s shift to remote working in 2020. Employees were already familiar with Microsoft Teams. However, the shift in ways of working was a real driver for tech adoption because they had to use tools like Microsoft Teams to engage and work. “It’s about winning hearts and minds. People were already engaging with technology in ways they never had before,” says Nathan.
Standardising client experiences and ways of working
Osborne Clarke’s Matter Management Group has been a key part of building the processes behind its digital collaboration modernisation. For legal firms, the managing of a matter from conception to delivery needs to not only meet client expectations, but be transparent, compliant and secure to meet employee expectations too.
Osborne Clarke identified that all its people had a different way of working. This created challenges around the consistency of client experiences across the organisation. The Firm’s Matter Management Group set out to standardise the way they delivered legal services across the organisation, taking learnings from the broader business on how they could work more effectively.
“I have worked with the Matter Management Group and the skill set provided is valuable. There is training support on hand when needed and there is an understanding of how legal teams work which means there’s an appreciation of the comments/concerns we raise and the Group is able to explain the technology easily.”
Partner, Corporate, Osborne Clarke
Connecting business silos to aid transparency and reduce risk
Ensuring transparency over processes and documents is one of the most important factors for legal firms to consider. In a traditional firm, documents are paper-based or baked into business silos making transparency difficult to audit and manage.
When connecting business silos together, legal firms can gain visibility over document sharing, updates, and more. As a result of their modernisation, Osborne Clarke can track when a document is pulled out of the management system and shared with clients via email or on Microsoft Teams to manage risk, create visibility and improve client experiences.
Ensuring security and regulatory compliance
Like many industries, security is highly important for the legal sector. Legal firms need to ensure they not only meet the expectations of clients, regulators, and the business, but exceed them. Firms must ensure any technology meets risk and compliance requirements, while being able to take advantage of innovative solutions to transform client experiences.
“We went through a full due diligence exercise in terms of understanding where our audit trails were, what our discovery options were, and where we engage our risk and compliance team. We have to know that we’ve got an absolutely robust platform,” says Nathan.
By conducting a thorough audit of the platform and understanding their audit trails, Osborne Clarke was able to outline where there was a reliance on employees to meet their statutory and regulatory obligations and where they could leverage technology more effectively to save time.
Demonstrating tangible use cases to empower employees
The Matter Management Group worked with teams in the business directly to help solve challenges around working practices and demonstrate how Microsoft Teams can help resolve them. By showing the value of digital technology first-hand within the context of the real day-to-day challenges they were facing, there was a greater chance it would be used. As a result, that they would share their new found understanding more broadly with other colleagues.
“We had a London partner who was looking to improve profitability. We sat down with him and showed him the technologies that could help. He decided he wanted to try Planner and Teams. Then, he codified an entire matter within 24 hours. He sent it out to his team members, assigning tasks in planner. And that was the start of delivering benefits in terms of visibility and in terms of accuracy,” says Nathan.
“I have used Planner within Teams to create the M&A Playbook. The task list is flexible so can be amended for each deal. It can also be assigned to specific people, prioritised in terms of urgency and can set due dates which can be moved if necessary,” says a Partner at Osborne Clarke. “I have found Planner to be incredibly useful and have noticed that junior lawyers are more proactive as they can see the matter set out in tasks from start to finish.”
“Some things I’ve really liked about Planner – it’s very easy to set up and edit the tasks and buckets; It’s useful to be able to tailor what information appears on each task card. For example, on some that are time sensitive I will choose to include deadline details, or if we agree something with the other side which we may need to keep track of later, I can include a small note under the relevant task.”
Associate, Project Finance
Bringing employees along the journey
For Nathan’s team, the most important thing about digital modernisation is to make sure employees are part of the process. This is why the implementation was so successful. The Matter Management Group works directly within business teams to solve build solutions. This means they were not only able to demonstrate the benefit of digital technology on existing processes, but they were also able to equip employees with the right digital skills to work alongside the technology.
“Its great to see how Osborne Clarke have integrated Microsoft Teams in to the firms critical business processes to not only enhance their lawyers productivity but to engage with their clients in a more consistent and effective way. It demonstrates how technology can enable effective change in a secure way when people and processes are closely aligned.”
Karen Grumbt, Account Executive, Legal Sector, Microsoft UK
Nathan believes Osborne Clarke’s journey is far from over. Looking forward, there are ways to automate workflows or paper-based processes. This will not only save time but reduce errors and empowers employees to spend more time with clients.
The secret of Osborne Clarke’s digital modernisation success is its people-first approach. Engaging directly with teams to build solutions that show immediate benefits creates advocates within the business. In addition, ensuring the processes are secure, compliant and transparent, builds not only strong digital proficiency, but creates a more open, collaborative culture.
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About the author
Nathan is IT Director at Osborne Clarke. He has over fifteen years of experience in the strategic delivery of IT into numerous law firms including CMS Cameron McKenna and Bevan Brittan amongst others. Nathan is an active member of the Legal IT community and makes regular contributions at conferences and to a range of legal publications. Prior to moving into the legal sector, he enjoyed extensive experience in a similar capacity within the global distribution sector. When away from the office, Nathan can usually be found surfing whilst attached to a kite, and occasionally being dragged out to sea in a tangle of lines.
Karen is an experienced Account Executive focussed on the Legal Sector at Microsoft. With over five years’ experience working with global law firms, Karen works closely with customers to drive digital transformation and enable them to realise greater business benefit through Microsoft technology.