♫ Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
It’s home from work we go…♫
This is the second in a series of posts in advance of the The Pacific Legal Technology Conference to be held in Vancouver, BC on Friday, Oct. 2, 2009 (www.pacificlegaltech.com) under the category “30 Questions for Busy Lawyers who use Technology”. In this post we are interviewing Nicole Garton-Jones, a solicitor in West Vancouver, British Columbia, who leads a unique high-tech virtual law firm entitled: “Heritage Law”. Here is Nicole’s interview on how she and her firm, use technology:
1. Could you briefly describe your firm:
Heritage Law is a boutique law firm with four lawyers and six support staff that specializes in wills and estates, family law and mediation.
2. When was your firm established?
3. Where do you practice?
Our main office is in West Vancouver, BC. We have a satellite office in Vancouver, BC for meeting with clients. We are also virtual in that all staff log into one remote, secure server over the Internet, which is a repository for all firm data and software applications. Many of the staff work as independent contractors from their home offices.
4. What are the demographic backgrounds of the lawyers and staff in your firm?
We are all women and most of us are working mothers.
5. What prior degrees and/or experience do the lawyers and staff bring to your firm?
Various. Nicole Garton-Jones was formerly an associate in two large law firms. Karen Redmond is a former teacher and business owner. Tanya Murray practiced corporate, securities and commercial law for 12 years. Myrle Lawrence was a solo wills and estates solicitor for 27 years prior to Heritage Law purchasing her practice. Our paralegal Elizabeth Markus has a Master’s Degree in medieval art.
6. How would you describe the culture of your firm?
We have an innovative model of legal practice, centered on the concept of how to enable both work life balance for our staff and maintain top service levels for our clients.
7. Can you describe the firm’s management style?
We focus on ensuring that all the staff has the training, resources and support they need to provide the highest level of service to clients. We strive to maintain a sustainable law firm model that respects the well being of our staff while striving to do the very best for our clients.
8. Does technology assist you in the management of your firm? If so, how?
Heritage Law utilizes practice management software to centrally manage billing, time tracking, matter information, contacts, appointments, document management and document assembly.
9. When did you first embrace technology?
At the outset of starting the firm.
10. Can you describe the strategic advantage(s) that you feel that technology offers to you and your practice?
The combination of a firm culture predicated on balance and flexibility with applied technological solutions to facilitate it has enabled Heritage Law to access top talent. In addition, other benefits are our ability to efficiently handle a large volume of client files, provide excellent client service and generate a high quality work product.
11. Are you a PC or a Mac office or both?
We are PC only.
12. Which accounting system do you use?
PCLaw is our accounting system.
13. Do you use any case management application? If so, which one?
We have implemented TimeMatters.
14. What off-the-shelf packages do you use?
15. Do you use MS Sharepoint or similar collaboration technology?
At Heritage Law, PC Law, Time Matters and Worldox are all synched together in a paperless office to enable virtual collaboration.
16. Do you have a web page?
Yes – www.bcheritagelaw.com is our website.
17. A blog?
We have three blogs:
18. Do you use any social networking sites (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Twitter etc.) in connection with your practice?
We use all of the above.
19. Do you custom design any legal technology? If so, what?
We have customized the Time Matters interface as our firm client intake sheet. We have automated all our standard firm correspondence in HotDocs. We are currently automating our entire estate planning practice in HotDocs.
20. Are you a paper-less firm?
21. What other technologies do you use?
Each member of the firm shares a Microsoft Windows desktop running on a shared server in the Heritage Law IT infrastructure, and every desktop offers all of the core productivity applications previously described. Because all of the desktops reside on the same server, rather than on individually configured and field deployed desktop PCs, all that is required for a staff member to access and begin work for Heritage each day is a Windows PC and an internet connection. The Windows PC does not have to have any special applications installed on it, and might be a home PC, a borrowed PC, a laptop on the road or any other PC to which the staff member has access throughout their work day.
Each staff member has a Polycom SoundPoint IP 560 desk phone with HD Voice technology. Each phone has an ordinary 3-digit extension registered through Iristel, a Canadian internet telephony service provider. The power of the phone system is derived from the fact that the phones can be connected to any ordinary Internet connection in any of the staff member’s home offices, and yet all remain reachable through simple 3 digit extensions. Calls to other phones in North America are toll free, and calls within the firm have HD voice quality. There is an automated attendant to greet callers and provides a directory for them to reach the appropriate staff member’s extension.
22. What specific technology is essential to your practice? Why?
PCLaw, Time Matters, Worldox, our central server and our VOIP phones are essential to how we work.
23. Are you contemplating any changes to how you use technology in your firm? If so, what are you considering?
We would like to implement desktop video conferencing for all staff.
24. How is your practice different from other practices in your area?
Our use of technology and our flexible work environment set us apart.
25. Do you support telecommuting or other alternative work arrangements?
Yes, three of our paralegals work exclusively from their home offices at remote locations. All of our lawyers work both from home offices and also from our traditional offices.
26. Do you think there is a barrier to lawyers adopting technology? (age, gender, geographic area, practice area, etc?) If so, do you have any recommendations for overcoming these barriers?
The barriers are many: finite time, resources, a resistance to change and a fear that the investment will not be adequately realized upon are just four possible barriers. However, putting a budget and business plan together prior to making any final decisions helps clarify a firm’s goals and budget and ensures that adequate time is set aside for implementation and training.
27. What about barriers for staff adopting technology? Do you have any advice to offer in this regard?
It’s critical to invest in adequate staff training so you can properly realize on the technology investment you have made. The day-to-day work processes of the staff ultimately determine whether a technology investment succeeds or fails.
28. Do you find that clients appreciate your use of technology?
Our clients see an efficient firm. They may not specifically realize that we are any different from a traditional law firm.
29. What advice do you have with regard to other lawyers adopting technology?
Do your research in advance and talk to people who have been there to save yourself time and money.
30. Where would you like to see the profession go with regard to legal technology?
I would like to see the Court Services Online e-filing initiative expanded. I would also like to say goodbye to the fax machine once and for all.
I would like to thank Nicole Garton-Jones for taking the time to share her insights and vision in and to her application of technology to a virtual solicitor’s practice and in particular, how it helps her maintain a proper work-life balance not only for herself, but also for her fellow lawyers and staff (and to be able to say “heigh-ho – it’s off to home I go” at the end of her day). In the next installment of 30 Questions we will talk to Mark Tamminga, the managing partner of the Hamilton Ontario office of Gowlings and how he applies technology to not only run his own practice but also to assist in the management of an office of a major Canadian national law firm.This entry was posted on Sunday, July 5th, 2009 at 9:50 pm and is filed under 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, Technology, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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