Chapman Tripp was founded in 1875 and is one of the top New Zealand law firms, with 53 partners and approximately 400 staff.
“The partnership has traditionally taken a conservative approach to IT, securing a stable and reliable platform that keeps pace with client expectations, but not at the bleeding edge,” says CIO Andrew Cammell.
In the past three to five years, Cammell says the international legal sector has undergone significant change:
· Large UK and US firms have merged with local firms in Australia and across Asia to create mega firms with a global reach;
· Clients have grown their own internal legal capabilities, taking work from the private practice firms;
· Specialist “Legal Project Management” outsourcing firms have exploited cheaper labour in India and elsewhere; and
· New technologies, including cloud services, mobility and artificial intelligence/cognitive systems, are changing the type of work the firms can do.
He says Chapman Tripp is preparing for these market disruptors, by having outstanding people providing the best client experience and a market-leading value proposition.
The firm’s ‘people strategy’ focuses on agility, diversity and leadership.
“The firm’s ‘digital strategy’ focuses on optimising how we work, with collaboration across teams and with clients; workplace flexibility; and process automation the major objectives in the 2016-2018 strategic plan,” says Cammell
An example of a business transformation project at the firm was Skype for Business Enterprise Voice.
“To improve collaboration and workplace flexibility, the 2016-2017 annual plan included an objective to enable workforce mobility within a secure environment. The first project, successfully implemented in 2016, replaced the legacy VOIP PBX telephony system with Skype for Business Enterprise Voice (SfB EV).
“While it could be said a SfB EV implementation is not innovative, Chapman Tripp is the first major firm in this country to implement SfB EV and allow clients to federate with us,” he states.
“We are the first firm to share presence information with clients and the first to use SfB instant messaging.
“The old telephone system was an anchor tethering people to their desks, preventing them from not only working with their colleagues in other teams, but also from working remotely in another office, with a client, or from home,” he says.
SfB EV replaced the desk telephone with a soft phone and wireless headset that can be accessed from any firm PC or laptop, and an app is available for authorised smartphones. In addition to replacing the PBX, SfB EV provides some other useful collaboration tools including instant messaging, conference calling and document collaboration.
In terms of keeping systems running and providing new developments, he says core operational systems are built on the Microsoft stack and VMWare, giving a stable platform on which to build.
“Over the past 10 years I have emphasised ‘you can’t build a Sky Tower on a two-inch thick concrete pad.’ We have focused on consolidation and standardisation across the platform, which has reduced the complexity and related support costs. It also means we can support 120-plus production servers within our relatively small engineering team of three.
“We have learnt it is important not to focus on too many projects at once, preferring to commit to one or two projects at a time, so we still have time for maintenance and support work.
“My time is split 70/30 operations/innovation. Across the team it is more 85/15, so there is still a long way to go,” he states.
“The SfB EV project is a good example of freeing up resources and improving operations. The firm recently moved offices in Christchurch and didn’t need to move phone lines, forward DDI numbers, or install telephones for everyone.
“The Christchurch servers were shut down at 5pm on Thursday night and available again at 11am the following morning from the new offices. The SfB EV automatically failed over to Wellington and no calls were missed.
“The flexibility of the platform has also been a bonus for the Wellington office following the Kaikoura earthquakes. The managing partner for Wellington decided no one was to work alone in the offices after hours. SfB EV allowed people to forward their DDI’s to mobile and appear to be working in the office while working from home.”
Cammell is a member of the senior management team that meets weekly and he is involved in all aspects of decision making for IT.
“The board papers will outline current and future plans, making recommendations on project priorities. I set the capital expenditure and operational budgets, using the strategic and annual plans to set priorities,” he says.
To engage with staff, face-to-face meetings in small or large groups is considered ideal. This works well for gauging buy-in and addressing any questions as they arise he says.
To reach the whole partnership quickly or with a consistent message, he will prepare Board papers or strategy update papers.
“I have brought in external presenters to cover new ideas, and intend to do this again. We recently had an entrepreneur now working with Creative HQ, present on the impact technology was having on our clients and how he thought it would change the legal industry. It was a thought provoking presentation for the partnership.”
Chapman Tripp was awarded the White Camellia Award in 2015 for diversity strategy around gender equality Cammell says.
“The IT team has a flat structure and consists of 17 staff, but we have created opportunities for promotion and have moved people within the team to give them experience of different aspects of IT.
“We encourage and support working from home, which is popular within the development team and those with young families. The average tenure is 10 years, which means we have a very stable team culture.
“We are upskilling internal staff who have traditionally done all the work, so they can manage external service providers and contractors. This is also better for their future careers.”