Freeths is a major national law firm offering a wide range of services to commercial and private clients across the entire legal spectrum. The firm has more than 125 partners and over 600 staff in total, working from offices in London, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Stoke on Trent, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.
The firm opened its tenth office in 2013 when the group was expanded to include Henmans Freeth, a firm based in Oxford with a national reputation for handling commercial and personal matters for a wide range of individuals, businesses, institutions and third sector organisations.
Freeths places particular emphasis on the benefits of IT. It has won a Legal Technology Award for its IT ‘Case Viewer’ platform, was a finalist in the British Legal Awards, Best Use of Technology, and in 2010 was shortlisted by the Law Society for Excellence in Innovation.
Freeths was formed by the merger of smaller legal practices. As a result, the firm’s IT systems, which had suffered from a lack of investment, were regarded as weak and unable to meet the requirements of the ambitious modern law firm that they were becoming.
There had also been a number of changes within the existing in-house IT team, creating a lack of consistency and no clear strategy to move the system forward.
Things would change when Peter Smith was appointed Chief Executive in 2000. His experience in the banking sector had shown him the advantages offered by technology, both from an efficiency and profitability point of view.
Many of the firm’s employees, especially fee earners, were not receiving the necessary training and there was a need for a better understanding of IT by some of the partners.
Although new document and case management systems had been introduced, there was an incomplete uptake of the systems across the firm.
The management team, led by Peter Smith, decided the firm needed to do more than just work with a dumb technical template and began the process of reviewing all aspects of the firm’s IT infrastructure, systems and applications, with a view to a complete upgrade.
The decision was made to seek external support that offered the necessary resources and expertise that could move the project forwards in a timely and efficient manner.
In 2001, Quiss was invited to assess the state of the IT systems and infrastructure across Freeths then six offices.
A comprehensive IT audit was undertaken, with our own Managing Director Andy Michael, personally overseeing the project and taking control of developing the tailored solution.
Importantly, our assessment did not only focus on an audit merely from a technical perspective, but also took into consideration the commercial aspects of the role IT played in the business as a whole and its future.
To develop a comprehensive solution that not only addressed the current day-to-day issues, but allowed for growth and changes in business processes and the way the firm wants to work in the future, it was essential to take a holistic approach to the assessment.
A guiding principle of Quiss Technology, which remains as important today, is that we do not just highlight problems, but strive to deliver practical solutions that offer tangible benefits for our clients.
This audit highlighted several areas of concern that would need addressing if the system was to deliver the performance expected by the firms management team.
The issues revealed were:
• a large proportion of the firm’s workstations proved unreliable and of inadequate specification
• most of the firm’s servers were of equally insufficient specification
• the desktop operating system lacked stability
• the firm had no credible IT disaster recovery plan
This initial assessment focussed on the IT infrastructure, but we also reviewed the role of the internal IT team, which was struggling to deliver what was needed. Their inability to cope was largely due to a lack of the real breadth of skills needed to proactively manage the firm’s IT needs and the constant changing of personnel.
The solution, presented in February 2001, was both detailed and bold in its approach. We made several recommendations to Freeth Cartwright, requiring a significant increase in its level of investment in IT:
• replacing all hardware, PCs, laptops and servers, that fell below an agreed minimum standard
• upgrading the operating system • modifying the communications network between offices
• implementing and testing a comprehensive IT disaster recovery plan
• implementing a systematic training programme for all staff to help increase productivity through greater efficiency
Fortunately, the management team and partners were highly impressed with the depth of our understanding of the issues they faced and the challenges ahead.
They were equally impressed with our recommended actions, all of which were encapsulated in our total IT outsourcing solution ‘WORKS’.
Having delivered our findings at a presentation in February, we were awarded an initial three year contract within weeks and the roll-out of the new infrastructure began in April of that year.
The entire infrastructure was replaced, with the 320 users across the 6 offices upgraded to the latest versions of Microsoft Office applications and the Arista case management system.
Quiss has always been a truly innovative IT outsourcing business and we believe we really understand the issues our clients face and work hard to build long-term relationships.
Our innovation is exemplified by our ability to finance all of the equipment required to deliver a more stable, robust and engaging IT environment for Freeths.
Our ability to build long term relationships is borne out by our continued support for a law firm that has almost doubled in size in the more than a decade we have been supporting them.
Our total IT outsourcing solution, Qworks, delivers a host of benefits that have helped Freeths as they shape their business and grow.
A new managed wireless network was deployed to accommodate a more mobile approach to legal work, with mobile devices and tablets integrated safely into the system. Support for hardware, applications and the network is delivered via our large online helpdesk resource, removing any concerns they had about IT staff retention and continuity of service.
One of our training team is permanently based at their offices, to provide on-going tailored training for all employees, with floor-walking sessions invaluable in improving productivity. The consultancy we build into our ‘WORKS’ package, ensures we deliver pro-active support and tackle issues long before they affect the business processes of the firm.
Over the years we have undertaken a number of significant projects beyond the scope of our initial agreement, which stands testament to the confidence the Freeths management team have in our abilities to deliver practical solutions that allow them to concentrate on their core business activities.
They can acquire and merge new offices into their group, safe in the knowledge that within weeks all necessary systems and networks will be fully integrated. This allows all employees across the firm to collaborate more effectively and more productively.
We like to think we have played a part in the growing success of one the UK’s best law firms.
“Outsourcing our IT support to Quiss has allowed us to concentrate on our core business, rather than worrying why our IT doesn’t work.”
“We now plan for the future safe in the knowledge our IT infrastructure is robust, secure and capable of anything we ask of it.”
“Our partnership with Quiss has enabled us to revolutionise the way we do business.”
Peter Smith – Chief Executive, Freeths
Click to view the PDF: