The Lawyer Management: Lewis Silkin

Jan Durant, director of IT and operations at Lewis Silkin, has budgetary control and strategic responsibility for all IT systems, telephony and the facilities team, which includes catering, reprographics, post room, reception and all buildings maintenance. 


 

What have been the key ways in which you have improved the efficiency of your firm?

We’ve standardised on best of breed products, which keeps total cost of ownership down and systems up. I’ve just outsourced our infrastructure and data centre so I can concentrate on giving our user base a great client-facing service. Our strategy of using the Microsoft stack makes integrating our products seamless. For example, our lawyers can publish to our extranet and save HR documents into our document management (DM). We’ve signed up to be early adopters of IntApp’s cloud-based client/matter inception offering, which takes up hours of time. Our DM is part of our intranet, which is at the heart of our business, so people can self-service on booking what they need and finding knowledge and so on.

What’s in your in-tray?

Too much for here, but I’m working up a business case/carrying out a proof of concept for a great new product that I reckon will knock the current best of breed vendor out of the running. They’re currently going stellar in the US, but I can’t say anything more about it at the moment. 

I also look after facilities so there are various premises items to deal with, including building an auditorium and getting a webcam on the roof so we can look at our bees, who are busy making us some honey.

What was the most pressing item you faced relating to the running of the firm last year and how did you resolve it?

We agreed with our lawyers that they want their emails to be saved into something that looks and feels like Outlook (rather than the DM) and have given them KnowledgeMill’s OnePlace – a file-as-you-go email and email archiving solution.

What are the most significant  external issues that have an impact on your role?

The obvious answer is the economy.  I’ve just completed my budget for the coming financial year and our financial director is happy – still well under PwC’s average for law firms. It was the usual challenge this year.

What impact, if any, are the structural changes to the UK legal market having on your firm and your role?

None at the moment, although I’m not discounting it in the future.

 

How many people do you have in your core team and who are they?

I have a great IT manager, head of ­facilities and helpdesk manager. They don’t give me minutiae to deal with so I can concentrate on only those items where I add value.

 

What are your team’s core responsibilities?

All the IT, telephony and everything facilities.

Which board/s do you personally sit on?

Our management board and Lili­Connect (encouraging and mentoring women working in legal IT).

Who do you report to?

Managing partner Ian Jeffery.

 

What problem would you most like technology to solve?

I want Microsoft to buy Apple so I can have an iPad that seamlessly runs our Microsoft applications. Then I’d like an iPhone that not only runs the ­Microsoft applications but that you can type on as well as you can a BlackBerry.

 

What’s the most important lesson your role has taught you?

I’m going to steal Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s wise words: “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”

Matt Byrne

Financials

Turnover: £35.6m

Earnings perpartner: £213,000

Profit per partner: £329,000

Top of equity: £447,000

Bottom of equity:£195,000

Revenue per lawyer: £268,000

Financial management

 

Durant is a keen networker, particularly when sourcing new suppliers. “I try to go to as many events as time permits and have many IT director friends,” she says. “I check out new products, as I’ve found being an early adopter always means the vendor gives you their best attention and gears up to my firm’s needs more readily.”

Technology

CRM: InterAction 6.0

PMS: Elite 3E

DMS: Excalibur (SharePoint)

Other: Carpe Diem Enterprise, DocsCorp, IntApp, BigHand, KnowledgeMill OnePlace, ShareHR, SharePoint extranet