22 June 2016
Skype for Business has invested in a mission to make the motions of legal business barely noticeable
One of the biggest challenges for the largest law firms is moving swiftly, but in such a way that the client really doesn’t notice. Whichever office, airport, or even home, a fee earner is sat in, the client wants the same experience. It reinforces their perception of the quality they’re paying for. Continuity and consistency of delivery is key to retaining the power of your brand. In order to manage this, firms are increasingly turning to unified communications, collaboration linking media like voice, video, messaging and presence as if all contact points were one – and Jonathan Harris, technology director at G3 Comms, says many more firms ought to be converted to what is at the same time an increasingly straightforward way of working. “If you take Skype for Business, for example, the functionality is increasing and it’s now reaching the point where you have the same feature set across all devices. You could be sat with a web browser, tablet or mobile, and you enjoy the same user experience. That means that people traditionally less comfortable with new technology – and fee earners would certainly fall in that category – are starting to see the efficiency and embrace it voluntarily.”
A perfect blend
Especially good for productivity is the way that communication channels effectively blend into one another, with meetings expanding or morphing as the requirements of those present change. There’s no need even to dial new numbers. “It’s best described as a journey,” says Harris. “You can elaborate an instant message out into a voice call, and quickly drag and drop other parties into your conversation as you find them or they become available.” Meanwhile, some people may only be part of the instant message chat that’s happening alongside the conversation. Harris says presence is also proving particularly popular with firms – the ability to see a colleague’s availability and reach out to contribute to a task immediately. Of course, fee earners may be just as eager to mark themselves unavailable. In other words, there is an ability to share but also to separate – another example being federational functionality. “A law firm and client can connect their two systems – but entirely securely,” explains Harris. “You’re collaborating efficiently, but there are controls around what can and can’t be shared.” And as well as robust security management, rules in all the right places help with operational efficiency. “By integrating with the customer database you can create fixed business process policies for whoever needs to receive information or when in a cycle to retrieve it.”
The ability of participants to introduce documents alongside a unified communications conversation is another big win for productivity. New material can even be created in the moment through a process of remote brainstorming. “There are smart whiteboards for teams to write on in real time, which views exactly the same on mobile and tablet,” explains Harris. Fortunately, moving from a cumbersome fixed legacy system can also be a fluid working journey, as it’s more cost-effective that way. “People can’t throw away their investment in a traditional phone system immediately in particular, there are lots of expensive cameras out there installed in dedicated rooms for videoconferencing – it’s a very costly infrastructure. But they can adopt the new functionality at the same time and integrate the two systems together. “Partnering with a company that can design a technology roadmap that integrates with the system as it is today – but is also ready for future needs and goals – is therefore essential.” As legal business involves ever more movement – to and from various offices, flying around the world and with introduction of new parties and files to pieces of work all the time – the time is ripe for technology strategy to embark on an equivalent transformational journey.