Multi Site IT Strategy for Large Legal Firm
Chadwick Lawrence offers professional and supportive legal advice to both private and commercial clients.
Established 160 years ago, the company now has seven offices and over 250 members of staff covering the West Yorkshire region. The practice is listed as one of the twenty largest firms in Yorkshire and Humberside.
Departments offering traditional legal services such as family law and conveyancing sit side by side with dedicated commercial and employment departments.
Chadwick Lawrence is one of the few law firms in the area to have specialist medical negligence and sports law capabilities. Their vision is to be recognised as the best legal practice in West Yorkshire.
We sat down with Head of IT Dan Bell to discuss how Chadwick Lawrence has benefitted from their relationship with TSG with regards to their IT strategy and delivery.
Dan’s role involves the maintenance and development of the IT infrastructure and software across 7 different geographical locations, and looking after all 250 users. This entails managing a team of 3 people internally, and working with TSG to enable a smooth day to day running of the IT department.
Dan, how would you describe Chadwick Lawrence’s approach to IT?
We take IT very seriously, but I wouldn’t say that has always been the case. A few years ago I would be the first one to admit that IT was very much ‘silo’d’ within our business – it was a bit of an afterthought whilst we concentrated on getting our brand right and delivering the best possible service for our customers. This meant we were quite reactive to our IT, and it wasn’t as smooth a process for our users as I would have liked.
As part of our new company ambition to take the practice forward, and encourage development based on a core set of values, we recognised the need to be more ‘on the front foot’ with our technology. We needed to allow it to work with us, rather than against us.
TSG were a vital part of helping us do that. Now, IT is not just an operational part of our business; it forms part of strategic discussions at board level. This has really paid off, particularly as part of our recent expansion into new offices.
In the context of today’s IT landscape with new cyber threats being released all the time, I believe you can’t do anything other than put technology at the centre of your business strategy.
You have to have a model that is scalable, in order to be competitive in the marketplace. Every conversation with TSG (on a strategic level) is now focussed around questions such as, “Will this help us be more scalable?” and “Will this make us more resilient?”
What is your relationship with TSG like?
It’s a fantastic relationship. We worked out at the beginning how we could best help each other, and that’s been really useful.
We’re benefitting from their strategic advice as well as the ‘nitty gritty’ stuff. So on the IT Support side, there are 16 servers to look after, which TSG SystemCare monitors 24/7; alerting us to any issues we need to be aware of. My IT team then crack straight on with addressing those issues.
Depending on their urgency and seriousness, we also know the TSG on-site team can be with us in a very short timescale, to lend a hand if needed.
I can recall a particular instance where TSG’s ‘going the extra mile’ approach was a godsend.
In February of this year we were due to move into our 7th office in Horbury. Due to complications with the lease, it was still touch and go on the Friday as to whether we were going to be able to move in on the Monday.
It was finally confirmed that afternoon, and our chief TSG engineer stayed on site well into the evening to configure our VPN, connect everything to the other offices, and basically ensure we would be able to work from the new office on Monday morning. He also offered telephone support that weekend, should we have needed it.
I’ve found TSG’s people to always be highly skilled and approachable, but their distinguished levels of service are something you don’t come across very often.
Describe your current infrastructure set up
Our servers are centralised onto one location, but we have 7 sites altogether which all have access via a VPN. TSG recently helped us to upgrade our connectivity between the sites to leased lines, which means we have a fully scalable, highly secure and fast connection between our offices.
We also have EFM backup options. TSG advised us that EFM was the best solution for us as we needed high connectivity speeds with minimal downtime (escaping the limitations of traditional broadband) without the cost of fibre optic Ethernet leased lines. Our data is very sensitive given the nature of our industry, so we needed to make sure we were operating at an incredibly secure level.
What happened last year which motivated you to look at your disaster recovery strategy?
In December 2015 we were hit badly by the floods that engulfed the Yorkshire region at Christmas time. I was in the basement of our Dock Street office on Boxing Day, moving the servers to higher ground. Not an easy feat!
We didn’t experience any downtime thanks to the backup solution TSG had helped us put in place, but a catastrophic event like that does make you re-analyse your set up and think about how sufficient your plans really are. It was a scare, that’s for sure. So, we worked with TSG on a new disaster recovery plan in order for us to take truly preventative measures in the face of even more potential substantial damage.
Operating across 7 sites means we can be closer to where our clients need us to be. But that does present its challenges in terms of internal communication and collaboration. We have a strong team culture and comradery, but this wasn’t reflected in our technology.
How is Microsoft SharePoint benefitting you as a business?
TSG built a fantastic Microsoft SharePoint solution for us which means that all of our documents (and we have a LOT of documents!) are managed and categorised expertly, and can be accessed securely by our staff, whichever office they are working in. We also use it as an intranet as an easy way to update our people on key information and initiatives.
What does the future look like for TSG and Chadwick Lawrence?
TSG will continue to support us on an operational and strategic level. We’re currently looking at hosting our data in the Cloud rather than on premise servers; we are growing fast and bringing new clients on board all the time – Cloud will allow us the scalability to deal with that growth effectively.
TSG are a fantastic resource to us – I’d go as far as saying I couldn’t be without them.