Berwin Leighton Paisner CIO interview - Leaving no clause for concern

"Sometimes I accept that I have to be an instrument of change - and people don't like change," says 16-year CIO veteran at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, Janet Day, who explains her biggest challenge is keeping on top of the geographic footprint of the law firm's global portfolio.

"I'm trying to manage to ensure that we don't get disrupted ourselves," she says. "The big challenge a firm like this faces is as your geographic footprint increases, you have to work in an increasingly 24-hour available cycle.

"Once I could grab systems at 2am on a Saturday morning and have them for three hours, and nobody would notice.

"You learn to be quite different to in your approach to system management and system availability."

BLP has over 850 solicitors working across 11 countries, with Day at the technology helm since 1997 having arrived a year earlier as a consultant.

"Your clients come from an increasingly global base and we're becoming an increasingly global enterprise, and the challenge I now have is making the right information only available to the right people in the right place at the right time," she says.

"It's incredibly easy to make all the information available everyone. What's much more tricky is to put barriers on bits of information that secure it in a way which is appropriate.

"It's about the right data at the right time in the right place for the right person, but it's also about an increasingly diverse user population wanting to approach accessing the data differently."

Collaboration and document comparison

Day, a biochemistry graduate with a background in HR, said that she believes technology has enabled lawyers to work in a more efficient and collaborative way, and that it fits in with her philosophy of removing the barriers which can cause mistakes and make people perform tasks incorrectly.

"I've always thought that if you make it really hard for somebody not to do something right, they'll do it correctly because it's harder not to," she says.

"If you spend your life trying to make it easy for somebody to do something, that can sometimes be the wrong way of tackling the problem."

Day said that BLP has been a customer of Workshare - enterprise software product winners at our sister title Techworld's 2013 Awards - for 15 years, using their document comparison tool to save the firm of time when editing documents and lengthy contracts.

"Lawyers might need to be confrontational with regards to making a point," she said, "but the rest of the time they need to be collaborative for things to move forwards and it has smoothed the path of obstacles to do this."

BLP also uses Workshare's metadata stripper, which is embedded within the firm's document management environment and used heavily at user access points. Day said that since lawyers frequently re-use documents and clauses due to legal precedent, you can strip the subtext of a document including its source code, original author, and the edits made.

There have been some very public situations where 'lost' documents have contained very damaging metadata, including a London Borough Council publishing hidden sensitive data related to 2,375 residents in an Excel document - eventually costing them £70,000 in fines.

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